September 06, 2002 Features & Images » Feature Story

Feature - Charities 

Charities hit hard as locals send money to US victims of 9/11

Local and Canadian charities were profoundly affected by the events of Sept.11 and many still face serious challenges in raising money.

"A lot of money left Canada so the Canadian charities across Canada suffered financially," said professional fundraiser Diane Diamond, a former director of the Arthritis Society and now head of supporter relations for Millennium Place.

"Charities faced great challenges.

"Everyone felt it and really struggled over the year with it.

"It was very powerful and I know a lot of non-profits had to let people go."

The largest US non-profits received $3.65 billion in the wake of the terrorist attacks in the US.

According to a survey by the Washington Post the 11 major charities, which raised virtually all the funds (95 per cent), found about 20 per cent of each dollar had gone to displaced workers and others affected by the attacks. An additional 40 cents has yet to be distributed.

Money is still coming in even though most organizations have long since given up appealing for donations for victims of the attacks.

Of the money distributed, the families of firefighters who died received on average about $1.6 million, 10 times the figure given to others who died. Other money set aside for firefighters could bring their totals to $3.2 million by the end of this year.

The largest charity, The American Red Cross, has about $640 million in its Liberty Fund still to distribute, most of which will be spent by this first anniversary.

Another large charity, the September 11 th Fund, created by the United Way chapter in New York, plans to distribute its remaining $288 million over many years to meet the long-term needs of victims and families.

Most Canadian non-profits, including Millennium Place, backed off fundraising in the wake of the attacks out of respect for the victims and needs of the US.

But this had a serious effect for most.

Last Christmas donations to food banks, Christmas Bureaus and the Salvation Army were down 50 per cent.

Most have seen significant recovery but getting money has been made even more difficult due to B.C. government cutbacks and a soft economy.

"There is less money to give and the charities need the continuous flow of money," said Diamond.

"People are really having to be more generous because they have less money. But they are still being asked so they are really having to dig deep into their pockets."

Diamond also believes the media is affecting people’s choices in charities.

Rather than choosing a charity close to their hearts people are picking charities based on crisis events covered in the media.

She has just returned form a meeting of professional fundraisers and found many were optimistic in their predictions for the coming year.

"People are saying that they think the majority of people have reflected what 9/11 means in their lives and there is a greater sense of community values and people are starting to look to their charities of choice and give," she said.

"But I still think their decisions are still being swayed by the media."

Louise Lundy of the Whistler-Blackcomb Foundation has found little change in the amount of giving to the organization. But she has noticed a growth in the number of requests they have been receiving.

"Our funding applications are up," she said. "But the impact has been very minimal."

Last year’s 50 Founder’s passes, which are sold for $5,500 each, were slow to go in the wake of the attacks, but they have all been snapped up this year.

The passes raise $275,000 for the foundation annually.

Most charities hope that Canadians look at their own communities as we approach the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

"I hope people are really reflecting on what it means to them," said Diamond.

"I hope they have a better sense of community sharing and community values, and will be more generous than ever before because of the government cut backs, the soft economy."

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