Do you feel guilty every time you hear about a charity and you don’t give money? Does it feel like you’re bombarded by requests for help? Flooding disasters. Tornados. Abused animals. Drought.
It’s called Donor Fatigue. It’s defined as “the lessening of the public’s willingness to respond generously to charitable appeals resulting from the frequency of the appeals.”
I want to tell you a story.
In the 1830’s, there were 125,000 Native Americans living in what is now Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and Florida. George Washington decided that this culture needed to be more civilized, converted to Christianity and taught to speak English. Five tribes- the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, Creek and Cherokee, were referred to as the “Five Civilized Tribes” when they began to adopt the attributes of the new colonists.
Despite the Native American’s willingness to blend cultures, farmers wanted, and then demanded, the rich land they inhabited. Andrew Jackson was happy to accommodate. He created the Indian Removal Act that allowed the government to exchange Native American held lands in the east for land in the west (what is now Oklahoma).
The Choctaw nation was the first tribe to be moved. It was a disaster. Traveling Native Americans faced the worst snowstorm in the Mississippi Valley’s history and they were not prepared with adequate blankets, shoes or winter clothing. Heavy rains washed out trails and the slower travel meant that food supplies were depleted. Cholera and other infectious diseases struck. Thousands died.
One hundred thousand Native Americans were moved, fifteen thousand (some articles report significantly higher numbers) died on what was later called “The Trail of Tears.”
Seventeen years later, another tragedy occurred in a country far away. The Irish Potato Famine began in 1845 when a fungus infected and ruined up to one-half of the potato crop. Within the next seven years, up to 3/4 of the crop was affected. One million people died of starvation and the Irish were forced to leave their homes to find food for their families.
Word of the “Great Hunger” reached the Choctaw tribe in 1847. They were still grieving their dead, still trying to create a new home in a new land, and they had little to give. Perhaps it was empathy for the loss of lives and the forced removal from their homes. Whatever the reason, the Choctaw tribe gathered money and they sent it to Ireland, creating a bond with the Irish that continues to this day.
In 1990, Choctaw leaders went to Ireland to recreate the famine walk of locals leaving their homes. In 1992, Irish leaders helped commemorate the Trail of Tears. Both groups wanted to remember the past—but also raise money for famine sufferers in Africa.
Here’s why I’m not worried about Donor Fatigue. I can’t give to every charity. I can’t work every fundraiser. But there will always be one that tugs your heart strings. The Children’s Advocacy Center is mine. Children should not be abused. Period.
When it comes along, you’ll know it. You’ll feel it. Give generously to whatever feels right to you…and make this world a better place.
The image is a photo by Gavin Sheridan of a statue in Midleton, County Cork memorializing the Choctaw’s donation to the Irish. Feathers are reminiscent of those used in Choctaw ceremonies and the arrangement in a circle represents an empty bowl of food.