You’re passionate about helping animals but you’re not sure which nonprofits are the most effective. You want to donate but your confidence level in the impact organizations make is low so you wind up not giving or giving less than you can. Does this scenario sound familiar? You can easily solve this dilemma and make a big difference with your dollars.
Where Do Animal Advocates Donate?
How are donations to animal charities currently distributed? Approximately 70% of all donations to animal charities go to dog and cat shelters even though dog and cat euthanasia represents approximately 1% of all killed animals. Conversely, approximately 98% of all suffering and killing of animals occurs in animal agriculture. Tragically, only approximately 2% of all donations go to reduce animal agriculture, highlighting the public’s appetite for saving dogs and cats while eating other equally sentient beings.
As the chart below reveals, the impact of donations varies markedly. Donating to dog and cat shelters appears to be the least effective use of donations to animal charities yet they are the largest recipient of donations. This article discusses the importance of donations to animal charities and how to determine which organizations deserve your financial support.
The Importance of Donations to Animal Charities
Before donating to nonprofit animal advocacy organizations, it’s important to establish if they deserve financial support. Groups advocating for farm animals, massively underfunded given the scope of the problems they seek to resolve, need funding to perform. But which animal charities should you choose?
Which Organizations Deserve Your Financial Support?
If an animal rights organization has $2 million in net assets, runs an annual budget surplus, and its director earns $100,000 per year, does the organization deserve your donation? It would be shortsighted to dismiss an organization based on a budget or employee compensation alone. The focus should be on impact, not dollars in the bank or salaries.
In the TED Talk, The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong, Dan Pallotta inverts the mainstream thought process that nonprofit salaries should be significantly less than salaries in the for-profit sector. Pallotta explains that it may be ill-advised to ask the best and brightest in the talent pool to make economic sacrifices to work in the non-profit sector because it may cause them to avoid the field. In his presentation, he suggests using money to lure and retain private sector talent.
Indeed, there is value in having the most effective, experienced, and visionary leadership and staff and it may come at a price. This is not to say animal advocacy organizations don’t already have hugely talented people in the field — of course, they do and they often win against the odds — but rather to suggest that employing the most elite and well-connected leaders, lawyers, lobbyists, fundraisers, inventors, writers, researchers, public relations firms, and food engineers may further level the playing field. It is possible the next Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, or Stephen Hawking of the animal rights movement is out there somewhere but not entering the field as a result of the salary structure.
Could we make even more progress in the burgeoning plant-based food industry if we tapped into the pool of food innovators? Could we organize a march rivaling the most historic if we employed the best organizers? How much more effective could animal rights documentaries be if the next Stephen Spielberg was directing them — or Spielberg himself? In the midst of incremental progress, it’s easy to fail to see how much more the movement could achieve by enlisting the great minds of our time but given the scope and nature of the problem, isn’t it worth pulling out all of the stops?
How much should people who work in this non-profit sector be compensated? The answer to that question varies markedly. If an organization’s leader has a proven track record, although the optics may not be ideal given society’s view of what non-profit executives should earn, a competitive salary may be a worthwhile investment. Relative to businesses that generate billions of dollars and the fact that “CEOs earn 331 times as much as average workers and 774 times as much as minimum wage earners,” six figure salaries in the non-profit sector pale in comparison. Should we begrudge people the right to earn a good living while doing good?
Make a determination on salaries after you find out if an organization can quantify their impact on the reduction of suffering or saving of animals lives through rescue, educational outreach, change of corporate policies, use of media, or legislative achievements. When you assess an organization’s effectiveness, look for transparency, the tracking and communication of measurable performance outcomes, a list of accomplishments, a demonstrated need for funding, spending plans, and cost-effectiveness.
Would you sooner support a CEO making $50,000 and saving 100 animals or a CEO earning $100,000 and saving millions of animals? Why do we balk at the idea of paying undercover cruelty investigators $50,000 — people who risk their life to expose animal agriculture and live with the aftermath of what they see — and think nothing of a CEO doing little social good making $50 million? If low salaries limit a talent pool or cause high turnover due to economic hardships, an organization’s selflessness could work to the detriment of maximizing its impact. Impact should trump salary. But to pay people more money in the nonprofit sector, we have to donate more money. Donations in the U.S. comprise a measly 2% of GDP, 32% of which goes to religious charities and only a meager 5% of the 2% goes to animal charities. That won’t cut it. Animal advocates’ sense of urgency to save animals must be reflected in their financial support of the organizations doing the most good for animals.
Ask Questions Before You Donate
Here is a list of questions to ask before donating to an animal charity:
1) What is the percentage breakdown of how the organization spends its annual budget? (Don’t focus on the percentage allocated to salaries because paying people to perform their work is part and parcel of the cause.)
2) How does the organization measure its success in these areas? What has it accomplished? What are its goals? Ask to read the organization’s strategic plan.
3) How many animals does the organization estimate it saves from suffering or dying every year? Or how many does it project it may save? (This article is the best estimate I’ve read on how many farm animals a vegetarian saves per year.)
4) Is the organization transparent?
5) Does the organization show evidence that it strategizes, critically evaluates, reflects on its actions, and adapts as needed to maximize its impact?
6) What do the Glassdoor reviews state about its culture? Has a reputable third-party evaluated its performance?
The sad truth about animal charity donations is that we aren’t thinking critically enough about our giving, the salary structure limits the talent pool, and we aren’t donating enough. Consider donating to nonprofit farm animal advocacy and rescue organizations that demonstrate maximum impact per dollars donated. The most killing exists in animal agriculture, the least amount of money in comparison is donated to this cause, and donating to it has the potential to save the most lives. Find animal charities that can quantify their effectiveness or provide a convincing narrative and consider providing financial support.
If you liked this article, you may also enjoy:
This Disparity Will Shock You