News and Information

Non-profits and the trickle-down effect

Where are your donations really going?

We’ve all seen the Sarah McLachlan commercial for ASPCA with B-roll of helpless and homeless animals as her tear-jerking song, “In the arms of an angel,” plays in the background. I’ve personally seen grown men cry from this commercial, and it is notoriously known by anyone who watches television. The point here is–the advertisement works. It appeals to the audiences’ emotions and tears so hard at their heart strings, they want to give their money to the Humane Society of the United States.

Of course no one wants to see animals in pain and suffering, which makes the strong reaction to the commercial very sensible. But at what emotional cost will it take for the HSUS to reach their goal? The HSUS annual report of 2007 reported, “$120 million in revenue, including $5.4 million just from online donors.” This emotional solicitation is undoubtedly succeeding for the organization; however, the money donated to this national organization does not necessarily go where the donor may have intended.

HSUS does initiate puppy mill rescues; however, they profit in multiple ways from the process, and the puppies are taken to local shelters. HSUS benefits from ceasing puppy mills through publicity, which leads to donations. Not only is the organization simply moving helpless animals to local shelters, but they are also gaining donations in doing so. It is a harsh reality, but without this media coverage and consequential funding, HSUS wouldn’t be the organization, financially or publicly, it is today.

There is good and bad in these facts about HSUS. In large events such as hurricane Katrina, HSUS had the funds to help out significantly with the natural disaster that shook the lives of so many in New Orleans. In organizing this help; however, HSUS profited greatly from the mass amount of publicity. In the end, it’s positive that HSUS has the funding to help out in times of struggle, but it is definitely negative that the organization takes advantage of disaster situations to increase profit.

On top of the shady, to say the least, lobbying and campaigning HSUS funds, it is a common misunderstanding that there is a certain percentage of donations to the HSUS that trickle down to local shelters. However, local animal shelters see no profit or resources of any kind from the national organization. Once again, HSUS takes advantage of economic opportunity and allows the confusion to continue by failing to mention this bit of information to the audience. A strong economic tactic, certainly, but obviously not something one would anticipate from a non-profit organization.

The overall point here is not that HSUS is evil; it is simply a non-profit organization with a successful, profit-driven mentality. What’s important to understand is where your money is going when you donate to non-profit organizations. In all likelihood–donating five dollars to a local animal shelter would make a much bigger difference than donating to HSUS or another national organization.

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