Spend your money wisely. That’s good advice even when the economy is in better shape than it is now. Knowing what charities to donate to can be tricky. In animal welfare, where the need is great, it is important to consider where your dollar will go the farthest to help as many animals as possible. Therefore, several points are worth highlighting.
A report released in July 2002 by Connecticut Attorney General Blumenthal and Consumer Protection Commissioner Fleming showed that of the 11.3 million dollars contributed through telemarketers in 2001, 65.5% went to the telemarketers. That translates to over sixty-five cents of every dollar going to the telemarketers! The 121 charities received less than thirty-five cents of every dollar donated. Not a good investment on the dollar, I safely say. Recommendation #1: Avoid donating through telemarketers and donate directly to charities instead.
Working with animals is a volunteer calling for legions. Organizations that do have paid staff should be given a living wage, not an exorbitant one. Find out how much the top positions pay in the organizations to which you donate. You may be surprised to learn that some of the national organizations pay top staff over $100,000 yearly. I have taken my name off contributors’ lists for organizations paying such outlandish salaries and let them know that my donations will go to help animals instead. This kind of information is available through federal income tax filings which non-profits must furnish upon request. An easier method is contacting Animal People, which yearly lists salaries for national organizations. They can be reached at: P.O. Box 960, Clinton, Washington 98236-0960, or by calling (360) 579-2505. Recommendation #2: Learn whether your donations are going to help animals or provide someone a posh standard of living.
The adage that one cannot tell a book by its cover applies to animal charities, too. Do not be deceived with organization names that sound good. Many charities that have the name “wildlife” in it are actually pro-hunting and pro-trapping groups. When donating to health charities, consult the Physicians for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), which lists health charities that do not fund animal experiments. PCRM can be reached at: 5100 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., Suite 400, Washington, D.C., 20016 or by calling (202) 686-2210. Recommendation #3: Be mindful that in trying to help animals, you do no inadvertently aid hunters, trappers, or animal experimenters.
There are twice as many households with companion animals in this country as there are with children. Still, there is a 60-70% euthanasia rate for homeless cats and dogs. The need to save homeless cats and dogs is great everywhere. Therefore, think local, and donate to animal charities that you know, can see and visit, and about which you can ask questions and receive satisfactory answers. For instance, does the animal shelter have a no-kill policy? If not, then your dollars may be going to kill animals, not save them. After all, if you personally needed a homeless shelter and were told that you only had a 30-40% chance of coming out alive, would you consider that much of a “shelter?” Recommendation #4: Think locally, and give a good share of your donations to local charities where you can “watch” how your money is spent.
When donating to animal charities, your intentions are in the right place. Keep the above points in mind and your money will be, too.
Gregory Simpson is Vice-President of the Board of Directors of Meriden Humane Society, Inc., a no-kill shelter incorporated by Connecticut legislative charter in 1893. He is also past state advisor to the national organization, Friends of Animals, Inc. In the December 2005 issue of CAT FANCY, he was named one of the 40 Ultimate Cat Lovers in the U.S.