Using Money Effectively and Fairly
By Moshe Pogrow, Director, NASI Project
(This article is the sixth 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.)
(To view Part V- Using Money Effectively and Fairly Part I, click here.)
As I wrote in the introduction to the previous article, I am well aware that this article will touch upon a very sensitive topic. Money and shidduchim is a painful issue, and it would be far easier to simply not write about it. Please understand that the only purpose in these articles is to help singles who are currently underserved in shidduchim get more attention from shadchanim. I urge the reader to look over the previous five articles in the series to gain a better perspective of the mindset behind this article, and to read it with an open mind.
By now it should be clear that our communities have plenty of shadchanim, be they full-time, part-time, or well-meaning friends, who are ready, willing and able to service singles—at least, those singles who are easy to set up. What we lack, however, are shadchanim who are available to work on behalf of singles who need extra attention. And this is to be expected. The structure of our shidduch system encourages shadchanim to spend most, if not all, of their time on the “easy ones.”
If someone needs a doctor, an attorney, a therapist, a plumber or an electrician, they will never reach out and find no one willing to provide the service. Yet when it comes to shidduchim, the analogy, painfully, does not hold up.
The reason is self-evident. No one expects a doctor, an attorney, a therapist, a plumber or an electrician to work for free. Yet when it comes to shidduchim, we expect shadchanim to be there day and night, at our beck and call, with relatively small compensation forthcoming only if the shidduch comes to fruition.
Allow me to share two scenarios. In the first, a family friend calls up to suggest their son-in-law’s brother for your newly-dating daughter. They go out a few times, everything goes smoothly, and they get engaged. Mazel tov.
Scenario two: A young woman who is having difficulty in shidduchim approaches a professional shadchan and requests that the shadchan look out for her. Over the course of three years, the shadchan sets her up numerous times, in addition to many other attempts that don’t get off the ground because one of the sides has declined to pursue the idea. After three years of keeping this single in mind and investing many efforts on her behalf, a shidduch is made. Mazel tov.
Does it make any sense that shadchanus in both cases is the same?
And yet, today, it is.
So I ask you: Is it any wonder that the vast majority of shadchanim spend the majority of their time focusing on singles who are easier to set up? Is it any wonder that the many singles whose shidduchim might take more effort have almost nowhere to turn?
And what if, after three years of trying on behalf of that particular single, someone else makes their shidduch—does the shadchan who worked diligently for three years receive any compensation?
It is clear to me that the current system of insubstantial shadchanus, paid only upon a shidduch reaching engagement, with no distinction between a relatively easy shidduch or a far more difficult one, ensures that talented up-and-coming shadchanim will continue to leave the often thankless field of shadchanus for less time-consuming and more lucrative careers. The shadchanim who stay will have no choice but to be almost singularly focused on the easier cases.
Who suffers as a result? Not shadchanim! They do just fine moving into real estate and mortgages. Those who stay get along setting up the easier singles. The ones who lose out are the singles who most need people to be their advocates. Those avenues simply don’t exist.
Today, standard in-town shadchanus per side ranges from $1,000 to $1,800 (klei kodesh) or $1,800 to $2,500 (baalei batim). (All dollar amounts are numbers reported to me by people in the field.) These numbers are extremely low and are the reason we have so few shadchanim involved in the not-so-easy cases. It is evident that an adjustment in shadchanus is needed in order to benefit the singles who need that attention most.
As such, I propose that our current numbers are a reasonable minimum—for a shidduch that was suggested without the shadchan being approached on behalf of the single, and which proceeded smoothly. If a shidduch requires an inordinate amount of time, effort and skill on the part of the shadchan, compensation should reflect that.
However, when a single meets a shadchan and requests that the shadchan work on their behalf, the compensation package needs to be completely rethought. Doing so would be in the best interests of the single.
Over the years, NASI has given out hundreds of thousands of dollars to shadchanim through our various programs. We have developed strong relationships with dozens of shadchanim. Yet I would never reach out to a shadchan and request that he or she take on a particular case as a favor. What right do I have to expect them to make any one individual a priority? And yet, every time a single meets a shadchan, isn’t that what they are hoping for?
Clearly, the compensation structure needs to be replaced by one in which shadchanim, particularly those who are approached and meet singles on an ongoing basis, are properly compensated for the time and effort involved in arranging dates.
To most effectively benefit the single, compensation should consist of a Date 2/Date 4 plus shadchanus package, and it cannot and should not be equal across the board. No two singles are the same, not all situations are the same, and, like any service provider, no two shadchanim are the same. Different providers offer different services, even for what seems to be the same thing.
No two situations are the same, no matter what the field.
So too, the offer to the shadchan should be based on an assessment of what is fair compensation for that particular single. The more challenging it is to set up a particular single, the higher the agreed-upon fee should be for second and fourth dates. In fact, the higher the rate, the better—the higher the rate, the more likely the shadchan will be motivated to put in extra effort.
If we want to see sufficient efforts invested in under-the-radar singles, then it is crucial that a shadchan’s compensation be structured to reflect each situation. After extensive trial and error, I have found the following to be very effective: as a frame of reference, a typical Date 2 offer should range from $500 to $2,500, depending on the particulars. The Date 4 offer for that same single should range from $500 to $2,000, and shadchanus should range from $2,500 to $3,500. In doing so, the shadchanim know that their time, effort and skill are recognized and appreciated. Inevitably, the particular single will find themselves with more shadchan attention.
Like any service-based business, setting up such an arrangement requires tact. It is most effective if the singles themselves are completely unaware of the arrangement, but it is in their best interest that it be done. Whenever I have used this method, singles have reported a significant increase in quality attention from shadchanim.
The field will thus be leveled. Singles who have an easy time getting dates will have no need to make deals with any shadchanim, nor should they. Singles who do not get sufficient shadchan attention will now receive it, because it will be worthwhile for shadchanim to invest in them. Inevitably, some will continue to focus solely on the easier cases, but there will no doubt be plenty of shadchanim who will invest in the more challenging situations, because their time and energy will be properly rewarded at last.
Such a development will breed an entire enterprise of talented people for whom it is feasible to spend days and nights working on behalf of the people who need it the most.
The sooner shadchanim become recognized for what they are—a professional service provider—the sooner we will find sufficient shadchan attention for the singles who need it most.
A final word: This discussion refers to fair compensation that has been agreed upon ahead of time, so it can serve as an incentive. It does not address the other side of the coin: when a shadchan, or anyone else for that matter, sets up your child, whether or not you approached them and asked for their assistance, they have expended time and effort on your behalf. It is mentchlich to send a generous thank you—a check, not chocolate!—not as an incentive for the future, but as an expression of appreciation. Of course, common sense should dictate that not all situations are the same, and the extent of the thank you should reflect the depth of the hakaras hatov.
In the next article, we will discuss the logistics and implications of implementing the Date 2/Date 4 compensation structure—how to protect it from abuse by people looking to cash in, where the funding will come from, the risk that a potential shidduch might end after a lukewarm first date to save money, and other points.
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