The Hurricane Harvey relief effort just got a boost thanks to a very unlikely source: a cat named Jerry in Brooklyn, NY.
Rachel Millman, who’s 29 and also happens to Jerry’s owner, was out for a walk in her Brooklyn neighborhood, thinking about how she’d wanted to help storm-ravaged Texas but didn’t have the funds for a substantial financial contribution. So she came up with an alternative plan: Offer to send people photos of her roommate’s goofy cat in exchange for proof that they donated to Harvey aid.
“@ me with proof of donating to a charity for south Texas and I will dm you a photo of Jerry behaving badly,” Millman tweeted, hoping her out-of-the-box approach might inspire people to donate—at most—a collective $1,000. But Jerry, an exceptionally large feline with a penchant for peeing just outside his litter box, proved to be a pretty big incentive: Within three hours—between midnight and 3 a.m., no less—she’d received images of donation receipts totaling double her initial hope.
“I was shocked,” Millman told Glamour.
Seeing Millman’s success, some of her friends tried their hand at a similar type of fundraising: Branson Reese, an artist, launched a spin-off campaign that allowed people see a special comic he’d created in exchange for proof of donations. Another offered up tarot card readings.
As the various campaigns gained momentum throughout the week, donation receipts rolled in from people who’d given to food banks, diaper banks, animal shelters, and various hurricane relief funds. Mara Wilson, author and Matilda actress, sent Millman proof of a contribution to the Texas Diaper Bank. Of course, some people sent proof of donations they’d made prior to Monday night—but many others were inspired by Millman’s campaign to step up and donate for the first time.
Take this donor, who wrote “I want to see the Jerry photo” when he contributed to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund:
As far as why people were incentivized by Millman and her pals, she chalks it up to the intense “social aspect”—donors were motivated by seeing other people get celebrated on social media, and from there, it was a snowball effect. “My dad was making fun of me earlier for this being the most millennial fundraising,” she said.
“Millennial” it may be, but as the numbers climbed and Millman starting adding, she was stunned: As of Thursday morning, She and Reese had accumulated receipts totaling $21, 249.15, a sum Millman calls “surreal.” “I did not think this would work to the extent that it did, she said.
Still, Millman wouldn’t accept all the credit for her genius fundraising initiative. “The people who deserve celebrating are the ones who donated,” she added. “I’m super fortunate to be first witness to such an outpouring of good.”
Texas is in need of serious help in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. The storm pelted Houston and the surrounding area with record-breaking rainfall and ushered in disastrous flooding, leaving thousands stranded in their homes. Experts say the Harvey recovery process could take years
And Jerry? He doesn’t seem to know what a difference he’s making. According to Millman, “He’s been getting slightly annoyed by me grabbing him for thank-you videos for bigger donors.”