ONE OF THE problems that people have with Nicaragua," said actor David Clennon, who played the sinister U.S. consul in Chile in the film "Missing"--was part of a group of 29 actors, filmmakers and other professionals who just returned from a week in Nicaragua with what they hope are fresher impressions. Clennon and several others in the group spent four days last week on Capitol Hill delivering their views to aides of about 25 senators and members of Congress.

"I think what we can do as artists and academics and performers," said Clennon, "is perhaps go down there with really open minds and perceive lots of impressions, maybe humanize the experience for people who don't have the opportunity or the inclination to go down there."

Most came back arguing against U.S. intervention in Nicaragua, particularly any backing of an invasion from Honduras. "Everybody we spoke to in Nicaragua felt an invasion was imminent from Honduras and that it was American-backed," said filmmaker Renee Vollen. "There was a flight of people who could afford to leave because they were afraid of the impending invasion."

"We were guests of the government but we paid our own way," said Vollen, whose husband, Alvin Sargent, the screenwriter of "Ordinary People" and "Julia," also was on the Nicaraguan journey but not the trip to Washington. "We were a very diverse group," Vollen said. "Some of us had no political affiliations." Their seven-day trip took them to villages on the Honduran border, a resettled Miskito Indian village, banana plantations and two prisons. They also visited government opponents, including the editor of the censored La Prensa newspaper.

YOU MAY HAVE heard a lot about fund raising for Wolf Trap but nothing like what Bob Edgar had to say. He told Wolf Trap officials they were doing it wrong.

From April, when the Filene Center at Wolf Trap burned to the ground, to the end of the summer, Wolf Trap raised $1.6 million. "To be coldblooded about it, $1.6 million since April is not enough," said Edgar, who noted that the amount is a fraction of what Wolf Trap needs for its half of rebuilding. (Wolf Trap and the federal government are splitting the $18 million tab.)

"Over the course of the summer," Edgar said, "the people at Wolf Trap began realizing that the type of money they were getting, although from large numbers of sources, would not be the kind of money they needed." That's why they hired Edgar's firm to revamp their fund-raising strategy. A former theatrical producer and prep-school teacher, he now is a professional fund-raiser working for the New York-based Robert E. Duke and Associates. ("He hired me to be his Washington hit man," said Edgar with a grin.)

"What happened with fund raising at Wolf Trap was that it got diversified much too soon," Edgar explained. "A lot of good people offered to do bake sales -- very heartening but not enough. You go after large, significant donations first. It helps you set goals that are attainable." Also, prospective major donors "like to be at the forefront of the campaign," said Edgar.

All this involves an elaborate system of committees comprised of board members and others connected with Wolf Trap who are in a position to ask someone for, say, $2 million. "It's not the professional fund-raiser who raises money," said Edgar. "It's the board members' responsibility. Our function as fund-raisers is to prepare the board to solicit funds."

Edgar hopes that Wolf Trap can announce in late winter a "minimum" goal of $20 million, for rebuilding costs and a stabilizing fund. "We're still forming an enabling gifts committee comprised, we hope, of major givers who can go to other givers," he said. California businessman David Packard, founder of Hewlett-Packard, has agreed to chair this committee. Edgar said 53 sources of big bucks ($50,000 to $2 million) have been pinpointed throughout the country.

After the big contributions, "that's where the bake sales and the company barbecues come in," Edgar said. "You do 90 percent of your work for 10 percent of your money. That will require a tremendous amount of work . . . People will say, 'I'm tired of hearing about Wolf Trap.' "

JOHN E. REINHARDT, acting director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art, has a new acting job. He will become acting assistant secretary for history and art at the Smithsonian, succeeding Charles Blitzer who had the job (for real) for the last 14 years. Blitzer will leave his post in January to become director of the National Humanities Center in North Carolina