Part one of a three part series on animal cause fundraising in Canada
By Leslie Ballentine, Farming and Food Commentator
I’m probably fairly typical when it comes to receiving donation requests. On average, I estimate I receive one unsolicited request a day to give money. That’s not counting advertised fundraising and awareness campaigns both on-line and in the real world. Nor the word-of-mouth requests from friends and family to support their preferred charities.
I may be a little atypical though, when it comes to choosing who does and does not get my donation. I check them out.
In our world of hucksters and frauds, we are all cautioned to know who we are giving to and for what. I trust some organizations over others. For instance, the Make-a-Wish Foundation has my trust (and my support) while political parties do not. And knowing how my donation is used is a big part of that trust.
“Cause groups” are highly trusted by the donating public. And topping that list are animal causes.
Stats show that donations for animal causes is second only to health-related donations. Even in a weak economy, animal protection has been the only charity category in recent years to see their donation base grow.
I attribute that to several factors:
Marketing 101: The more exposure, the more money. Health-related groups are super-active in their fundraising activities but animal organizations even more so. From the “guilt gifts” included with their fundraising appeals to the inflated claims, animal groups are masters at getting us to part with our money.
The emotion factor: My step-mother gives to a multi-national animal activist group because of the “sad” photos included in their fundraising materials. What she refuses to believe is that her money to this particular outfit will line a lot of foreign pockets and do little for the animals she is intending to help. And it isn’t just the fundraisers that land in our mail boxes. Social and traditional media is being effectively used to reinforce these emotional appeals.
Lack of transparency and deception: Plenty of causes use deception in fundraising. But animal causes use it more effectively than some others. While registered charities are required to submit their annual information for public disclosure to Revenue Canada’s Charity section, the information is limited and difficult to decipher. Most people aren’t aware, for example, that registered charities are allowed to report their fundraising costs as program expenditures. With over 80,000 registered charities in Canada, Revenue Canada tends to rely on complaints to investigate charities and their activities.
Non-profit groups don’t have to publicly report at all (although some do). So even their supporters are not informed of exactly how their money is used. And some organizations use names that imply they are legitimate and regulated humane societies and shelters when they are nothing more than private groups with hidden agendas.
U.S. surveys show that people donate to national and multi-national animal cause groups thinking their money will go to local efforts to protect and rescue pets, such as shelters. These same surveys show that donators are shocked to learn their money is often being used for other purposes instead, be it fundraising, political lobbying or other activities they may not support.
At the end of the day, most donors regardless of the cause, need to be better informed before signing that cheque. But because it is so difficult to get informed I have always advocated supporting our local humane societies instead of the flashy and well-marketed “animal big guys”. After-all it is these folks who are on the front-lines, who need the money, and who are getting the job done. And the results (or lack of them) can be witnessed firsthand in each of our communities.
Until the Next Blog
Posted by FFC on June 25th, 2012 :: Filed under Activism,Canada,Misconceptions
Tags :: activists, animal rights, animal welfare, Canada, misconceptions