Dick Hubert’s Worldview: The dangers of donor fatigue: who to help, who not to help; who to ignore

September 13, 2023 at 10:49 p.m.

By DICK HUBERT | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Are you suffering from donor fatigue?

That’s the malady that afflicts well-meaning citizens of this and other countries who try to help others and then are overwhelmed by the impossibility or the danger of coming to the rescue of our fellow humans.


Think of all the nations who are reluctant to provide armed military and police to Haiti to battle the drug gangs in Port au Prince that are holding an innocent Haitian population hostage—killing them, burning their homes, leaving their bodies in the street to rot, and daring anyone to put up a fight. The State Department has urged all Americans to get out of Haiti—now.

I wrote in this space about my Amherst College classmate Dr. Michael Taylor and his Konbit Sante Health Partnership (www.konbitsante.org). Their mission: “to support the development of a sustainable health system to meet the needs of the Cap-Haitien community in Haiti with maximum local direction and support.” How do you find donors and volunteers for a country deemed impossible to help by the international community, even though Dr. Taylor and his team insist that Cap Haitien is safe. (I donated, with the fear that in the end saving Haiti at large is near impossible, and wondering whether and for how long Cap Haitien could hold out with a nonexistent central government.)

Internationally, aside from wanting to do everything possible to help the people of Ukraine (and do I have a list of charities for you, from World Central Kitchen to Doctors Without Borders), I worry that the Donald Trumps and Marjorie Taylor Greenes of this world, if they gain Presidential power, will serve up Ukraine to the Russians. I’m not alone in that fear. Ukraine’s President Zelensky has expressed it, and so have our (for now) European/NATO allies. Is that donor fatigue, zealous extremist Republican isolationist behavior, or what?

Then there are the multiple crises in Africa. There are those earthquake victims in Morocco. Or, perhaps you heard NPR’s Scott Simon last Saturday morning introduce a segment on Sudan and Chad this way: “The United Nations Human Rights Council expects the number of refugees crossing into Chad from Sudan to reach roughly 600,000 by the end of the year. That's after more than 400,000 people have already fled the renewed violence in Sudan since April. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has traveled to Chad this week to visit a makeshift refugee camp that's near the country's border with Sudan. Nearly 200,000 people live in that camp near the town of Adre, but food and medical supplies are low.” Are you up for boosting aid to Chad?

And lest I forget, there are all those Afghans we left behind to suffer at the brutal hands of the Taliban—an innocent population now suffering from lack of food, warm clothing, you name it, let alone the brutalizing of the females there.

And I’ve left out all those who will be food deprived thanks to the Russians, who are doing everything they can to prevent Ukrainian grain from reaching these populations.

Want to add to the international list?

And domestically…

First, of course, we have the list of those FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) is legally bound to help: from the fire victims in Lahaina, Maui to the victims of fires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes in our 50 states and territories, and maybe someday—big earthquakes. They’re running out of money, and a Republican Congress seems stalemated on whether to vote to replenish its funds. Meanwhile, you’ve probably been getting appeals for help from the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Chef José Andres’ World Central Kitchen, etc. Have you donated, or has “fatigue” set in?

More locally, New York’s Mayor Eric Adams has issued a frantic appeal for more federal money (and border security) to prevent New York City from being inundated by asylum seeking migrants (let alone those who crossed the Southern border illegally). Let this sink in (quoting from New York Times coverage): “Let me tell you something, New Yorkers, never in my life have I had a problem that I did not see an ending to — I don’t see an ending to this,” the mayor said on Wednesday night in his opening remarks at a town hall-style gathering in Manhattan. “This issue will destroy New York City.” 

The Westmore News circulation area, the Villages of Rye Brook and Port Chester, is just a few miles (as the proverbial crow flies) from Grand Central Station’s nearby Roosevelt Hotel, headquarters of the NYC migrant mess. Have you heard any of our school board leaders offering to host (and educate) migrant children and help house their families here? I haven’t, and I doubt I will. Is this donor fatigue, or just plain NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard)?

Who isn’t suffering donor fatigue?

There seems to be one group that answers with alacrity and hard-earned dollars every emotional appeal it gets for money. Based on my e-mail inbox, and the reported results, it’s the followers of former President Trump, who answer any indictment he gets, and any further scandal about his behavior that comes to light, with donations large and small. That a billionaire many times over (according to him) would need to fleece the pockets of those who are in financial straits to help pay his legal bills is beyond reasoned understanding. Maybe that’s why Trump and his followers are, in my view, in the realm of cults.

Since the fear of Trumpists motivates the opposition, I would be remiss if I didn’t note the overwhelming number of appeals from Democratic and “Progressive” politicians near and far for money to finance their campaigns against the “cult.” They’re all flooding my e-mail inbox as well.

Perhaps you, dear readers, will tell us how more traditional “give us your donations” appeals are going. How is money raising going in your religious institution of choice, your favored hospital, your favored disease research charity, your various schools, colleges and graduate schools? Your favorite “Go Fund Me” appeal?

As for journalism and those who love journalism, I’m a soft touch for fundraising appeals from NPR, WNYC, WNET-13, Frontline, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Pro Publica, and more.

But I have a financial limit. As I’m sure you do, too.

Maybe together we can all express our profound frustration at the stupidity (yes, stupidity) of Elon Musk buying Twitter (now X) for $44 billion. 

If only he had the generosity of Bill and Melinda Gates.

Dick Hubert, a retired television news producer-writer-reporter living in Rye Brook, has been honored with the Peabody Award, the DuPont Columbia Award and the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Journalism Award.


Editor’s Note: This column, written by Dick Hubert, represents his opinion and not that of this newspaper.


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