Thousands of women in New York and other major cities turn to various women's advocacy groups for specific kinds of assistance and service. Many of these organizations render the kind of help that is offered nowhere else in the city. This could include helping to keep vital day-care centers open as well as counseling women coming out of prison.
Yet many advocacy groups have inadequate offices, operate with volunteer staffs and borrowed equipment, and are traditionally underfunded.
Fifteen such groups in New York City have recently formed the Women's Funding Coalition to effect joint fund raising. Through work-site solicitation and jointly sponsored charitable benefits, they all stand to gain some financial help.
The coalition was formed to counteract the underfunding of women's programs by public and private sources and the federal cutbacks that have struck hard at services to women.
The coalition, which has been endorsed by Carol Bellamy, president of the New York City Council, now is working on incorporation and the securing of tax-exempt status. It is approaching foundations for money to rent an office and hire a small staff to administer its program.
At the end of this month, the coalition is also sponsoring a training workshop for its own members on workplace solicitation, especially hoping to set in place payroll deduction plans. ''We would like people to have the option of pledging their charitable dollars to women's programs,'' Virginia Cornue explains. ''Experience has shown us that when people have a broader choice of programs to pledge to, overall giving goes up markedly.''
Most of the groups in the coalition now depend on membership dues for operating monies. These are never sufficient to cover the wide range of educational and assistance programs they are struggling to carry on.
One of the 15, the New York City chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), is more fortunate than most: it has an office, a staff of two, a membership of 2,000, and a $60,000 annual budget. This group is involved in many issues, receives literally thousands of calls each month, and is involved at many levels of city life.
One function of the group has been to sponsor legal seminars that women can attend for about $5, from which they can gather answers to their own knotty legal problems. Top lawyers donate their time and expertise to these important seminars. This NOW chapter has been getting some additional funds by engaging in ''grass-roots street fund raising'' or placing members on street corners to talk to people, explain programs, and hand out pamphlets and leaflets.
Another group, the Women's Counseling Project, shares an office at Barnard College and handles both direct and telephone hot-line counseling to women who need help. Barbara Van Buren explains that the group with which she is associated, Project Green Hope Services for Women, offers women coming out of prisons a short-term residence and such supportive services as counseling, job training, basic education, orientation, and general assistance.
Women's organizations in other cities also hope to raise more funds through coalitions. The Women's Way coalition in Philadelphia combines six such groups under one umbrella. The Cooperating Fund Drive in Minneapolis raises money for 26 community services, including women's groups. The Campaign for Human Endeavor links 40 groups in South Carolina in joint fund-raising efforts, and groups in other cities are looking into coalitions as additional possibilities in their own fund-raising efforts.