The September 11th Fund

By Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, Dave Hoyt
2007 | Case No. SI61 | Length 11 pgs.

Immediately after the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center attacks, the New York Community Trust (“the Trust”) and the United Way of New York City (“UWNYC”) collaborated to create the September 11th Fund (“the Fund”). The Fund’s mission was meeting the immediate and long-term needs of the people and communities affected by the tragedy. The Fund’s focus included emergency needs, psychological support for victims and their families, support for socio-economic recovery of those affected, assistance in New York City’s economic rebuilding, mitigation of the disaster’s environmental impact and promoting intercultural understanding. The outpouring of post-tragedy generosity was immense. In the first 24 hours the Fund received $15 million, including donations from nearly 2 million Americans as well as from people in 150 countries. In the month following September 11, individuals and organizations gave or pledged over $170 million to the Fund. In the initial weeks following the attack, media scrutiny generated a considerable amount of negative publicity for charities, including the Fund itself. The Fund proactively worked to manage public perceptions and respond to scrutiny with thoughtful press releases, reports, public service announcements and website updates to transparently share the Fund’s strategy and progress. Despite the Fund’s proactive strategy to manage public understanding of its work and impact, public confidence in charitable organizations fell in the year following the attack. This cultural change highlighted the need for foundations to better utilize communication strategies, demonstrate their accountability and strengthen public trust in philanthropy.

Learning Objective

Foundation collaboration, disaster relief, public stakeholder relations, effective philanthropic communication strategies and philanthropic innovation.

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