Telemarketing is unpopular. It intrudes upon people’s private lives. In times of emergency – fires, floods, disasters of many kinds – telemarketing techniques are often used for fundraising purposes and people hardly ever complain because they understand that the need is urgent and the response has to be timely. In Israel many charities use the phone to raise money and the method is often to secure a commitment to a regular donation several times a year, with the phone being the medium that reminds the donor.
In a sense it is like a practice I remember from my childhood, when synagogues and community organisations had official collectors who could call on people in their offices bearing a range of receipt books for all the communal organisations, enabling the people they approached to give once a year or so without being constantly bombarded by appeals and requests.
Then and now there are three categories of donors, exactly the same categories that we read about in the sidra - zahav vachesef un’choshet, “gold, silver and brass”. Some can afford to give gold (at least in a metaphorical sense), some can give silver, and some can only give brass. Who decides on a person’s category?
Sometimes it is the fundraiser, though they do not always know the real truth about their donors. These days with the economic meltdown there are certainly people who keep up appearances but are really in very strained circumstances. The donor has to know how to give significantly; as the Torah says, “Take an offering from everyone whose heart moves him”. Since we always believed the best about people, we have to presume that everyone has a heart and will never try to escape with a perfunctory token donation.