Possible TikTok ban puts local fundraising efforts in jeopardy

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The popular social media platform TikTok could be banned by the end of the year in the U.S., leaving one local organization to worry about the potential affects this could have on its fundraising efforts to help animals find their forever homes.

Sweet Buffalo is an organization that teams up with various nonprofits to help share information on events, community efforts and fundraisers.

“We all enjoy TikTok,” Kimberly LaRussa, founder of Sweet Buffalo said. “We’re probably on it too much and scroll too much because it is enjoyable. I see a lot more good than bad.”

The good LaRussa sees in TikTok includes its ability to help local animal rescues like the Ten Lives Club and Buddy’s Second Chance Rescue, as she relies on social media to promote the organizations.

“The work you put in is what you get out of it,” she said. “So you work really hard, you share this content, you get lots of followers and in return those followers support you and your organization.”

LaRussa started using the social media platform during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 “It was really hard to get the word out about the animals at that time because people weren’t getting together,” she said. “We had restrictions of how many people could be in the shelter. When TikTok popped up, I thought, ‘Let me try this, let me see if these animals get adopted through videos, since people at home can see them.'”

Her videos on TikTok generate anywhere from thousands to millions of views, which she says help get animals rescued.

“We had so many dogs get adopted,” LaRussa said. “And years later, I decided to start my own TikTok, ‘Sweet Buffalo to the Rescue,’ and I help all the rescues in WNY put their animals out there and get adopted. It been really a great success.”

She has raised $20,000 just by making and posting the videos.

“When it does go viral, then usually the organizations benefit monetarily, or the animal gets adopted, so it’s crucial,” LaRussa said. “There’s so many people on social media — they are choosing to follow those organizations. Taking that away takes a lot of the supporters for them.”

TikTok is owned by China-based company ByteDance.

Citing national security concerns, President Joe Biden signed a bill last month that would force ByteDance to sell the app to a U.S. company within a year, or face a national ban.

“If I lose that, then the funding is going to be lost for the animals, and we don’t want to see that,” LaRussa said.

Sarah Minkewicz is an Emmy-nominated reporter and Buffalo native who has been a part of the News 4 team since 2019. Follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahMinkewicz and click here to see more of her work.

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