by Johanna Ettin
When Jan Allen of Chapel Hill, N.C., spotted her name on a list of "major donors" to NOW, she was astonished. In fact, she was so sure a mistake had been made that she called the Action Center to have her name removed from the list.
But it wasn't a mistake.
In October 1982, shortly after the defeat of the ERA, Allen signed up to be a member of what is now known as the Equality Action Fund. Each month a contribution to the fund is charged to her credit card, and nearly 14 years of these monthly gifts -- along with an occasional check written in response to a special project appeal -- added up to an impressive and significant total.
"I guess what amazes me the most is that I hardly notice the monthly charges," Allen said. "I strongly believe in what NOW stands for, but I seldom have the ability to write a large check. This is a really easy way to make a difference."
Veronika Rickard-Arrington, NOW's Equality Action Fund manager, said contributors like Allen more than make a difference. "Folks like Jan are the bedrock of NOW's ability to take action at a moment's notice," Rickard-Arrington said. "We call them sustaining members because the income they provide keeps us going through thick and thin."
Allen was one of the first women to rise through the ranks to IBM management and recently retired after 27 years with the company. "I'm focusing my contributions more carefully these days," she said, "so I'm giving only to NOW and women running for office."
As a longtime, statewide leader on reproductive rights, Allen said she values NOW's comprehensive approach to reproductive rights and other issues. "I don't think single-issue organizations can make the kind of changes we need in this society," Allen said. "The issues are complicated and strongly interrelated. I'm working on abortion rights because that's where the action is in North Carolina today, but I trust NOW to be there representing my interests in welfare rights, racism, sexual harassment -- the full range of women's issues."
Given her own work on myriad fund-raising efforts over the years, Allen knows the costs involved in raising money. She appreciates the savings associated with NOW's automatic monthly charges or the option for Equality Action Fund partners to receive monthly statements and pay by check.
"Once I signed up, NOW didn't have to keep spending money to persuade me to give," Allen said. "I think more people would become sustainers if they realized how convenient it is."
To become a member of the NOW Equality Action Fund, fill out the form online or mail it to the Action Center at the address on the form, or contact Cindy Hanford at 202-628-8669, ext. 128.
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