Charities Gear Up Fall Appeals
Despite Fears of a New Recession
By Raymund Flandez
AT THE Chehaw Park Foundation, the fund-raising arm of the Al- bany, Ga., state park and zoo,
fund raisers told a key donor a few
months ago that they expected the fall
to be a difficult time to seek donations
as concerns mounted about the state of
the global economy. They asked her to
make a big gift to help hire a consultant to offer advice on how to make the
group’s fund-raising efforts more sophisticated and effective.
The donor provided $20,000, enough
for a one-year stint with the consultant,
says Doug Porter, the foundation’s executive director. “It’s way more than we’ve
ever received” from one person.
Around the country, the park and other nonprofits are going into overdrive to
make sure the year-end giving season
is strong, even as donors are shaken by
the twists in the stock market and high
“We can’t say, ‘Woe is me, the econo-
my has gone bad,’” says Allison Porter,
executive vice president of Avalon Con-
sulting, a Washington company that
offers fund-raising help to nonprofits.
“Instead, the question should be, ‘What
can we do?’ ”
Big nonprofits aren’t pulling back or
changing their approach much because
of the recent bad economic news, The
Chronicle found in dozens of interviews
with fund raisers and consultants.
“We can’t say, ‘Woe is me,
the economy has gone
bad. Instead, the question
should be, ‘What can
we do?’ ”
cut back their direct-mail appeals this
year, and half are spending even more
than they did last year. The rest are
spending about the same as before.
A Jump on the Holidays
Many nonprofits are adjusting the
timing of appeals, however, in part to
get ahead of the onslaught of holiday
pitches donors will receive.
The Associated: Jewish Community
Federation of Baltimore, for example, is
Chehaw Park Foundation has sought a consultant’s help in navigating
what it expects will be a tough fund-raising season.
doing all it can to make its push now.
It has moved its Super Sunday phone
fund-raising drive, in which volunteers
gather to solicit gifts, from just before
Thanksgiving week to late September.
“That’s certainly an important tactic
for this year,” says Mark Smolarz, the
group’s chief financial officer. “The first
one gets the fish.”
Russ Reid, a consulting firm that
advises charities around the country,
says some clients, especially food banks
and groups that serve the homeless,
sent holiday appeals as early as Au-
gust. Some sent pitches that focus on
Thanksgiving last month and are plan-
ning to send appeals for Christmas in
Veterinarian Runs Grass-Roots Drive to Raise Millions for a Historic Bridge
By Lawrence Biemiller
HIS FRIENDS told George Lewis he was crazy when he said he wanted to raise $2.3-million
to rebuild a collapsed stone aqueduct
in the C&O Canal National Historical
Park, which meanders along the Maryland side of the Potomac River from
Cumberland, Md., down to Washington.
“Who ever heard of the C&O Canal?”
they asked. “Who even knows what an
Besides, they warned, to raise mon-
ey nowadays, “you gotta compete with a
little old lady on a corner with a tin cup
and a starving baby.”
But that was five years ago. On Octo-
ber 15, many of those friends will join
Dr. Lewis at the dedication ceremony
for the restored Catoctin Aqueduct, an
1834 bridge that carried mule-powered
canal boats high over Catoctin Creek.
Maryland’s governor is expected,
along with Congressional representatives, National Park Service officials,
Frederick County dignitaries, canal
fans, and a variety of contributors—
from a big defense contractor whose
headquarters are nearby to a local
woman who cleans houses for a living
and has held three yard sales to support the project.
LAWRENCE BIEMILLER, FOR THE CHRONICLE
Friends told George Lewis his fund-raising drive would compete
with more urgent needs, like “a little old lady on a corner with a tin cup.”
years ago, is a retired U.S. Army veterinarian whose enthusiasm is almost certainly more infectious than any of the
biological agents he once worked to defend against. Walking along the canal
towpath toward the aqueduct, he says
he’s learned a lot since 2006, when he
wrote a personal check for $5,000 to a
civil-engineering firm to get the project
He had worked with the park ser-
vice before, on restoring a lock tender’s
house, but this was an effort on an en-
tirely different scale.