How to Decide Where to Donate When There Is So Much Need

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Lately, I’ve been feeling quite overwhelmed with the never ending need for donations, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. In one month, large portions of the world have been devastated by hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires. Between all of that, and the seemingly never ending GoFundMe requests coming across our social media feeds, it can be hard to know how to help.

Who needs what? Which organizations can you trust to get the money to where it’s needed? What if you can’t afford to donate money, but still want to help? I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about these questions lately, and I’d like to offer my thoughts on how to navigate through this aspect of the challenging times we live in.

Be clear about your values before you donate

Most donations are motivated by our moral compass and our sense of social conscience. But even beyond that, ask yourself what matters to you before making donation decisions. It’s a safe bet that if you’re reading this, you want to help cats (and other animals) affected by disasters.

Follow your heart and your head

Follow your heart when it comes to deciding what type of organization you want to donate to, but then use your head and check out the charity before you donate. Is the charity recommended by a trusted source? You can also use websites like Charity Navigator or GuideStar to check out the track record of charities, but be aware that many small animal rescue organizations will not be listed on these directories. That doesn’t make them a bad donation choice, you’ll just have to do a little more homework.

Cash is usually better than goods

In the wake of a major disaster, cash donations are usually a better choice than donating goods. The logistics of storing and distributing goods can overwhelm volunteers who are already stretched to the limit.

Don’t donate if donating is a strain on your budget

Don’t feel bad if you can’t donate money. If donating to a charity straps your personal budget to the point that it’s creating stress and hardship for you, it doesn’t make sense to me to do so.

Volunteer your time

Volunteering doesn’t have to mean you have to travel to the disaster areas. For animal rescue, shelters around the country have taken in displaced cats and dogs after hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Consider volunteering with a local shelter, helping with adoption events, or even just by sharing adoptable animals on social media.

Pace yourself

Donations always surge right after a disaster, and then drop off sharply once the news cycle has moved on to the next story. All of the areas affected by recent events will need help for a long time to come.

How I choose who to donate to

I will not donate to large national organizations. I prefer to donate to local organizations so I can be sure that my donations are used for the intended purpose. I previously published information on how to donate to help animals affected by the hurricanes:

How You Can Help Animals Affected by Hurricane Harvey

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How You Can Help Animals Affected by Hurricane Irma

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How You Can Help Animals Affected by Hurricane Maria

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GoFundMe requests

Most of us see multiple GoFundMe requests in our newsfeed every day, and most of us probably wish we could give to every single one of them. For those types of requests, I mostly follow my heart. Since the requests come from (presumably) people you know, or are shared by people you know, there’s a high chance that they are legitimate. And in many cases, even a small donation can make a big difference. I’d like to share two requests that are very close to my heart. One has nothing to do with recent disasters, the other one does.

Kate’s Cancer Crushing Collection

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My dear friend Kate Benjamin, the founder of Hauspanther, is facing her second battle with cancer. While she has decent health insurance, it won’t cover all her expenses, and as a self-employed entrepreneur, she will also loose income while she recovers from multiple surgeries. Kate is one of the most positive people I know, and the attitude with which she’s facing this recurrence of her cancer is nothing less than inspirational. You can follow her journey at felinesofine.com. If you can donate, every little bit helps Kate crush cancer once and for all.

Cat Artist Jamie S. Perry

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You may be familiar with Jamie S. Perry’s whimsical cat art. I met Jamie several years ago at a cat show when we had adjoining booths, and it was like meeting a kindred spirit. Jamie lost her home and studio in one of the Sonoma fires. Thankfully, she and her two cats made it out, but everything else, including all her original art, is gone. Jamie’s sister set up the GoFundMe to help Jamie get back on her feetĀ  again. Of course, Jamie is only one of so many who experienced devastating loss in the fires. I’m working on a round up of resources to help animals affected by the fires.

I hope this information is helpful. And even if you can’t donate, don’t underestimate the power of prayer and sending positive energy.

6 Comments on How to Decide Where to Donate When There Is So Much Need

  1. Steven Howard
    October 15, 2017 at 8:50 pm (7 months ago)

    September hit everyone quite hard between the back to back storms, fires, floods, ect. It made it very difficult to decide who to donate to. This guide is a very good idea Ingrid.

    Reply
  2. Johnny
    October 15, 2017 at 11:44 am (7 months ago)

    Great thoughts and list, thank you for sharing.

    It’s hard to even start thinking about how many people & animals have been affected recently, and I’m really hoping for a fast recovery.

    Reply
  3. Aldona
    October 15, 2017 at 10:41 am (7 months ago)

    From a fellow pet sitter in Houston – the best thing you can do to help the animals is donate to or volunteer with local organizations, especially local shelters because so many of them were taking in displaced animals. Even if a specific shelter was not taking in the displaced animals, and only local ones, that meant they were helping by giving others the availability to take in the displaced ones. We were also given a list of specific local Houston organizations if folks lived in areas that just didn’t have anything local. So, I have been donating to the cat shelter I volunteer with in the city.

    I’ve heard them talk about “donation fatigue” on the news, especially after Irma hit. Then Maria hit, and now we have the fires. I have a friend in northern California who manages a vet clinic, and not only are they caring for displaced pets, but they also have a couple and their many dogs (who lost their home) camping out in the back yard of the clinic.

    Thanks so much for this post. It is so hard to watch all the devastation happening around us. And so often, the animals are forgotten (especially the wildlife – they are losing their homes too).

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 16, 2017 at 5:20 am (7 months ago)

      Thank you for this, Aldona. And you are so right, wildlife is affected by these disasters, too.

      Reply
  4. Janine
    October 15, 2017 at 7:46 am (7 months ago)

    Thank you for this post. There are so many charities out there and unfortunately some are not as honest as others. A little guidance helps a lot. I will pray for Kate and Jamie.

    Reply
  5. Lilo Huhle-Poelzl
    October 15, 2017 at 2:04 am (7 months ago)

    I appreciate all the guidance regarding donations. We have donated to Houston (or was it Texas?) SPCA. Internet connection problems and also real-life issues have kept us, so far, from donating to any animal rescue organizations dealing with hurricanes Irma and Maria. And now there are also the wildfires in California. Your info will help us choose the right organizations.

    It is all so heartbreaking. These natural disasters are horrific for humans and, quite often, even worse for animals. Where do people with animals go when their homes are destroyed by wind, water, or fire? Will they find accommodation that allows animals?

    Reply

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