The late Betty White was a tireless animal advocate, whether caring for those without homes or launching her own weekly TV show, ‘The Pet Set’, dedicated to her famous friends. and their pets.
On Monday, White fans were set to donate to charities and animal welfare shelters in what has been dubbed the #BettyWhiteChallenge. And, animal welfare nonprofits have been gearing up to capitalize on the viral tribute to “The Golden Girls” and “Hot in Cleveland” star on what would have been her 100th birthday.
Locally, Sara Tuthill – accountant for the Humane Society of Rome, 6247 Lamphear Road – said in honor of White and as part of the #BettyWhiteChallenge, the Rome shelter has received more than 50 donations from local residents, which has raised approximately $1,000.
She said the Humane Society of Rome was happy about the community outreach.
“I opened our Facebook page and saw, ‘You have a gift… You have a gift…’ and it was so exciting,” Tuthill said. “It’s something we didn’t expect.”
Funds raised will help support current and future animals cared for at the shelter. Currently, according to the Humane Society of Rome website, approximately 30 cats and seven dogs are cared for by the shelter.
It’s unclear exactly who started the #BettyWhiteChallenge on social media shortly after White’s death on Dec. 31. However it got started, the idea – to donate $5 to a local animal rescue organization in White’s name on his birthday – quickly took off and attracted support from celebrities like actors Mark Hamill and George Takei on Twitter.
“I’ve had many conversations with Betty about animal welfare, and I know she’s looking down from the sky and really smiling,” said Robin Ganzert, who runs American Humane, an animal welfare organization. animals in which White has been involved for over 60 years.
“She will smile on her birthday,” she said. “And she will smile at the lives she has changed.”
Traffic to American Humane’s website increased after White’s death. Ganzert said donations have also increased. The nonprofit is waiting to reveal how much until more freebies roll in, including large donations it expects from some donors.
During the decades that White was involved with the organization, she did fundraising appeals and served on its board of directors and as a presenter and judge on its television show featuring “hero” dogs. “.
During tapings of “The Pet Set” in the early 1970s, Ganzert said, White would have American Humane representatives on set to make sure the animals were safe.
In 2012, the nonprofit organization awarded him its highest honour, the National Humanitarian Medal.
Ganzert also gave White a photo book each year of the animals the organization helped.
“She kept them on her coffee table,” Ganzert said. “And (it) always touched me every time we visited.”
Best Friends Animal Society, a Utah-based animal welfare organization, raised $25,000 in donations made in White’s name, according to Holly Sizemore, the group’s mission manager. The group has promoted the #BettyWhiteChallenge extensively on their social media to drum up support for both their work and other organizations.
“That’s the beauty of animal welfare,” Sizemore said. “There is something for everyone to support. There is so much good work going on and so much opportunity, especially right now, to make the world a better place for people and animals.
Sizemore said she hoped Monday would bring lots of donations and a focus on animal welfare.
“What an incredible opportunity to honor Betty White’s legacy – to come together as a nation and celebrate something that she was so passionate about, her love for animals,” she said.
Maintaining that connection with #BettyWhiteChallenge donors is the main test for animal welfare nonprofits after Monday. Viral fundraising efforts can bring a flow of money, but experts say donations tend to drop quickly.
Sarah Newhall, director of strategy at fundraising firm MissionWired, said charities can make the most of these times if they already have a solid foundation to engage new donors, whether through email, website, social media or other methods.
“What it allows them to do is really use that pivotal moment to get in front of an audience that they might not have had otherwise,” Newhall said. But, she added, retaining those donors can be an uphill battle because the urge to give is tied to a day and the motivation to a single person. Animal groups may also have been overshadowed by other organizations soliciting donations on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which also fell on Monday.
North Shore Animal League America, a no-kill animal rescue and adoption organization, plans to engage new #BettyWhiteChallenge donors through a mix of social media calls and invitations to visit his adoption center in Port Washington, NY, said Joanne Yohannan, the organization’s manager. vice president of operations. He also dedicates his next 100 animal rescues to White in honor of his 100th birthday.
The organization received a donation from the Hallmark Channel in honor of White, as part of a tribute that also includes a “Golden Girls” marathon and her Hallmark movie, “The Lost Valentine” on January 17.
“It’s about raising awareness of the plight of homeless animals and what can be done to help them, including volunteering and adoption,” Yohannan said.