Finding the Right Animal Charity for Your Donation

Lea Jaratz

black dog in a shelter

With charitable donation requests everywhere you look or log-on, the pressure to help can become overwhelming. Many shelters and non-profits are asking for your donation dollars on TV and social media, and your friends are raising money for their favorite rescues online too. With as many options for charitable giving as there are options for adoptable pets, it can be hard to sort out the most trustworthy and deserving animal charities. Before you pull out your credit card and type in that pledge, let’s talk about what to look for in a reputable charity.

Who are they and what is their mission?

Is the group a registered public 501(c)(3) organization and what is their EIN number? What is their mission and their track record for meeting prior goals? What have they accomplished in the past and what challenges are they working against now? If their website doesn’t have these items clearly explained, ask to speak with someone in their charitable-giving department for more answers. They should be able to provide you with tax documents and financial statements to show their fiscal responsibility, as well as answers about their mission statement. If they can’t provide you with this information, save your money for another group.

Google them!

If someone says they want you to donate to their rescue or group, dig around online. Check reviews and postings about their activities to see if there have been any issues reported by individuals, advocacy groups, or in the media. If a non-profit isn’t doing what they say they are, chances are it’ll end up online for the world to see pretty quickly. There are also guides that provide ratings and other information about reputable (and not-so-reputable) groups, like Charity Navigator. Using their listings can save you some digging.

Visit Their Facilities

This isn’t always possible but visiting a local shelter or rescue group to see how they house and care for their animals is a good way to assess their overall efforts. Are they utilizing and engaging volunteers? Are they using resources and supplies efficiently? Are they marketing animals for adoption well? If you can see shortcomings or inefficiencies, ask about what obstacles are holding them back from making improvements.

Do they need your donation?

It can be hard to decide whether to give your money to one of the big 10 pet charities, or to support the little guy, but this just comes down to a gut preference. It might feel less satisfying to give money to an organization that already seems to be operating smoothly. You might want to give all you can to a struggling group with some major issues in an effort to help those animals and make a bigger impact to a smaller budget. But sometimes the largest non-profits are the most efficient and can help not only animals in their care, but also offer grants and support to smaller, struggling non-profits. Put your emotions aside and try to think about how you can best help the largest number of animals with your donation.

Do they meet with your mission?

All rescues want to help animals, but many of them have different strategies and missions. Would you like to donate to a shelter that is no-kill but limits their animal intakes, or would you prefer to help a shelter that’s serving a large, perhaps low-income area? Do they have policies or adoption rules that you disagree with? What communities and populations are they serving? Do they help animals locally, domestically, or internationally? Do they care for cats, dogs, or other domesticated animals, and do they only work with specific breeds?

There are no right or wrong answers to any of these questions, but they might help you find a group that aligns well with your own personal goals and philosophies.

Think Outside the Rescue Box

Instead of donating to shelters, there are other animal non-profits whose missions include services other than adoptions. Your donations can help groups providing other important services for companion animals, including:

  • Low cost spay and neuter services for strays and/or owned pets
  • Medical care or vaccination clinics in impoverished areas
  • Prevention of exploitation and cruelty to animals
  • Legal defense services
  • Training of rescue and service animals
  • Temporary aid in times of crisis or natural disaster

Whether you’re looking to make an in memoriam donation or want to donation in lieu of a gift, there are lots of ways to pick a deserving charity. But one thing is for sure, you’ll feel better about your contribution if you know it’s helping animals and the people that care for them.

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