The Next Fundraising Innovation

Not long ago, a well-respected yeshiva launched a “Chinese auction” to raise money. In order to innovate beyond the typical Trip-to-Israel prize, the auction featured home furnishings instead. But the auction came under criticism, because the furnishings represented the sort of material extravagance which the yeshiva’s Kollel families voluntarily eschewed in favor of spiritual pursuits. The auction was cancelled.

There have been a few repercussions from this ill-fated auction. One was a hilarious e-mail purporting to be the replacement auction, now featuring the sort of furnishings that a Kollel family can afford: a secondhand dining room table and chairs, 10-year-old station wagon, hand-me-down clothing, etc. But more seriously, innovation in fundraising seems to have come to an end, because organizations are afraid of being the next to do something perceived as excessive.

Project Genesis, on the other hand, has always been both innovative and frugal. According to some, we were the first Jewish organization to send out an appeal by e-mail — doing something entirely new while cutting out all of the costs of a conventional mailing, directing the funds received towards programming instead.

So we realized that we needed to step into the gap, to do something truly innovative, even extravagant, while saving money.

Frankly, I don’t think anyone else could have figured this out. We’re very proud of this accomplishment, so I decided to share it with you now — even though we won’t see this concept come to fruition for another few years.

Project GenesisGiven that the name of this blog is Cross-Currents, it seemed that something based on the water was the way to go. You’re surely aware that people can now spend Passover on a cruise ship, enjoying the bread of poverty and affliction while surrounded by the height of materialism. And non-profit organizations have sponsored receptions on cruise ships as well. So how could we take this concept to the next level?

We’ve decided to commission our own ship. It’s actually less expensive than running a cruise; we just had to talk a major company into working with us. Then we learned that Royal Carribean was building a new ship, which they hope will sail in 2009. It is a 222,000 ton masterpiece, which will dwarf the biggest liner to date, the Queen Mary 2.

And it will be called: the Project Genesis.

If you’d like to help support the boat naming all the work that we do, please click here to donate.

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5 Responses

  1. Michoel says:

    That’s very funny. I am curious to know how your email appeal did relative to what you anticipate a paper mailing would have brought in.

  2. Yaakov Menken says:


    I’m glad you think this was funny, because I may have been too subtle here. It is absolutely true that Royal Carribean’s massive luxury liner will be called the Project Genesis, but to the best of my knowledge we had nothing to do with it.

    Given our lack of experience with paper mailings, Michoel, I really can’t answer your question. I can only say that I was stunned by how successful that first campaign was. Unfortunately, as similar campaigns have multiplied the response rate has declined.

  3. Jacky says:

    Furnishing is excessive luxury? Then I for one think a trip to Israel to be more frivolous spending!

  4. Moe says:

    For the majority of people furnishing is not excessive. However, the furnishings featured in the Chinese Auction booklet, if I’m thinking of the same one, were quite luxurious. I personally would not have wanted to win most of those prizes. They would stick out like a sore thumb (yes, I own a sofa — two actually!). Heard of the guy who went bankrupt from a pair of shoelaces?

  5. Bob Miller says:

    A few eons ago, when I commuted to Stuyvesant HS from Staten Island by ferry, etc.,
    one of my fellow travelers got wind of a retired ferryboat being auctioned off by NYC.
    He bid around $71, which was not quite enough, but got him a writeup anyway in the NY
    Times. Maybe Cross-Currents, considering its budget, can get by with a pre-owned boat.

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