More MS news articles for Oct 2001

Fundraising Aftershock

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Oct. 2001

Disability organizations across the country feel the pinch as Americans rally to support relief efforts for victims and families of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The aftershocks of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States are showing no signs of letting up as they creep into almost every facet of American life, including organizations dedicated to advocating for people with disabilities and medical research.

At the New York City chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS), the group was forced to cancel its Sept. 23 bike tour scheduled to start and end at the World Trade Center. According to Carol Kurzig, executive director of the NMSS chapter, the event was expected to draw 5,000 participants and would have raised $1.4 million of the chapter's $8 million annual budget.

The NYC chapter had to move the race to Tarrytown, NY on Oct. 14 with hopes that many riders would still participate. "If we get $500,000 we'll be doing well," said Kurzig.

Americans have been very generous in donating to relief efforts in the wake of the attacks. Some estimates put the total raised so far for victims and their families at nearly $500 million. But the ripple effect could leave hundreds -- even thousands -- of groups across the country with fundraising shortfalls this year.

"The fear is that (Americans) have given to the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and may not be able to give any more over the next year," said Sarah T. Foxen, the director of campaign development for Share America, a WeMedia nonprofit partner that coordinates corporate-giving campaigns for businesses and charities. Some of the groups Share America works with are disabled organizations and medical research agencies.

The Economy of Giving

Foxen said many people within the fundraising industry are estimating drops of 20 to 25 percent in private and corporate donations. Share America has even reached out to the White House, asking President Bush to make Americans aware that "there are a lot of organizations that are going to need them more than ever," Foxen said. "People are still going to be sick."

Even before the attacks, the non-profit community was projecting a fundraising challenge because of the troubled economy.

Pamela Richard, the fund development director with the Association for the Help of Retarded Children in New York City said it is too early to tell what the effect of the attack will be on fundraising. But Richard admitted, "everyone in the fundraising profession is concerned."

Even with the shaky economy and the threat of future attacks, few people in the disabled community see anyone closing-up shop.

"I am apprehensive but I am also optimistic," said Jo Biederman, president and CEO of the Long Island Chapter of the NMSS, which saw growth during the recession of the early 1990's. "But nobody has a crystal ball to see how it's going to affect us in the next year or the following year."