Three major American animal welfare charities have been criticised on how they spend their money. These charities are the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Best Friends Animal Society (Best Friends).
The criticism is that the proportion of donations that they spend on fundraising and administration is far too high. When fundraising expenditure is very high it leads me to believe that these organisations are more concerned about being viable and profitable businesses rather than prioritising their charitable objectives.
This is a widespread problem I believe with the big charities and it doesn’t matter in which country they are located.
Winograd tells me that the ASPCA takes in “$390 million in revenue and [has] $575 million in assets, including $310 million in investments and $105 million in savings.”
And he adds that HSUS has a similar budget with receipts of $260 million annually with $454 million in assets including $370 million in investments and $31 million in savings. Best Friends Animal Society has $126 million in annual revenue and $153 million in assets.
To much spent on fundraising and salaries
The average donor probably thinks that these very large and wealthy organisations would aim to spend about 80% of their donations on the sharp end of the charity which is giving money to shelters and other animal welfare organisations where good work can be done in benefiting animal welfare. That’s the expectation. But there’s an expectation deficit.
Nathan Winograd tells us that despite the wealth of the ASPCA they spend only 2% on animals in shelters. He tells me that most donations go on fundraising and salaries. The ASPCA current chief executive officer, Matt Berkshadker has an annual $1 million salary. And there are six-figure salaries for 259 ASPCA employees.
HSUS is a little worse. They spend about 1% of donations on helping animals in shelters. Best Friends spends “an inordinate amount (over $55 million) on salaries, uses donor funds to purchase for-profit businesses such as a hotel and gym and spends millions enriching the founders who own the logo and license it back to the organisation” – Winograd.
He also tell me that when you buy a Best Friends sweatshirt most of the money earned in profit through its sale goes to the founders of the organisation.
You can get see some nice insights into the ASPCA in CBS’s video on YouTube. They say that the ASPCA is facing spending criticism and that they get a two star rating for their “financials”, implying that the public is concerned about where their money is going.
Providing a good standard of living for employees
Fundraising is about getting as much money as possible off the public. It is generating income. When the focus is on this aspect of charitable work as appears to be the case the charity becomes a form of business to provide a very high standard of living to a large number of employees. The charitable aspect of the organisation becomes secondary.
ASPCA not affiliated with local SPCAs
You will see in the video that a lot of people think that local SPCAs are either franchisees or in some way affiliated with the ASPCA which sounds as if it is an umbrella organisation for these many local SPCAs but that isn’t the case at all. There is no connection between the two and there’s no money going down from the ASPCA to local SPCAs.
Small amount donated not always put to good use
And Winograd says that even the small amount of money spent on animal shelter programs isn’t always helping. He says that these charities are lobbyists for shelters that kill animals. Winograd is the prime campaigner and founder as I understand it of the No-kill animal shelter movement. He obviously hates to see big charities like this undermining or failing to support his campaign. And rightly so.
For example, concerning the ASPCA, he states that the organisation “killed 20 dogs in transport, allowed dogs to starve, killed abused dogs despite rescue groups willing to save them, killed a young woman’s dog and tormented her, fought legislation to save lives et cetera. And he says that HSUS is little better because they call upon shelters “to partner with breeders or breed puppies themselves while they kill rescue dogs”. And he says that Best Friends tell shelters “To close their doors to adopters without an appointment, turn animals away, and prevent volunteers from demanding more humane practices. It also fights laws requiring shelters to notify rescuers before killing animals.”
You get the message. It is not a good one but a real one and certainly people who donate, often through their will on their death, would appear to have had misplaced expectations after being seduced into parting with their money through slick advertising.
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