Who should get your pet lover’s dollars? A guide to donating to animal charities

October 6, 2009 at 3:35 pm Leave a comment

PandaBonnieKellerWhere is your money really going when you donate to animal charities? And where can your dollars do the most good?

Those are questions I had to consider when my mother passed away last month, and I had to choose an animal charity to receive donations in her memory.

I picked a small, local group with which I was familiar, but out of the process I got the idea for my column this week on SFGate.com:

Should you always direct your donations to small and local groups? Large national organizations tend to have high administrative costs and usually don’t do real hands-on animal care. However, they also have a lot more influence and power, and their infrastructure, while costly, can amplify the power of your donation, even if it’s a small one.

Smaller groups tend to get their hands dirty when it comes to saving animals from bad situations, and to really effect change that can be seen and measured on a local level. But those groups can have their own problems, such as a lack of effective outreach and management, or a failure to maximize their resources.

Large or small, local or national, the key is to dig into what groups are actually doing, and make sure you want to give them money. A couple of hours on Google can be very enlightening if you want to get an idea of what a charity really does with its revenues.


No matter the size or mission of the charity you’re evaluating, when you’re digging, dig deep. That’s because some animal lovers might be surprised to learn that a group that runs a campaign they want to support — ending inhumane agricultural practices or protecting wildlife, for instance — also funds others they oppose.

Fortunately, it’s often possible to support the part of a group’s work in which you do believe rather than those in which you don’t. Just be sure to earmark those donations for the program you want to see benefited, and not to the group’s general fund.

In fact, such targeted giving is often the most effective in making a difference in the lives of animals.

For example, both shelters and large national groups sometimes do special fundraisers for specific programs, like providing medical care to homeless pets or for one particular pet in need. It might not change the world or even the life of another pet in a similar situation, but it can save that one animal, and that can be one of the most rewarding kinds of donations to make.

Read the whole thing here, and enjoy the knots I tie myself into trying not to name any of the organizations in question — per SFGate.com’s writer’s guidelines.

Kitteh is Panda, owned and photographed by Bonnie Keller.



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