cover of the first paper with Neediest Cases Fund

On Christmas Day in 1911, Adolph Ochs, the publisher of The New York Times, was out walking in the city when he was approached by a stranger in dire straits with an appeal for help. Mr. Ochs gave him $5 and offered to see what could be done about getting him a job. In due course, Mr. Ochs arranged for a position in The Times distribution department, where that stranger became a star employee, working for the paper for the rest of his career.

That initial interaction led Mr. Ochs to create what was originally called The New York Times 100 Neediest Cases, an appeal to Times readers to make donations that The Times would then grant to local nonprofits to help a hundred other New Yorkers, each described in the paper.

Every year since its launch in 1912, The New York Times has continued that tradition, appealing to its growing readership to address collectively the human needs of those facing serious challenges. Now in its 112th year, The Fund has raised over $330 million for selected nonprofits that have helped millions of people lead better lives.

The appeal has evolved through the years, as has The Times itself.
As donor response grew and more people could be helped, the campaign no longer focused on just 100 New Yorkers. In the earliest years, donors to the campaign were listed–the 1912 appeal raised $3,630.88 from 117 donors.  As donors climbed into the thousands, the paper stopped publishing
individual names.

In 1941, the initiative took its next big step: The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund was established as a nonprofit entity, an acknowledgment of the growth and importance of the initiative and its distinct status.

When The Fund launched, beneficiary organizations were local, serving the New York City area. But, as the geographic reach of The Times expanded, the nonprofits benefiting from The Fund also expanded to those supporting a national and global community. 

In 2023, the next phase in modernizing the philanthropic approach of the Fund is being launched. The Fund is being renamed as The New York Times Communities Fund. You are reading this on a newly created website, dedicated to this appeal. Communities Fund reporting will now be found in the Opinion Section of The Times. And The Fund is stepping up the engagement with its beneficiary agencies to increase the visibility of the Fund and maximize the impact of donations received.

All of these changes are meant to secure the health and growth of The Fund, well into the future. The goal remains to use the power of our journalism to encourage more people to contribute, which will in turn enable our agency partners to assist more people in more places, improve their circumstances. 

That’s precisely what Adolph Ochs did in 1911. He helped a person in need and the simple act led to a life-changing impact. It is our goal to continue that tradition, at scale. We remain grateful to our readers, the most generous on earth, for all they’ve done in support of The Neediest Cases Fund in the past—and all we know they will do to support The New York Times Communities Fund going forward.