For my very first post on this site, I wrote about how pets make us better, improving both our physical and mental health in myriad ways. Whatever magic there is in four paws and a wet nose, we humans are totally under its spell. But the human-animal bond is nothing if not reciprocal; in return for their compassion, their comedy and the comfort they provide us, we give them love, food, shelter, health care, toys and maybe even a spot on the bed in return.
But lately, I've been thinking bigger: what do we give pets who aren't our own?
Giving back is on my mind a lot these days, as Chris and I prepare to realize our dream of launching an official corporate philanthropy initiative at Petplan (aptly named "Petplanthropy"). We are lucky in that we have a vehicle for fundraising, a team of passionate employees, the ears of hundreds of thousands of pet parents and a number of amazing partners who help support our efforts (to date, we've donated half a million dollars to organizations working to improve the lives of companion animals -- and that's before we established a formal giving program!). But not everyone has these resources.
So what is the average pet parent to do when they want to make a big impact? The answer may lie in the small things -- namely in some of the ordinary actions we take every day.
Think about how many times per week you use your credit card at a retail store. What if each transaction sent a donation to your favorite animal charity? Online giving programs are getting ever more sophisticated, allowing consumers to direct a portion of their purchases to the charity of their choice with just a swipe or a click. Here are three of my favorites:
There are two ways to use iGive: you can install a simple web browser app that automatically activates at more than 1,400 participating stores, or you can just start your shopping trips by going to iGive.com. Either way, a percentage of what you spend is donated to your cause (the average is about 3 percent, but some stores give up to 20 percent). The stores pay for it all -- you never pay more, and sometimes you even pay less with coupons and special deals available through the site. The stores even pay iGive, so when you see the amount or percentage being donated before you make a purchase, 100 percent of that actually goes to your cause. To date, about $7,000,000 has been donated to more than 35,000 charities via the program.
Amazon has gotten into the game with a new storefront called AmazonSmile - and they offer nearly one million charities to support. When you shop, you'll see products marked "Eligible for AmazonSmile donation" on their detail pages, and you just click and buy as normal to complete the process. The AmazonSmile Foundation donates 0.5 percent of the purchase price, and from time to time offers special promotions that increase the donation amount. You can change which charity you want to support at any time and there's absolutely no additional cost to you.
Goodsearch has raised more than $10,000,000 for 100,000 different causes, and the site offers the most in terms of flexibility for choosing how you generate donations. You can search the web, play online games, shop, dine out, take surveys, shop in brick and mortar stores and more to send money to the charity of your choosing. You can watch the dollars add up right on the site and share your actions with your friends to inspire them to make a difference, too!
I love the idea that as we shop for food, toys and other treats to spoil our own pets (or ourselves), we can simultaneously raise money to help other animals: shelter pets, service animals, law enforcement K9s, feral cats, puppy mill survivors, dogs used for fighting -- the possibilities of who we can help are virtually limitless. And we can do it all with just the click of a button.
When Petplanthropy launches at the end of the month, it will be a huge step toward bringing my and Chris's vision of expanding Petplan's impact to fruition. Please consider joining us in supporting the incredible organizations doing great work for pets and people by trying out one of the websites above. For all that we get from our four-legged loves, let us also take time to give!
Follow Natasha Ashton on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Petplan