For more than 100 years, The New York Times has asked readers for contributions to its Neediest Cases Fund, to give direct assistance to those who are less fortunate. In its first year, 1912, readers contributed $3,630.88. These days, The Fund regularly raises over $5.5 million annually, and over the years The Fund has raised more than $300 million.
From The Archives
How The Fund Began
On Christmas Day, 1911, Adolph S. Ochs, publisher of The Times, went out for a walk after a big turkey dinner, and encountered a shabbily dressed man on the street. The man said he had just been given Christmas dinner at a Y.M.C.A. but had nowhere to sleep. The publisher looked him over, decided he looked respectable and gave him a few dollars and his card. “If you’re looking for a job,” he said, “come see me tomorrow.”
The encounter left Mr. Ochs thinking about charity. Helping a stranger had given him a sense of satisfaction, and he wondered if one man’s feeling might be the basis for a city’s good will. The next year, he sent a reporter to several of the city’s private welfare agencies to collect stories about the poor. Mr. Ochs had a plan: to publish stories about the 100 Neediest Cases in the city. The appeal would be made not with a direct request for money but with the facts of their lives. These small chronicles, it turned out, sounded a powerful call.
The campaign began on Dec. 15, 1912. Soon, other publishers in the United States and abroad adopted the idea that a newspaper could make a general appeal for the poor and solicit funds for established social agencies. Each year, readers sent in more money. In 1912, 117 contributors sent in about $3,600. In the 2018-19 campaign, readers contributed $5.6 million. All told, The Fund has raised over $300 million.
The mechanics of the appeal have evolved over the years. In 1970, The Times stopped publishing the names of all the contributors. The campaign, no longer limited to a hundred specific cases, distributes its funds to seven participating social welfare agencies. They serve people of all ages and backgrounds.
The New York Times Company pays for all administrative costs so that every gift goes directly to serve the poor, and the company audits the work of the agencies accordingly. To protect the next generation while serving this one, The Fund invests unrestricted gifts of $100,000 or more from trusts or estates in an endowment. The income goes directly into the next year’s campaign.
The 2019-20 campaign begins in mid-October and will continue into January. Cases of notable relieved distress are the subject of Times articles. The participating agencies are audited on a regular basis. In the current campaign, they are:
Brooklyn Community Services
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York
Community Service Society of New York
International Rescue Committee
UJA-Federation of New York
To donate stock to the fund, call 212-556-1137 or send a fax to 212-556-1979. Gifts and bequests are deductible for income and estate tax purposes.
Donations to the Neediest Cases Fund may be made online, or with a check or over the phone. You can also remember the Neediest Cases in your will and trusts.
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