I have been asked to clarify the halachic ramifications of the following scenario.
A particular organization ‘P’, is devoted to enhancing the lives of differently abled young women. The organization does this through running a rich variety of programs throughout the year.
Although there is one particular person ‘A’ who is the highly competent and energised CEO, and the drive behind the organization, and also it’s Gabai Tzodoko, there is another individual ‘Y’ who put in an extensive amount of work voluntarily.
‘Y’ worked tirelessly, gave away months and months, night and day, heart, mind and all her energy into this event. This event was/is like her baby.
They were planning to put on a major awareness / fundraiser event, last year May 2020. This event required a pre fundraiser, in order to pay the international speaker, hall etc. Texts were sent out, a ‘Go fund me’ page was launched that specifically mentioned that the funds were needed for this event, and it was successful raising a substantial amount. Much of it was used as deposit for the hall, and also sent to the speaker for his flights etc.
As Covid hit, the major event was put on hold, and it doesn’t seem that any public event of this kind will be taking place in the near future.
There was still quite a bit of leftover funds left in the account which ‘Y’, the event organiser, warned ‘A’ not to touch for any other ‘P’ things, and to keep written cheshbon of every penny that comes in (for the event funds) from cash and into account. At that point ‘A’ was still very inexperienced and accounting was never my strong point. Bits of moneys came in by cash and ‘A’ tried to put it all in one place but at some point they probably got mixed up with other ‘P’ money. Some money came in thru account, and ‘A’ was meant to keep track of that too but didn’t have online banking then. ‘A’ takes on more than she can.
An account (savings account) was opened for the Gofundme money that came in. We also planned that any other money that came in for event would go in that account.
‘A’ didn’t plan or want to use the money for other things but somehow it slowly got used up bit by bit as each project came along. ‘A’ didn’t tell this to ‘Y’ because she was planning to (raise more money and) pay it all back.
Also, at some point when we were close to becoming a registered charity. In order to become registered we needed to have a minimum of 5k in the account. So we transferred the money from the savings account to the regular account and planned to return it to the savings account right after we get the bank statement. ‘A’ didn’t tell ‘Y’ about this because ‘A’ planned to return it soon, and ‘A’ thought that ‘Y’ would understand and/because Y herself wanted ‘P’ to be registered in time for the event and ‘Y’ actually shadchaned ‘A’ to her friend who got us registered bh.
Now there’s nothing left of it. ‘A’ don’t have a clear cheshbon where it went. No idea what to tell ‘Y’, without ‘Y’ thinking that ‘A’ doesn’t care or something. It was pretty hard being a project director and event banker singlehandedly.
‘A’ says; ‘For a while I’ve been thinking ‘why did I take this on?’ etc.
There are currently lots of changes and things going on in our charity. I feel like maybe this event isn’t the right thing at the moment. Without hurting ‘Y’, I’d love to cancel the event, and then perhaps get back the money from what we gave already for deposit for speaker/hall etc.’
The shaalos ( I think)are as follows.
1. Was it incorrect to use the funds for other projects?
2. Do we have to notify all those that contributed, and tell them what happened, and also ask them if we can use the rest of the funds for other projects?
3. Do we have a halachic right to cancel the hall and speaker etc, and ask for the money back at this time?
4. Does it come into consideration, that since a Gabai Tzodoko can take a wage, therefore the money that was used for the other projects could be considered as her wage?
It could be that it was incorrect to use the funds at that time since they were designated to be used for a specific purpose. However, after Corona started and the event was canceled, we can’t say that the gabbai tzedakah did something wrong, because the gabbai has the right to move the money from one purpose to another. It is for this reason that there is no need to notify the contributors that their money was used for other needs of the organization. Additionally, there is no need for you to pay the money back to the organization because it was used for the organization’s needs.
Regarding the canceling of the hall and the speakers, this has to be discussed with the local poskim. There were many questions that arose as a result of the many cancelations that Corona caused, and each bais din, has adopted their way of reconciling things. Therefore, it will depend on what the they have instituted as the local minhag.