Using Money Effectively and Fairly
By Moshe Pogrow, Director, NASI Project
(This article is the fifth in a series.)
(To view Part I – Introduction, click here.)
(To view Part II- Meeting the Shadchan, click here.)
(To view Part III- Getting the Shadchan’s Attention Part I, click here.)
(To view Part IV- Getting the Shadchan’s Attention Part II, click here.)
I am well aware that the next few articles will touch upon a very sensitive topic, as money and shidduchim is a painful issue for many. It would be far easier to simply not write them at all.
Please understand that the only purpose in these articles is to help singles who are currently under-served in shidduchim find more sustained quality attention from shadchanim. The ideas presented have been tried, tested and refined based on input from tens of people and extensive trial and error. I urge the reader to first read the first four articles in this series to gain a more complete perspective of the process of interacting with shadchanim, and to read these next few articles with an open mind.
First I will address some common tactics that I do not recommend.
Paying to meet shadchanim
When a single meets a shadchan, they are hoping that the shadchan will take a singular interest in them. This unrealistic expectation is surely and sadly reinforced when they have paid the shadchan $150 for the meeting. It is for this reason that I discourage shadchanim from asking for a fee to meet singles. Although they are well within their rights to do so, it inevitably generates unrealistic expectations that are soon followed by ill will.
The reality is that when a single meets a shadchan, they get the shadchan’s attention for the period of time that they are meeting. During that relatively short period, the shadchan makes an evaluation: will they likely have ideas for this particular single in the future? Will the shadchan have a relatively easy time getting yesses from boys? If the shadchan thinks so, they will automatically file that away, and they will work on that single more consistently.
For the vast majority of singles who do not fall into that category, the shadchan thinks whether they know anyone off the top of their head who might be a reasonable suggestion. Some shadchanim might search their database. Over the next few days, it is possible that the shadchan will come up with an idea or two and work on it. However, once those first few days have passed with no suggestions, the chance that the shadchan will later remember that particular single and suggest a shidduch is very small.
With this understanding, it would seem that for shadchanim who want to charge a fee to meet, the proper approach is to clearly and unambiguously express this, so that singles and their families can judge for themselves whether this level of service is worth it.
A notable exception to this would be when a shul or community organization puts together an event for their city’s singles to spend and evening meeting shadchanim. These events generally cost in the many thousands of dollars and provide the young women with the opportunity to meet a number of skilled shadchanim, both local and non-local, in one place at one time. For the exceptional opportunity to meet numerous shadchanim, while saving themselves extensive travel time and expense, it is understandable to have a reasonable registration fee for those attending the event to help their community with a part of the expense in putting together such an event.
While there is still no guarantee that a date will result from the event for any young woman in particular, it is appropriate hakoras hatov to the community for the young women and their families to be invested in the events via a registration fee if that is what the organizers feel is needed to continue offering such events. Additionally, the volume of exposure to quality shadchanim that a young woman can get at such an event, in and of itself, has tremendous value. Of course, if a family is simply unable to afford such a fee, the organizers would be more than happy to accommodate them and not hold out on their daughter being able to take advantage of the event.
Offering money up front
It is not unheard for very well-to-do families to approach one or two renowned shadchanim and give them a substantial amount of money in exchange for keeping an eye out for their child. There is nothing wrong with shadchanim receiving these kinds of “deposits,” but of course it is completely unnecessary. The children of the wealthy will receive plenty of shadchan attention, with or without it.
But for other singles, this tactic—offering a significant dollar amount as a retainer up front—is not as effective in sustaining a shadchan’s attention. A shadchan who receives such money up front will surely try, initially at least, but after a week or two, or even a month, without hatzlachah, they will lose focus. It is impossible to gauge the return on investment, but the single’s expectations will be raised. They will not know how hard the shadchan is trying if nothing works out. The shadchan will feel like they have given it their best shot, while the single will feel like the shadchan hasn’t kept their end of the bargain. Inevitably, ill will results.
Also, there is a limit to how many shadchanim one can offer substantial retainers up front. Singles, especially singles having difficulty in shidduchim, benefit most when they have multiple shadchanim focusing on them, but it is unrealistic to offer ten or fifteen different shadchanim so much money.
Offering large sums for shadchanus
Similar to the retainer, this is very effective when it is not needed.
Take a single who has plenty of shidduch opportunities, whose family lets it be known (or it is assumed) that they will offer very generous shadchanus. It’s very nice of the family to want to generously compensate the shadchan, whoever it may be, but it isn’t necessary for that particular single. They would get dates without generous shadchanus, because this is a person who many want to date.
But for singles not in that position, this tactic alone is not an effective method of generating shadchan attention. To the shadchan, it is a lottery ticket. A shadchan does not think that they will be the one to make a shidduch for any particular girl. They will not be motivated to work on more demanding cases if compensation is only forthcoming in the event of an engagement.
So what is there to do for singles who have gone to numerous shadchanim, perhaps even paid fees, and still haven’t seen any suggestions come their way?
To me, the answer is that we, as a community and as individuals, desperately need “specialist shadchanim” to properly attend to the many singles who aren’t being sufficiently served. When it is financially viable for people to dedicate themselves to the less easy situations, these singles will receive far more quality shadchan attention than they do now.
This structure and benefits of this tactic will be further explained in the next article of the series.
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