How to Set Up a Fundraising Project

By Joyce Field

This is a brief outline of how to set up a fundraising project which focuses on answering the most common queries:

The most perplexing questions are "HOW TO":

Typical problems:

Having become frustrated with the task of organizing volunteers to do translations, many people want a different approach. Typical problems are:
  1. People volunteer to do work and then find many distractions which interfere with the task.
  2. Problem: can't meet any deadlines.

  3. Volunteers have varying capabilities with the original language (Hebrew, Yiddish) and also with English. If their skills with the original language are poor, there will be many blank spaces and/or question marks to indicate untranslatable words or phrases. If their skills with English are poor, then the translation is not readable.
  4. Problem: the quality of the translation is poor and the coordinator may have to do considerable editing and/or rewriting or ask someone else to work on the same passage.

  5. Or, not wanting to hurt the volunteer's feelings, the coordinator transmits the poor translation to the Translations Manager, perhaps knowing that the Manager will reject it. Thus, the coordinator can pass the responsibility of rejecting a translation to the Yizkor Book Project and be absolved of the unenviable task of relaying the truth.
  6. Problem: The Translations Manager has to read the translation, determine if it can be salvaged, spend time trying to rewrite it or returning it to the coordinator. In such a scenario no one's time is used productively and often the frustration level of the coordinator rises to the point that he/she wants to resign from this position.

Our conclusion is that working with volunteer translators --although less expensive than paying a translator--can be unnerving, frustrating, and unproductive. Sometimes we allow a poor quality translation to get online because we don't want to hurt the translator's feelings and because the amount of good may outweigh the bad. Then we receive private emails castigating us for not upholding certain standards and suggesting that there be a review board to evaluate all translations--something like peer review used for academic journals or books. We have resisted that approach because if we went in that direction, nothing would get online. So we had to find the middle way. And that way is the Yizkor Book Fundraising Project.

How to Start a Fundraising Project

Most yizkor books were written in Yiddish and/or Hebrew and thus will need to be translated into English to make them accessible to genealogical researchers who cannot read them in the original languages. A Coordinator is needed for each yizkor book translation.

Coordinator's Role

In order to proceed with a particular translation, it is efficient to have one person acting as the Coordinator of the group funding the translation. Briefly, the role of the Coordinator is to:

Funding Mechanisms

There are two models for funding new translation projects, each with its own advantages. The pros and cons of each approach is discussed in another section at Whichever method is selected, we will still need to secure the permission of the copyright holder.

The choice is up to the persons organizing each project. Under Method 1, since the money is donated directly to JewishGen, the tax deductibility of the contribution is clear and the Coordinator is relieved fiscal and many administrative responsibilities. Under Method 2, the group retains the ownership of the translation. In both cases, there is a cooperative working relationship between the Project Coordinator and the Translations Manager.

Method 1: JewishGen acts as fiscal agent

Method 2: Group acts as fiscal agent

How to find potential donors to the translation fund

This has to be the most difficult task of the Coordinator. Most of us are not good at asking others for donations. Ands most of us don't even know how to find likely donors. Here are a few suggestions for developing a donor list. These suggestions focus on a Yizkor Book Fundraising Project so that contributors will receive a charitable deduction.

  1. Post a message on the Yizkor book digest, JewishGen digest and appropriate SIG digests that you are beginning a yizkor book translation project for your community and want to set up the project as a Yizkor book fundraising project, which will mean that donors can make tax-deductible contributions to JewishGen, a 501 (c ) (3) organization. It is a good idea to ask for contributions at times known as propitious for contributions: Pesach, Purim, Rosh HaShana, and December, when people traditionally make end of the year contributions.
  2. Check the Yizkor Book database for people who have listed themselves as interested in and willing to help pay for a translation. Include those names in your solicitation database.
  3. Do a query under the community name in Family Finder and print out all the names of people interested in your community. Put them in your database.
  4. Make a list of your family members whom you might ask for donations. Talk to them at simchas or at sad times, when they might be interested in making a memorial contribution. Ask them to specify that in lieu of flowers people contribute to a living memorial--a fund to translate a yizkor book.
  5. Write a letter to all the potential donors in your database asking your landsleit to make tax-deductible donations to the translation fund. Tell people your plans of getting the material translated and on the web: the sequence of chapters, the skills of the translator, and the total cost of the translation of the book. Ask for contributions over time because this will be a project that could extend over a year or more. Monthly or quarterly donations by electronic transmission can be arranged.

How to Select a Translator

Another perplexing problem is the selection of a translator. These are the suggestions I have developed over time. This can be a time-consuming but a vital task. If you become unhappy with the translator later on, making a change will be difficult and emotionally draining, so put the effort up front in selecting the right person for the job.

Click on to the Yizkor Book Infofile for Translators. Select a number of them and ask each one the same questions. You should also ask friends, colleagues, anyone else you can think of for names of possible translators.

  • what are your fees? Some charge by the hour, by the page of the original, or by the word in the original. Ask if the fee can be adjusted for translating the entire book.
  • ask them if they will translate a paragraph from the original so you can evaluate the translation and if they will estimate how much they would charge for a sample page. Send each translator a copy of the same page, circling the paragraph you want them to translate. If the person refuses to do this, you will have to decide how to handle the situation. A refusal could be a harbinger of future problems.
  • when you receive the translation and the estimate, you will then have some objective means for evaluating the different translators' work and fees. Do not be reluctant to ask others who are well skilled in the original language and in English to evaluate the translation.
  • Other factors to consider:

  • the translator must be computer literate and be able to put the translation into computer format; otherwise, you will adding an enormous amount of time to the process which will not be paid for with translation funds. We cannot do scanning, OCR input, and proofreading for you.
  • the translator should provide references that you can check. Ask the references how easy the translator was to work with, whether he/she met deadlines, and for an overall evaluation of the quality of the work.
  • the translator must be willing to work within constraints of the JewishGen system regarding payment and need to do revisions to meet quality standards.
  • When you see the first fruits of your labor--the first part of the translation online--and start receiving bravos from friends, family, and landsleit, all this effort will be worthwhile.

    * The Work for Hire agreement will no longer be publicly available at this site. It can now be initiated only by a JewishGen Vice President. Lance Ackerfeld, JewishGen Yizkor Book Director , will handle the distribution of this agreement when required by a fundraising project. Contact him at Lance Ackerfeld return

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    Updated 4 Apr 2014 by LA