Ordinary charities fear drop-off after tsunami

Published: Thursday, January 6, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 6, 2005 at 12:24 a.m.
ATLANTA - The unprecedented American outpouring of tsunami-relief donations has some charities fearing a phenomenon they saw after Sept. 11 - a drop-off in contributions for soup kitchens, shelters, museums and other ordinary needs closer to home.
"There's no question in my mind it will be impacted - we saw what happened in 9-11," said Paul Kane, an executive with United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York, which helps the needy across the United States and saw donations fall $2 million below projections in 2001, which contributions poured in to Sept. 11 charities.
U.S.-based relief agencies have received more than $200 million in donations from individuals and corporations for victims of the tsunami disaster. Some charities say it is too early to see any effect on giving to organizations not involved in the relief effort, but they have a pretty good idea of what is going to happen, at least in the short term.
"If people are giving more and more to disaster relief, there is obviously fewer dollars that may be otherwise committed to other charitable organizations," said Philip Coltoff, chief executive of the Children's Aid Society of New York, which relies on donations for half its $75 million budget.
Even relief organizations helping the tsunami victims in Asia and East Africa - among them, Doctors Without Borders and CARE USA - are urging people not to overlook other parts of the world.
Such major emergencies "do cause us to want to remind people not to lose sight of the many places around the world that are in great need," said Debra Neuman, CARE spokeswoman.
Kane's group and others such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of America say the tsunami relief effort could actually have a long-term positive effect for them. They have seen donations increase since 2001, and credit the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks with educating people about the need to help all kinds of charities.
It seems "these awful events kind of shake people up and make them say, 'Maybe I should be doing more in the community or be helping financially,' " said Jan Still-Lindeman of the Atlanta-based Boys & Girls Clubs.

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