As I have mentioned, I am embarked on an effort to recapture and organize a lifetime of writing. As I started working through a file drawer of unpublished papers, I came across a copy [misfiled] of a fund-raising letter that I mailed out on January 25, 1991 for my newly created charitable organization, University Scholarships for South African Students [USSAS]. My principal gimmick for getting USSAS started was to buy the mailing lists of a number of American academic organizations – The American Philosophical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the English and American Literature branch of the Modern Language Association, and so forth. Then I rounded up big names in those fields to co-sign a letter I drafted [Jack Rawls declined], and sent out appeals to all the members. By the time I was done, I had sent out 85,000 letters. Considering the distinction of the letter signers, I had high hopes, but folks with experience in the fund-raising business warned me to expect no more than a one or two percent response, a caution that proved quite accurate.
The letter I stumbled on yesterday went to all the members of the American Economics Association. Let me tell you who signed it: Kenneth Arrow, Alice Rivlin, Paul Samuelson, Amartya Sen, Herbert Simon, and Joseph Stiglitiz. Five Nobel Prize winners! And only about 2% of the economists who got the letter mailed in some money. Don’t be fooled by the likes of Sheldon Adelson, the Mercers, and the Koch brothers. Raising money is hard.