Did the Betty White Challenge help animals? Doggone right it did

Fans of the late actress donated to animal charities to mark what would've been her 100th birthday.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Expertise Breaking news, entertainment, lifestyle, travel, food, shopping and deals, product reviews, money and finance, video games, pets, history, books, technology history, generational studies. Credentials
  • Co-author of two Gen X pop-culture encyclopedia for Penguin Books. Won "Headline Writer of the Year"​ award for 2017, 2014 and 2013 from the American Copy Editors Society. Won first place in headline writing from the 2013 Society for Features Journalism.
Gael Cooper
2 min read

Fans of Betty White honored her with donations to animal charities.

Fathom Events

Betty White would've been 100 on Monday, Jan. 17. The actress, who died on Dec. 31 at age 99, very nearly made it to the century mark. But in her honor, and on what would've been her birthday, fans took on the Betty White Challenge, a social-media-driven encouragement to donate $5 to an animal charity. White was well known for her charitable work involving animals and her animal rights advocacy.

The challenge made the news right after White's death, but apparently fans didn't forget about it in the weeks leading up to her birthday. Animal organizations reported seeing a bump in donations arriving in White's name.

LA Zoo

White was involved with the Greater Los Angeles Zoo since it opened in 1966, sat on its board of trustees, appeared in a TV special about the zoo and wrote a book benefiting the zoo. So it's no surprise the zoo was one of the recipients of donations via the Betty White Challenge, raising $70,389 ( £52,000, AU$97,000) on White's birthday, with 1,731 donations coming in from 49 states, the District of Columbia, and 11 countries. Donations continued to come in after her birthday, and the zoo says it has received 2,117 donations totaling $94,297 (£69,000, AU$131,000) in White's honor.

Best Friends Society

A representative for the Best Friends Animal Society, a nonprofit organization that operates the nation's largest sanctuary for homeless animals, says the group raised $340,000 (£250,000, AU$471,000) through its website and social media fundraisers, and is still determining other donations associated with the challenge.

"Betty White was a champion for animals and Best Friends Animal Society was lucky enough to receive donations from her for over 20 years," said society CEO Julie Castle. "She was always thinking and caring for pets in need and this challenge is a beautiful way to support your local shelter and honor her legacy. We are so thankful for everything she has done for animals and we are so grateful for all who are donating to help save them all."

Other groups

Mark Stubis, a spokesman for American Humane, told The Wall Street Journal that financial gifts to the organization quadrupled over the past three weeks.

The Betty White Challenge didn't specify which charity to which fans should donate, leaving that up to them. So smaller, local groups benefited as well as large ones.

The Journal reported that the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society in New York state collected $50,000, most of it through an official #BettyWhiteChallenge Facebook page, and that TriBeagles, a North Carolina beagle rescue group received $12,000 on White's birthday.

The Betty White Challenge crossed borders, too. The Calgary Humane Society in Calgary, Alberta, Canada posted on Tuesday, "We're speechless! As of right now we have raised $91,845.81 and counting towards the #BettyWhiteChallenge! Thank you for all the support! We know Betty White would be proud. What a legacy!" ($91,845 Canadian is about $73,000 US, £53,400, and AU$100,800.)