After Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate, the struggle is real for one local disaster response nonprofit - Generocity Philly

Funding

Oct. 9, 2017 10:41 am

After Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate, the struggle is real for one local disaster response nonprofit

Red Paw Emergency Relief Team founder Jen Leary reminds of the importance of donating locally, even when tragedies abound in other parts of the country and world.

Jen Leary at the scene with Red Paw.

(Courtesy photo)

This is a guest post by Red Paw Emergency Relief Team founder Jen Leary.
Editor's note: The title of this piece has been updated. (10/9, 12:11 p.m.)
As the leader of a nonprofit you are always looking for, asking for, struggling for and in need of money. It is, in fact, as Biggie Smalls’ song said, “all about the Benjamins.”

Most people know me as the face of Red Paw Emergency Relief Team, a nonprofit with a mission to provide emergency assistance to families with pets affected by residential disasters — free of charge, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But there would be no Red Paw without our chief operations officer, Lori Albright, who literally spends 15 or more hours a day doing nothing but writing grants, writing to foundations, emailing donors and asking people for money.

It’s a tedious, thankless job, one I do not envy. While I’m out being interviewed for some daring rescue of a cat from a house collapse or dog that was just pulled out of a fire, Lori sits back at her desk at Red Paw headquarters, trying to get us money for the next response, for the next injured animal, and for the next shift to be covered.

It’s not as sexy as climbing out of a window with someone’s missing pet in hand, but boy is it important!

As they say, “squeaky wheel gets the oil” — and it’s true, especially in the nonprofit world. It’s a constant barrage of Facebook stories, Twitter posts, Constant Contact e-blasts, snail mail and in-person hustling. And while I did start an organization with a 24/7 mission, I meant that to apply to our emergency services. But worrying about keeping our responders on the street and paying for injured pets has become our new 24/7 mission.

Enter Hurricane Harvey, Irma, Maria and now Nate. Compared to previous years, our donations are down 40 percent. I’d suspect that we are not alone. I’d suspect most small, locally based nonprofits are also feeling the effects of what has already been a devastating hurricane season.

We struggled for a while about what to do. It’s hard to ask people for money when all you are seeing on TV and social media is devastation and destruction.

So, I wrote a quick Facebook post about recommendations on how to help from a local emergency response organization’s view right after Harvey, and then we waited. But as the days went by, we were still responding to fires, we were still taking in displaced pets from residential disasters, we were still providing emergency medical care, still sending responders out to said fires, and still putting out money to run the organization, every day. We had no choice but to send out a plea for help to our followers:

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“Our thoughts are with the people and pets affected by Harvey and the responders on the ground. Here at Red Paw we can relate, our responders are out answering the call 24/7, 365. Our team is here at home assisting people and pets affected by disasters every day. Since 2011, for six years, we have answered the call to assist and rescue and care for thousands of pets displaced from residential disasters. Every day our responders are out with other first responders searching the remains of someone’s house for their beloved pets, safely rescuing and providing emergency medical care, emergency transport and emergency shelter at no cost to families while they recover and try to rebuild.

“We know your donations may be getting funneled to other things right now, and we get it, but we need your help! While it kills us to watch what is going on in Texas and then ask you for support, we have to be able to respond here at home, but we can’t do that without you! Please donate so that the next pet missing from a residential disaster can be found alive and reunited with their family!”

And while we did get some donations, it was a Band-Aid. Running a nonprofit costs money — a lot of it. No successful nonprofit — or for-profit business, for that matter — can survive without it. The phrase “Think globally, act locally” has never been more important than it is today.

So, what can you do? Act locally! Do some research (start with Charity Navigator and Great NonProfits) and find a legit, credible and local boots-on-the-ground organization in your area that is doing the most good in your community, and then support them. Some suggestions:

  • Ask your employer about matching donations.
  • Spread the word about the great work your supported orgs are doing through your social media networks.
  • If you work in a restaurant, ask your employer to donate a portion of sales to a local organization one night.
  • Get your favorite bar to donate a dollar from every drink sale.
  • Hold a bake sale on your college campus.

Just do something. Because Biggie was wrong when his song said, “The more money we come across, the more problems we see.” When you donate to a local nonprofit, the more problems we solve.

[Editor’s note: Check out columnist Lansie Sylvia’s take on the global-vs.-local issue here.]

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