When a customer goes into a store to make a purchase, they choose the desired item, pay the specififed price, and leave with their product. True, the product may not always be as expected, but the exchange was understood – for a certain amount of money, a product was received. In the service industry, the exchange might be a little less clear, but can usually be easily clarified. However, donations seem to be emerging as the most foggy exchange of them all.
Donations are widely regarded as admirable – actions designed to help those in need. Technology’s ability to make the world more accessible has also made those in need more visible. Non-profit as well as for-profit organizations are made more visible through basic websites as well as blogging, social networking, and YouTube. When the request for doantions or contributions is made, is it clear where your money is going?
Why donate? Over 8 million cats and dogs enter shelters in the United States each year and only about 4 million find new homes through adoption. This does not include birds, reptiles, small animals, exotics, equines and livestock who also wind up in shelters, rescues and animal control facilities. Abandoned animals tug on the heartstrings of many people. Although you may not want a pet, a neglected or abused animal still hits home as unacceptable behavior, for it is not a far jump from animal to human maltreatment.Television commericals, web advertisements and e-mail solicitations usually include images of these forlorn animals accompanied by dramatic music to communicate a sense of sadness and desperation. This combination can be very successful in soliciting donations for organization that work with animals.
Who should I donate to? This can be a tough decision, but should depend on what aspect of animal welfare you want to support and where you are lcoated. For example, the ASPCA is the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals*. It was the first SPCA in the United States, but it is located in New York City and benefits the animals of that locality. The Humane Society of the United States* (HSUS) is a national organization that, although it is involved in some large scale rescue operations, deals greatly in legislation, journalism, and education. When choosing an organization to support, it is important to understand an organization’s mission, goals and activities so you know where your money goes.
How do I avoid a scam? Supporters should also confirm whether the organization is legitimate – is it a non-profit or for-profit organization, what is its charity rating, what legal actions or complaints have been raised against them. Whether you choose to support animals in need or another cause, do not be afraid to ask questions and do some research to find out where your dollars are going – it is important to know what you are supporting.
Where do I start? Charity Navigator is an example of one place to learn more about non-profit organizations. They currently feature information on 384 animal charities across three categories. There is information on each charity’s expense breakdown, income, accountability as well as news stories and reviews. Also, never be afraid to ask a charity where your money is going and how you may specify its use.
*The above example in no way discourages donating to the ASPCA or HSUS. As two of the most visible animal organizations, they have been included to illustrate the diversity of such organizations in both jurisdiction and mission.