With Hurricane After Hurricane, Some Worry About Donor Fatigue

Some New York fundraisers are bracing for donor fatigue after a historic run of hurricanes recently that put unprecedented strain on Americans’ charitable giving.
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma slammed Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico in the span of two weeks, leaving thousands homeless and prompting donors in New York and nationally to dig into their wallets to support relief efforts.
Just days later, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, and reports of an entire island of 3.4 million in the grips of starvation and disease spurred New York leaders to spearhead charitable outreach to the storm-ravaged Caribbean.
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While still mindful of storm recovery, some Lower Hudson Valley nonprofit leaders are leery of it overshadowing the peak charitable giving season just around the corner.
“We’ve never really had something like this before with the boom, boom, boom one (natural disaster) after the other,” said Lauren Candela-Katz, a Westchester County nonprofit leader and officer for a national fundraising group.
The (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News interviewed local fundraisers to find out how recent natural disasters affected the constant struggle to meet charitable demands.
Among the findings:
The complex network of local and national charitable organizations are strained by increasingly severe and frequent natural disasters hitting heavily populated communities.
Lower Hudson Valley nonprofits struggle to compete for charitable giving because New York City and national fundraisers target affluent donors who commute to Manhattan.
The rise of crowd-source fundraising and internet-based solicitation has diluted charitable giving and increased concerns of fraud, waste and other donor abuse.
“The challenge now with all these multiple events is you don’t want people to feel powerless,” Candela-Katz said. “You still want them to feel like they can make a difference, but it can feel overwhelming after something like this.”
Yet Candela-Katz, an executive for the Abbott House in Irvington, and other fundraisers are quick to point out that donations from Westchester, Rockland and Dutchess counties didn’t dip noticeably after previous disasters.
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and I’ve never heard somebody say that they couldn’t give this year because they gave to the hurricane,” said Terence Hughes, executive director of the Ronald McDonald House of the Greater Hudson Valley.
In fact, charitable giving has reached record heights in recent years, with Americans donating an all-time high of $390 billion in 2016, according to the annual Giving USA report.



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