Some agencies have consciously avoided full-bore humanitarian appeals for Iraq, even as they gear up to help deliver clean water and replenish looted hospitals.
Catholic Relief Services, the international relief arm of the U.S. Roman Catholic Church, has requested money for Iraq from parishes and on its Web site but not prominently.
CRS doesn't want Iraq to divert support from lesser-known but equally pressing causes, such as a food crisis in Africa that threatens the lives of 14 million, said Kenneth F. Hackett, executive director of the Baltimore-based organization.
"We're making it kind of discreet," Hackett said of the Iraq appeal. "The human conditions [in Iraq] within a month or so will probably improve substantially. The country is a middle-income country."
CRS has raised $500,000 for Iraq so far, about the same amount it had raised by the second month of the 2001 war in Afghanistan.
But it's far short of the $11 million the group raised by the second month after the expulsion of refugees from Kosovo in 1999 - an event many officials view as a high point for post-conflict giving.
CARE, which also had operations in Iraq before the war began, hasn't finished its assessment but predicts it will ask the public "for multimillions of dollars," said Marshall Burke, vice president of private support.
Most private agencies plan smaller roles. Many have been poised on Iraq's borders, prepared for an outpouring of refugees that never came. Some of their plans for convoys of supplies and staff have been stalled by looting and by military warnings.
Meanwhile, groups such Lutheran World Relief, International Orthodox Christian Charities and World Relief, all based in the Baltimore area, are working through partner organizations and churches within Iraq to deliver limited supplies.
"It's been a matter of figuring out where the needs are, and what are the capacities of the churches on the ground," said IOCC spokesman Stephen Huba. "It's been hard getting that information."
The groups' inability to operate inside Iraq has slowed fund raising, relief officials said. Many potential donors like to see what aid workers are accomplishing before sending a contribution, they said.
The organization, based in New Canaan, Conn., has raised $400,000 for work in Iraq, about the same as it brought in for the conflict in Afghanistan, but far behind the $2 million in donations at the same stage to help Kosovars.
Mercy Corps, based in Portland, Ore., has raised about $275,000 - little more than 10 percent of what it says it will need to provide water, food and supplies over the next six months. But chief development officer Matthew De Galan said the group is pleased with that response, which he called "significantly stronger" than donations for Afghans.