I was only 10 years old when I awoke to the sounds of screaming in my home. Neighbors quickly entered and removed me and my younger brother from the house so we would not see the results of what we always feared would someday occur. With her life dangling by a string, my mother was taken away for emergency care that saved her life.
My father had broken into our home that night and nearly killed her.
Two weeks later, when my mother emerged from the hospital, I could not recognize her from the bruising, cuts and swelling. It was an image I can still recall to this day. I remember feeling relief that she was home, but also the sinking feeling that this terror could happen again. Not knowing she would live to see her 83rd birthday as a child, I often asked myself "what if" I lost my mother.
As I grew older, the phrase "what if?" took on a broad meaning. Having dedicated my life to charitable work, I ask "what if" in different ways all the time. What if Feeding America foodbanks received enough donated food to feed all families in need? What if Salvation Army could shelter, clothe and provide the social services struggling people need? What if Community Health Charities could raise enough money in workplaces to support the needs of their charitable partners? What if the United Way World Wide could accumulate enough funding to resolve problems in underserved communities across the world? The biggest "what if" question, though, is what if they all came together for a common goal? Fortunately, many of them do.
In the case of domestic violence, there are numerous charities that have dedicated themselves to helping victims of domestic violence, and for that, I am grateful. Though, when I think about my mother and the question of "what if", one organization in particular comes to mind and, oddly enough, its direct mission is not to help victims of domestic violence.
Red Rover, a charity devoted to bringing animals from crisis to care is a great example of the good that can come from collaboration. The charity acted on data which showed women in abusive relationships were less likely to leave their abuser if there is a pet in the home. Red Rover developed programs to help these women and families who are in crisis by partnering with animal shelters to eliminate barriers to safety and healing. This unlikely collaboration with partners such as the Academy on Violence and Abuse, National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition, and many more, should be looked to as model for future non-profit collaborators.
Unique and unintended partnerships like Red Rover and their partners that answer the question "what if" are key to producing greater results in the charitable sector. But the work of any charitable collaboration hinges on the characteristics of the partners. This is another reason donors should be sure the charities they support are trustworthy. As donors we should encourage charity collaboration and one great way to do that is to support charities that meet this basic requirement of a good partner. A great place to start is using Give.org to check how the charity or charities compare against the BBB Wise Giving Alliance 20 Charity Standards.
This holiday season, what if charities could open themselves to the thousands of partnership possibilities and begin creatively thinking through ways of meeting needs? And "what if" on this #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving, donors chose to support trusted charities that have committed to collaboration through their donations of time and money? I'm certain such inquiry and discovery, on the part of both charities and donors, has been the difference for an abuse victim and her frightened child.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the #GivingTuesday Team at 92nd Street Y, to celebrate #GivingTuesday. #GivingTuesday is a global giving movement, and the series (which will feature content throughout November) aims to celebrate how people are giving back around the world. For more information about #GivingTuesday, visit here. And to join the conversation on social media, use the hashtag #GivingTuesday.