Asking in Wake of Sept. 11th

Dear Kim,

I am the development director for a women’s center in Boston. We provide an array of direct social services such as support groups, long-term counseling, job training, computer access and much more. I am having difficulty approaching major donors in the aftermath of Sept. 11. I am also trying to engage the board in a letter-writing campaign to ask for more money from current donors. Some board members are uncomfortable doing so, given that the attention is now on disaster relief funds.
—Still Needing Money

Dear Still,

I need you to take this to heart: If your work deserved donations before Sept. 11, it deserves them now. I understand that people feel reluctant to ask, but we really have to move past that reluctance. During this anti-terrorism campaign, many things are being defined as “patriotic” or “unpatriotic.” Unfortunately, the issues you deal with in a women’s center — rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, lack of affordable child care and so on — are not being defined as unpatriotic. They continue to happen as before, probably not more, but certainly not less. The need for your support groups, counseling, job referrals, and so on are still critically needed by a wide cross section of women. Your donors know that — they may know it from personal experience, from a friend’s experience or just from reading your newsletter. Your job is to ask them to repeat or to upgrade their gifts. Certainly some of them may prefer to give all their money to relief efforts, but most of your current donors will still have your organization in their donation budgets. You will want to acknowledge Sept. 11 and its aftermath as you go about raising money, but you want to focus on the women that you serve. If you want to get the money you need by the end of the year, you need to start asking for it now. Good luck.