The number of natural disasters the U.S. experiences each year is rising. Three years on, the COVID-19 pandemic still hurts our mental health and well-being three years later. The 24-hour news cycle provides endless streams of bad news, and doomscrolling has become a toxic habit for many. Meanwhile, requests from charities come non-stop. The deluge of information, much of it bad, that we experience daily has consequences: compassion and donation fatigue.
Compassion fatigue occurs when overwhelming exposure to negative information prevents our brains from processing any more bad news. This is a defensive mechanism to protect us from suffering. As our empathy runs dry, we may find ourselves making different choices. For example, when the first major hurricane of the year hits, your first response may be to donate to a charity in the impacted area. By the time the third hurricane of the year makes landfall, you may find yourself tuning out the specifics leaving your wallet untouched. This is known as donation fatigue, and it has consequences for charitable organizations and the communities they serve.
Ways to Minimize Donation Fatigue
Donation fatigue is a real risk, but there are ways to guard against it to ensure you do as much as you can for the causes you care about.
Make a giving plan and stick to it: One way to ensure your giving stays on track is to develop a giving plan. One short planning session can reduce the mental load of giving throughout the year and beyond. Your plan should include a budget divided among the charities and/or causes you intend to support. Search Charity Navigator to find highly-rated organizations you can support with confidence. If you want to give regularly throughout the year, set up recurring donations through the Giving Basket to automate your giving. You can also create a flex budget to cover unexpected donations, like responding to natural disasters and other emergencies. Having a set budget makes your in-the-moment giving decisions easier.
Protect your mental health: If you are prone to doomscrolling and other behaviors that can lead to compassion fatigue, this may be the time to start forming better habits. By limiting the amount of news, particularly bad news, you can respond more positively to the information you consume. Worried about being out of the loop? Find solutions journalism sources to keep you informed with a stream of solutions-focused news.
If you find requests for charitable donations contribute to your donation fatigue, set aside time to organize your correspondence. You may want to unsubscribe from some - or all - of the nonprofit contact lists you are on. If you still want to receive information, set up a separate email inbox for nonprofit news and solicitations you can visit at your leisure.
Lean into the joy of giving: Donating should make you feel good and might be the mood booster you need. If your current approach to giving adds stress, it may be time to re-strategize. Find alternative ways to give that suit your lifestyle. Each time you donate, take a moment to bask in the joy of being part of a solution. Consider adding volunteering to your schedule for an additional dose of happiness.