48_Alyssa Royse

Combine Efforts

On September 13, 2001, PR professionals around the country launched a campaign that raised millions of dollars and created a registry of kids who lost parents in the September 11 attacks.


Alyssa Royse
Cofounder, Twin Towers Orphan Fund
Seattle, Washington


What specific issue are you trying to address?
The Twin Towers Orphan Fund ( was established on September 13, 2001 to benefit children who lost one or both parents in the terrorist attacks of September 11. The Twin Towers Orphan Fund is a long-term fund with a life span of more than 20 years that will provide for the continuing education, health care and mental health needs of the children. The fund is 100 percent volunteer, with members handling all aspects of the charity from PR, fundraising, event planning and even working with individual families to navigate the tricky waters of life after tragedy.

What business principle applied?
Do it Differently. Although many charities were born after September 11, few of them focused on the children. We saw a need and we filled it. Narrow your focus. Not wanting to compete with existing funds, we limited our mission to caring for the children–it is easy to stay on a clear path. Encourage individual initiative. As an all-volunteer organization, personal initiative and achievement is more important than recognition and status. Be passionate. We got involved because we are passionately committed to our cause. That passion provides greater incentive than any salary or promise of a promotion ever could.

How did you put it into practice?
As a nation-wide group of volunteers that have never met, we communicate almost entirely using email, list-serves and telephones. Despite our geographic separation, we are breaking new ground in charity fundraising and administration. The new and novel funding model of splitting up the general fund and administration fund is what brought us so much early attention and ultimately more than $3 million without a cent of the fund being spent on administration and fundraising. The organization is non-hierarchical and all volunteer, with members assuming responsibility based solely on the amount of time they can commit, and skills they can use.

How have you seen results?
Not only have we established the only national registry of children who lost parents, and raised more than $3 million, we have begun setting up more than 800 individual college trust funds for those children. We have done this using an entirely new business model and volunteer labor. By doing these things, we are proving to everyone that charities can both promise 100 percent to their donors and deliver 100 percent to their beneficiaries. In times of scrutiny and accountability, we think this may well be the charity model of the future.