THE NEW YORK TIMES NEEDIEST CASES FUND:CELEBRATING 100 YEARS OF PHILANTHROPY


By James D’Ambrosio

As 2011 winds down, many of us reflect on the past and make plans for the new year. For those in nonprofit, we’re also mindful of people who are less fortunate. The months of October, November and December typically generate the most donations, known as ‘the giving season’ to development professionals. One entity with a long tradition of helping those in need is The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund — an annual campaign beginning in November and lasting through New Years’. 

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE FUND

The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, began in 1912. On Christmas day, 1911, Times publisher Adolph S. Ochs, walking after a turkey dinner, encountered a shabbily dressed man on the street. He gave him a few dollars and his business card to help him find a job. Moved by the experience, he sent a reporter to city welfare agencies to document stories about the poor. His goal was to publish stories — “The Hundred Neediest Cases in New York” — without a direct appeal for money, just the truth about their lives.

The stories resonated. Soon other publishers in the U.S. and abroad believed  a newspaper could make an appeal for the poor and help charitable agencies solicit funds. In its first year, the Fund received $3,630.88 from 117 people;  in 2009-10, more than 10,000 people gave a total of $6.2 million. Since inception, the Fund has raised over $250 million helping people in need.

THE FUND TODAY

This year’s campaign runs from Nov. 6, 2011 – Feb. 10, 2012. In recognition of the Fund’s 100th anniversary, each day the Times publishes a poignant  story — print and online — about a person/family in New York City that has fallen on very hard times — job loss, chronic illness, death of a loved one, disability, debt, bankruptcy, accident, homelessness, victim of crime — and illustrates how the Fund has relieved distress. 

The Times distributes donations to seven participating social welfare agencies in New York City serving individuals of all ages and backgrounds: Brooklyn Community Services (www.wearebcs.org); Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of New York (www.catholiccharitiesny.org); Catholic Charities, Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens (www.ccbq.org); The Children’s Aid Society (www.childrensaidsociety.org); Community Service Society of New York (www.cssny.org); Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (www.fpwa.org); and UJA-Federation of New York (www.ujafedny.org).

The New York Times Company pays all administrative costs of the fund, allowing every dollar donated to directly benefit the poor. To protect future generations while serving the current, the Fund invests unrestricted gifts of $100,000 or more from trusts or estates in an endowment — the income generated is used for the next year’s campaign.

PERSPECTIVE AT THE HOLIDAYS

A few years ago, after reading several riveting columns, I decided to reduce gift giving, using some of the proceeds to donate to Neediest Cases. When you are exposed to real stories of  nightmarish hardship, you more fully appreciate what you have. On this landmark anniversary, the Times’ journalistic excellence raising awareness of the importance of charity should be celebrated.    

To learn more about this progressive philanthropic effort visit: www.nytimes.com/neediest.

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QUESTION TO READERS: Did you know about the Fund prior to reading this article? What are your thoughts about it?

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