Animal Rights Terrorists
Be very careful about donating money to organizations that use donations to fund animal rights agendas or their own pockets. Check out your local shelter or animal rescue and make sure your Charitable Contribution is used to benefit dogs.
Be Careful How You Donate
Jackie Crosby of the Star Tribune 2007
I've been donating to various charities in lieu of family Christmas gifts for years. For my brother, the restaurant owner, I give to food shelves. For my mother, who used to run a day care center, I contribute to child-centered philanthropies. For my father, a wholesaler of Southern pine lumber, I donate to charities that build houses.
But last year's offering to the Humane Society of the United States, given in the name of my dog-loving younger brother, left me feeling less than charitable.
Since then, I've been overwhelmed with monthly solicitation letters, often stuffed with "gifts" of stationery, mailing labels and personalized note paper. In the past month, I've received two boxes of holiday cards, sheets of "one-of-a-kind" wrapping paper, a glossy magazine (exhorting, "Don't let this be your last issue!"), shiny gold stickers and another set of mailing labels and note paper.
I sent multiple letters asking them to stop the mailings. I nearly blew a jugular when I got a phone solicitation. Nothing stemmed the onslaught.
I'm not alone, apparently.
"It's out of control, and it doesn't need to be," said Penelope Burk, president of Cygnus Applied Research, which has done some of the most extensive studies of donor behavior in the United States and Canada.
Her research found that 90 percent of lapsed donors -- those who used to give, but stopped -- said they were driven away because of their charity's overly aggressive direct-marketing program.
The No. 1 reason people quit giving is because they don't get relevant information about what the charity is doing with its donations, Burk said.
The second-highest complaint is over solicitation.
Nothing against the Humane Society of the United States, which is the nation's largest animal protection organization. About 76 percent of the money it raises goes toward programs, which exceeds my personal threshold of 70 percent.
With about $78 million in revenue in 2005, it spent about 11 percent on administrative expenses and 13 percent on fundraising (a reasonable proportion, despite my feeling that they killed an entire forest on my address alone last year).
"You're not the first person to complain," said an apologetic Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States. He said my name should have been added to a list of about 40,000 donors who have asked to receive a single or quarterly mailing.
"We're taking a serious look at this to find software that can help us identify folks who give once or twice a year -- so we can save financial resources, too," he said.
Pacelle acknowledged that many people like the gifts that come from charities. He said it has helped the organization grow a mailing list of 9 million people.
But that's precisely the point. Aside from making sure that you're contributing to a legitimate organization and not some fly-by-night rip-off operation, find causes that line up with your values on all fronts.
The good news is that there are plenty of resources to help you investigate charities, which are actively soliciting donations this time of year.
Rich Cowles, executive director of the St. Paul-based Charities Review Council, said unwanted solicitation is one of 16 criteria it uses when evaluating Minnesota-based nonprofits. It also looks at how charities raise and spend money.
Cowles is a big fan of setting a budget aimed at specific causes or charities. That way you don't get distracted by friends, family members or other good organizations who also want your fundraising dollars.
Bennett Weiner, chief operating officer of the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance, said that donors concerned about having their addresses given to other organizations without their consent should ask the charity to keep their information private.
He and Cowles cited a number of red flags for consumers, including high-pressure sales tactics, charities that are vague about the programs they run, and charities that might try to fool you with familiar-sounding names.
"The majority of charities are accountable and honest in their appeals,"
Weiner said. "The key is to identify the most well-managed charities, and make a donation there."
HSUS $$$ Buys Elections HSUS contributed more in 2008 elections than the Teamsters Union? And USDA licensed breeders are exempt under laws enacted by HSUS?
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