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.
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:
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.
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.
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 feet 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.