Christmas Fundraising Impacted By Katrina, Tsunami

The Florida Hurricanes, Asian Tsunami, and Hurricane Katrina brought about great acts of compassion from Americans this year. Yet since heartstrings are often the most direct gateway to the purse strings, some fundraising coffers for professional and volunteer firefighters alike have been coming up light this Christmas season.

Professional Firefighters Local 4143 of Crawfordsville, Indiana is only one such example. The Journal Review reported on November 30 reported that donations for its "Shop with a Firefighter" program which helps impoverished youths obtain clothing and toys has witnessed a substantial drop-off in contributions this year, bucking a trend in which donations had risen from 2002 to 2004.

Such shortcomings, of course, are not confined to the Hoosier State. A report from The Baltimore Channel a couple weeks ago documents how Baltimore County's busiest fire station was reportedly $70,000 behind in fundraising this year, with mail-in donations alone behind by $17,000.

These shortcomings are unsurprising compared alongside the collective experiences of fundraising institutions. A national Guide-Star survey from October showed 80 percent of non-profit organizations were worried weeks ago about the year-end impact of contributions emanating from compassion fatigue and high gas prices. The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne, Indiana confirmed through a sampling of three non-profits that contributions had in fact decreased in comparison to past Christmas seasons.

But for fire organizations, these tough luck prognostications are not universal. Executive Director of the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), Heather Schaefer, believes the issue has been exaggerated. Regarding complaints from volunteer organizations about high profile fundraising activities taking precedence over routine ones, she claims to have been "hearing that a little bit, but haven't been hearing a whole lot if it now."

The Deputy Fire Chief of the Gravenhurst Fire Department in Ontario believes the tragedies abroad may actually be aiding the fundraising cause. Said John Black, "In my area, I have not heard of any difficulties with fund raising as a result of Katrina et al... In fact, emergency planning is much more in the forefront of peoples' thinking since 9/11 and the recent disasters; more than it has been in the past 20 years I've been involved."

Certainly Katrina alone has had some impact on fundraising activities, however, as volunteer and professional departments have reconciled their fundraising and charity efforts by placing the victims of the Southeast in mind. Schaefer of the NVFC pointed out how many volunteer departments channeled their fundraising efforts toward helping people afflicted by Katrina, such as organizing boot drives for a boot fund. She added, "The fire departments are raising money that could have gone to their own departments really... Even they are contributing to the notion of other charities."

A notable picture is painted by Rico Phillips, a firefighter and member of the Flint Michigan Historical Society. Slow ticket sales had forced the cancellation of fundraising dinner set to help develop a historical exhibit at a children's museum, and had threatened his fire department