Thursday, February 10, 2011

Doing What We Can

In which we share another of our Favorite Things, a Thing which helps us do Good by doing what we already do.

So many people in these tight times struggle to make ends meet. Some more than others, it's true. But I haven't talked to anyone in a long time who says, "Hey! I'm rollin' in the dough these days. It's easy street for me and mine."

Don't get me wrong. The spousal unit and the ThirteenCats and I have all we need, thank God. We are warm and dry and have enough to eat. We are healthy and surrounded by people we care about and who care about us. Perhaps we don't have everything we want (a second e-reader, a netbook, a new fence). We are indeed well, but things are tight.

So I find myself annoyed at the continuing and often guilt inducing demands for money from organizations which are hurting as well. I understand times are tight for them also. Everyone is feeling the squeeze. Shelves in food banks become emptier and emptier. Schools struggle to collect lunch fees, in arrears to the tune of thousands of dollars, and face classroom budget cuts if they can't. Writers I respect opine on the terrible divide growing between the "haves" and the "have-nots." These same economic woes have sent a great people into the streets of Egypt to topple a government. Still I receive mail from my church demanding a tithe for their coffers. I toss the helpfully provided envelopes into the recycle bin in disgust.

It's not that I don't want to help. Although I absolutely do not want to contribute funds that may ultimately be spent on defense attorneys and lush retirement packages for pedophilic priests, I do want to keep that food pantry going. I really don't care if the church lights and electricity are kept on. In Rome, during the persecutions, those committed believers met in the catacombs by torchlight. I think we could manage a Mass in the dark, or maybe even in the park. Likewise for the organizations and buildings of other faith traditions. They have, I think, all grown fat and comfortable. They can take in their belts like the rest of us.

Still, there are so many things I would throw money at, did I have the money to throw. The food pantry. Those school lunch programs. Free clinics who somehow manage to keep their doors open, somehow manage to keep offering medical care to the uninsured and the unemployed. And of course, to the animal shelters and rescue organizations who struggle to continue their compassionate work as funds become scarcer and scarcer in this brave new world.

I believe we must do what we can to help, and I struggle with that. When I no longer have the wherewithal to do what we Americans have gotten good at, to write out a check, then what am I left with? How do I help?

Some time ago the ThirteenCats and I were thrilled to discover GoodSearch. I use this everytime I do an internet search, just like I used to use yahoo, or google, or dogpile, or any other favorite search engine. I search the internet alot. Now, when I do, about a penny a search goes to a charity of my choice. I have my GoodSearch toolbar set up to donate to Stray Rescue of St. Louis.

Sounds great, but how does it work. Well, first of all, it is powered by yahoo, so the search results using GoodSearch are the same as you get when using yahoo. I've tested this claim myself, and find it to be true. I still  use Google Scholar when doing a search for academic publications, but for everyday searches, I've found GoodSearch and Yahoo and Google to be comparable and adequate.
A screenshot of my browser, showing the GoodSearch toolbar
The toolbar is easy to download; I've not noticed it slowig my system down at all. My GoodSearch toolbar sits just beneath my yahoo toolbar, as you can see from the screenshot. The red arrow I've so artistically drawn in points to the GoodSearch toolbar.

The blue arrows are pointing to advertisements you see in any search engine when you do a search. You can see I've done a search for "stray rescue of st louis", using my GoodSearch toolbar, and this is a screenshot of the resulting page.  Search engines make their money off those advertisements. The company behind the search engine, Yahoo or Google or GoodSearch, makes a deal with the advertising company to have those ads appear when someone does a search. If an ad gets clicked, a payment is made to the search engine. Well, to the company that owns the search engine, anyway. That's how they make their money. What GoodSearch does is split that income with charities that we, the users, designate. The donations come from the ad revenue. We users don't have to pay anything, or even remember to click ads. We just do what we already do anyway, which is search the internet. How cool is that?

At about a penny a search going to the designated charity, a large charity with ten thousand people using GoodSearch on its behalf, at say two searches a day would generate $73,000 a year. That would buy a few school lunches.

There are other functionalities, too. Several large online businesses -- Amazon, Target, e-bay, Avon, Bananna Repbulic, and many more -- donate to your designated charity when you shop via GoodShop. I haven't used that much, because, honestly, I don't do that much shopping these days. But I do use the GoodSearch search engine. A quick look shows me that we searchers have raised slightly more than $1,600 for Stray Rescue of Saint Louis over the past several years. It's not much, but it's something. It's something I can do. And if we all do what we can, things can't help but get better. One small step at a time.

More information:

The Facebook Page for GoodSearch

A wikipedia article about GoodSearch, giving a bit of history of the organization and its founders.

A 2006 article from CNN about GoodSearch

A video from ABC news:

stlcatlady is a poet, blogger, and freelance writer of shortstories, news articles, and other such oddments, many of which center around her favorite subjecs: cats , philosophy, and folklore. You may contact her by sending email to stlcatlady1 at gmail dot com.


  1. I love GoodSearch! I've been using them for about a year myself, and it makes me feel good to be able to help my favorite organizations, even just a small bit, when I can't don't have the money to sit down and write out a check, or the time to go volunteer. But this I can do. Thanks for help spreading the word.


  2. If you shop at Scnucks, you might be interested in checking out their Escript cards. You scan it at each check out, and then they donate a certain percent of your purchases to a charity of your choice. I had mine linked to the STL Stray Rescue and a STL no-kill cat shelter.