Do We Have Enough Shadchanim?

(by NASI)

Thie following question appeared in the Yated Shidduch Forum

It is no secret that when singles look to meet shadchanim in the hope that they will have ideas for them, the same small handful of well known names keep on coming up.

Wouldn't the community be better served if we had  many more times the number of highly-active highly- involved full-time shadchanim. There would be that many more addresses for the singles who need the assistance the most to turn to. What could be done to encourage more people to get involved in shidduchim in a professional (read full- time) manner.

Here is NASI's Response:

            If I may reverse the question, why is it that if someone needs a doctor, an attorney, a therapist, a plumber or an electrician, it is unheard of that one reaches out and can't find anyone willing to provide the service in a timely manner. Yet, when it comes to shidduchim, the situation is painfully obvious, as the question expresses.

            The answer is self-evident. No one expects a plumber, an electrician, a doctor or any other service provider to work for free. And yet, when it comes to shidduchim, we expect shadchanim to be there day and night at our beck and call, and their compensation is forthcoming only if and when a shidduch comes to fruition. If standard shadchanus was upwards of 25k per shidduch, perhaps such a system could work, much like we see plenty of real estate agents servicing the community. However, with typical shadchanus being relatively meager (as compared to real estate/broker fees), and it being understandable why we can't expect families to pay 25k per shidduch, it is quite understandable - and, frankly, it is to be expected - that the community finds itself in its current predicament, as described by this week’s questioner.

            Recently, a suggestion was conceived whereby shadchanim could receive 20k per shidduch. The proposal was that at the time of engagement, the shadchan would receive whatever the regular shadchanus is, and then, each year, for the first 20 years that they are married, on their wedding anniversary, the couple would send the shadchan $1,000 as ongoing shadchanus. This would actually enable shadchanim to develop a functional business model with a proper sustainable/residual income like in many professions, instead of each year needing to start from scratch. I am writing this simply as food for thought.

            Barring the adoption of such a practice, it is crystal-clear to me that the current system of relatively meager shadchanus, paid only upon a shidduch that gets engaged, with no consideration given for a shidduch made for a relatively easy situation or a shidduch made that was far more difficult, ensures that we will continue to have talented up-and-coming shadchanim leave the thankless field of shadchanus for less time-consuming and more rewarding (as measured by people's attitudes towards them) and lucrative fields. As for the shadchanim who stay, they will have no choice but to be almost singularly focused on the easier cases. Who suffers as a result? Not the shadchanim. They do just fine as real estate agents and mortgage brokers. The ones who lose out are the singles who most greatly need people to be their advocates, and those avenues simply don't exist.

            Clearly, the compensation structure needs to be replaced by one in which shadchanim -in particular shadchanim who are approached and meet singles on an ongoing basis - are properly compensated for the time and effort involved in arranging dates. The more difficult it is to set up a particular single, the higher the agreed-upon fee should be for a second date and a fourth date. Just like in any other field no two situations are the same, so too, the shadchan should have fees based on their assessment of what is fair compensation for that particular single. In fact, the higher the dollar amount, the better, because the higher the dollar amount, the more likely that the shadchan will be motivated to put in the extra effort on behalf of that particular single.

            Over the years, we have given out hundreds of thousands of dollars to shadchanim through our numerous programs, and we have developed very 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 single as a favor and make her a priority. What right do I have to expect them to make any particular individual a priority? And yet, every time a single meets a shadchan, isn’t that what the single is really hoping for?

            On the very rare occasions when I ask a shadchan to look out for a particular individual, I always make a very fair offer. It may be $1,000 for a second date or as high as $3,000. It all depends on the situation and the degree of time and skill required to service that particular single well.

            Such a system will ensure that the field is leveled, since girls who have an easy time getting dates will have no need to agree to any deals with any shadchanim, nor should they. At the same time, singles who previously did not get sufficient shadchan attention will now receive it, because it will be very worthwhile for the shadchanim to invest in them. Inevitably, some shadchanim will continue to focus solely on the easier singles, but there will no doubt be plenty of shadchanim who will invest in the more complex situations, because their time and energy will finally be properly rewarded.

            I would like to propose a novel method to bring this about. I would like to see shadchanim treat their role like professional service providers. When a single comes to meet with a shadchan, essentially requesting their services, a contract is drawn up with clearly-defined compensation for date two and four and engagement. In order to make this happen, families that reach out to shadchanim to meet their children need to encourage the shadchanim to do so with an understanding that their own child will be better off as a result, instead of the current underlying sentiment that makes the shadchanim extremely uncomfortable with even considering suggesting such an idea for fear of being maligned as greedy and selfish.

            Such a development will breed an entire enterprise of talented people for whom it is doable to spend days and nights working on behalf of the singles who need the help most.

            One final word: This is all a discussion about ahead-of-time, agreed-upon fair compensation in the event that dates are set up, so it can serve as an incentive. This does not address the other side of the coin: When an active shadchan or anyone for that matter sets up your child, whether you approached them and asked for their assistance or you did not, the reality is that the shadchan expended time and effort on your behalf, and it is mentchlich for the families to send the shadchan a generous thank-you. This is not an incentive for the future, but a thank you for the time and effort already expended. Once again, common sense should dictate that not all situations are the same, and the extent of the thank you (read: check, not chocolate) should reflect the depth of the hakoras hatov.

            I am happy to share what we have learned over the last decade via input from tens of shadchanim, singles, dating mentors, and trial and error. Feel free to email nasishidduch@gmail.com to arrange a presentation.

MOSHE POGROW

Director, NASI Project

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