"Yeah, I'm worried, said Christopher F. Edley, executive director of the United Negro College Fund. "I'm worried sick."

These are hard times for fund-raising in Washington, the said. Among the problems are inflation, the lack of large industries and corporations here to contribute, and the fact that the organization is not allowed to fund-raise on federal property.

Yet even as Edley uttered his fears, he was being pulled in and out of circles of party guests who had donated a total of #12,000 just to be at the Washington-area kickoff last night for the United Negro College Fund. The drive runs through May 31.

They ate hor d'oeuvres, drank wine and listened to Mozart-courtesy of the D.C. Youth String Quarted-wafting through the Organization of American States. "We like to open the building to the community said," said Alejandro Orfila, OAS secretary general.

"We want this to become a socail event that people will look forward to going to," said Niles White, director of government affairs for the fund. "And this is the start."

Last year the fund raised $16.5 million nationwide for operating expenses, equipment and teachers' salaries, among other needs, for the 23-member private black colleges, mostly in the South. The amount raised in Washington last year was $221,195,25, said the fund's area development director, Karen Spencer, closing her eyes to conjure up the precise figure.

"And we're going to double that next year," said D. C. Mayor Marion Barry, speaking from a stairway landing that overlooked the reception room. "I attended two United Negro College Fund colleges and I'm an example of the slogan, 'A mind is a terrible thing to waste,' he said. I'm an example in that if i hadn't gone to those two colleges I probably wouldn't be standing here tonight.

"I have friends and supporters who've never heard of the fund," said Barry, who is honorary chairman of the drive here. 'They've heard of it now. People don't want to say no to the mayor too many times, especially when it's for a good nonprofit organization."

He joined other well-know Washingtonians there last night including real estate lawyer Robert Linowes. who is general chairman of of the drive; American Cancer Society director Dr. LaSalle Leffall, and his wife, Ruth, who was one of the hosts at the kick-off party.

"All of our schools are in the South" said Niles White, "and a lot of people here don't relate to that. They don't understand that a lot of our kids from Washington go to these schools and get the individual attention they need. These are small schools. And in four years they produce kids that can go on to graduate schools."