Topic: Fundraising & Money

  • HSUS’s Worth(less) Rating

    The Humane Society of the United States is a scam that engages in bad practices. HSUS uses deceptive advertising to solicit donations. HSUS also dupes donors by using an accounting trick known as “joint cost” accounting. In short, it classifies some of its fundraising costs as “program” costs. This makes it look like HSUS spends 75 percent or more of its budget on programs, when in reality the figure is lower. Much lower.

    When called out on this, HSUS hides behind a few charity evaluators. It points to a decent rating from Charity Navigator—but this service takes financial data at face value, overlooking HSUS’s “joint cost” shenanigans. HSUS points to being “approved” by the BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance—but the WGA takes $15,000 a year from HSUS, so that indicates a clear conflict of interest. And lastly, HSUS points to the fact that Worthmagazine named it a top-10 “fiscally responsible” charity a few years back.

    Well, well. It turns out that Worth magazine has also named HSUS on a top-10 list of terrible charities in America. (Click the image to enlarge.) Why?Worth docked HSUS for using these very same donor-duping sleights-of-hand—the accounting gimmicks HSUS continues to use. Worth also noted that HSUS gave a pittance of the money it raised to animal protection groups—something that is also still true.

    Why did Worth later rate HSUS a top-10 “fiscally responsible” group? For two flawed reasons. First, it asked Charity Navigator for help—and as we mentioned above, Charity Navigator employs rather feckless analysis. Second, the magazine states that HSUS had enough money in reserve to operate for two years. In other words, HSUS has a nice load of cash stored away in the bank and in equities. But what about stopping animal crueltynow, in the present, as HSUS donors want? Isn’t having two years’ worth of money stuffed away fiscally irresponsible when pet shelters are euthanizing 4 million cats and dogs a year? We certainly think so.

    Worth had it right in its previous evaluation, which also noted that at the time HSUS got a “D” grade from the American Institute of Philanthropy. Guess what? HSUS still gets a “D” grade from AIP, which calculates that HSUS spends as little as 50 percent of its budget on programs.

    That’s pathetic. And so are HSUS’s continued attempts to deflect criticism and dupe Americans.

    Read Worth Magazine Article

    Posted on 04/01/2013 at 3:10 pm by Humane Watch Team.

    Topics: Fundraising & Money


  • Cashing in on Hurricane Sandy

    Following Hurricane Sandy, the New York Attorney General made a smart move. He asked 89 charities to account for how much money they raised and how much of that is or will go towards Sandy relief. With HSUS’s questionable track record following Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti earthquake, we were interested to see how much (or how little) HSUS was using in the New York area.

    The latest report: HSUS raised $1.9 million and has spent only 20 percent of that on Sandy relief.

    Not only that, but by our count, 84 of the 89 charities reporting to the NY Attorney General are using 100% of the funds exclusively for Sandy relief (including administrative expenses). HSUS is one of the few that isn’t.

    HSUS only budgeted about $700,000 total for Sandy relief. So it’s making a “profit,” so to speak, of $1.2 million off of the disaster. You’d think something as devastating as Hurricane Sandy, which caused $70 billion in damage, would warrant more than $700,000 of spending—especially from all of the press releases and the self-serving Wayne Pacelle promo.

    That surplus money will go to HSUS’s general disaster relief fund. Nothing wrong with that. But, assuming that department is not self-funding, it doesfree up other money to be spent on hiring lawyers, attacking farmers, producing PETA propaganda, building the pension plan, and so on. So there’s that.

    In any given disaster, you can be sure that HSUS will roll out the video producers, photographers, and press releases to promote itself. But a recent article in Animal People noted that nearly 80 groups were focusing on animal care after Sandy. HSUS may puff itself up, but there are plenty of groups you can give to if you want to help animals after a disaster that don’t have the baggage or the agenda HSUS does.

    Posted on 02/27/2013 at 11:16 pm by The Team.

    Topics: DisastersFundraising & Money


  • HSUS: Keeping Fundraisers Flush

    We’ve written before about some of the questionable fundraising tactics that the Humane Society of the United States employs. It’s not just that one firm hired by HSUS has been caught hiring ex-cons with crimes relating to honesty, or that one firm was recently exposed by Bloomberg, or that another firm was exposed by CNN, or that another had entered into settlements with states following allegations of improper actions. It’s also that some firms—with HSUS’s agreement—apparently have employed deceptive tactics by misleading potential donors about how much of their contribution would go to charity.

    In reality, much of the money raised by HSUS telemarketing campaigns has gone to the fundraiser. For years, HSUS used Share Group, which raised over $12 million on HSUS’s behalf—and the fundraiser kept 93 percent of it. Now we have two recent campaign reports to share with you.

    According to filings with North Carolina, Donor Services Group raised $1,392,791 for a year-long HSUS campaign. Only 6 percent—$88,689—actually went to HSUS. That’s probably enough to cover the salary of only one of HSUS’s dozens of staff attorneys. Meanwhile, a campaign by PDR II on behalf of HSUS raised $233,598, with only $16,911, or 7 percent, going to HSUS.

    According to the New York Attorney General, in 2011 telemarketing campaigns in the state resulted in 39 percent of funds raised going to charity. We’re fairly confident that figure is similar to the national average—which would place HSUS well below average with its aforementioned campaigns.

    HSUS? Bad practices? We can’t say we’re surprised. But the donors who gave money over the phone thinking they were helping animals, when HSUS knows most of that money will go to telemarketers, surely would be.

    Posted on 02/09/2013 at 1:22 am by The Team.

    Topics: Fundraising & Money


  • How Little Does HSUS Give to Shelters in Your State?

    The Humane Society of the United States gives only 1 percent of the money it raises to pet shelters. Surprised? You might be, if you’ve seen HSUS’s TV ads—you know, the ones full of needy dogs and cats. You, like most Americans, might think HSUS gives most of the money it raises to pet shelters. HSUS doesn’t. You, like most Americans, might think that HSUS is an umbrella group for humane societies. It isn’t. You might think that HSUS at least runs one pet shelter. It doesn’t.

    Even most HSUS donors are confused.

    We’ve updated our U.S. map so that you can see how little HSUS gives in grants to supporting pet sheltering in your state. As always, please share.

    Update: A number of commenters have asked where the money does go. Read more here for an idea.

    Posted on 01/16/2013 at 3:40 am by The Team.

    Topics: Fundraising & MoneyThe Best of HumaneWatchVisual HSUS


  • Do Wayne Pacelle's Initials Also Stand for Witness Payoff?

    Big news came out over the holidays when the ASPCA announced that it would pay Feld Entertainment, owner of the Ringling Bros. circus, almost $10 million to settle a federal lawsuit accusing the ASPCA and others of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. It’s a crack in the defense, and we’re sure that leaders of the Humane Society of the United States—which is still a defendant in the litigation—didn’t sleep well that night. Feld’s lawyers also publicly released evidence implying HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle’s involvement, which should add to their concern.

    Some background: The Fund for Animals (FFA, which merged with HSUS in 2005), the ASPCA, and others sued Feld about 10 years ago under the Endangered Species Act. Their litigation depended on a former Feld “barn helper” who says that he was aesthetically injured by Feld’s alleged elephant abuse.

    The litigation dragged through the court for years until a judge dismissed it in 2009. In his dismissal, the judge outlined a scheme by which animal rights groups—including the ASPCA—had paid the former Feld employee almost $200,000. Some of the money was paid directly to the witness, some of it went through the plaintiffs’ law firm (MGC), and some of it went through a nonprofit group controlled by the plaintiffs’ lawyers called the “Wildlife Advocacy Project” (WAP). (Is that enough acronyms for you?)

    Here’s how some of that payout got disbursed to the witness, according to court documents:

    ASPCA: $6,000 (through WAP), $14,000 (directly), $5,700 (through MGC). Total: $25,700.

    FFA: $11,500 (through WAP), $1,000 (directly), $4,400 (through MGC). Total: $16,900.

    More importantly, the judge found that the payments “were not disclosed initially in discovery, by both omissions and affirmatively false statements.” The witness himself, the judge concluded, was “essentially a paid plaintiff and fact witness who is not credible.”

    That’s pretty damning.

    Now, Feld has released evidence showing that the Humane Society of the United States itself paid money to WAP. The check is signed by HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle and treasurer Tom Waite:

    The check was sent to WAP with a cover letter from HSUS vice president Jonathan Lovvorn, who is individually named as a defendant in the racketeering lawsuit. Before Lovvorn moved to HSUS in 2005, he was a partner at MGC and according to court documents was involved in the animal-rights litigation against Feld.

    Back to the present. HSUS’s statement in response to ASPCA’s $9.3 million settlement has been weak. HSUS points out that it wasn’t a party in the initial litigation against Feld. So what? As this bit of evidence shows, HSUS gave money to a front group that paid a witness, and the HSUS bagman delivering the payola was a former partner at the plaintiffs’ law firm, which itself had directly paid the witness as well.

    In all, HSUS’s response is about as effective as a sixth-grade playground comeback.

    Wayne Pacelle’s leadership could already be under question after HSUS finds itself in federal court. Again. But with Pacelle signing at least one check, there could be more to his involvement.

    Let’s ask the old Watergate question: What did Wayne Pacelle know and when did he know it?

    We’ll let you know if we get an answer. Hopefully, the HSUS board is interested in finding out, too.

    Posted on 01/12/2013 at 3:26 am by The Team.

    Topics: CircusesCourtroom DramaFundraising & MoneyThe Best of HumaneWatch


  • HSUS's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

    Two developments emerged today that could be body-blows to the Humane Society of the United States and its deceptive practices of raising money from pet loving Americans who are deceived into giving to the group.

    First, news broke this morning that the ASPCA has agreed to pay Feld Entertainment, owner of the Ringling Bros. Circus, nearly $10 million as part of a settlement in a federal racketeering lawsuit. Feld will continue its litigation against other defendants, including HSUS and two of its attorneys. HSUS could be on the hook for millions upon millions in damages. And for anyone who may have been thinking this lawsuit didn’t have merit, the fact that ASPCA was worried enough to shell out almost $10 million just to make it go away should make them think again.

    Meanwhile, whenever HSUS is exposed for getting a “D” grade from the respected American Institute of Philanthropy, HSUS hides behind its “accreditation” from the Better Business Bureau. But as USA Today reports this morning, the BBB’s charity rating arm is under fire for taking money from some of the charities it rates (including HSUS). In fact, HSUS had to pay BBB $15,000 in order to use the BBB seal on their marketing materials. U.S. Senator and former Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal says this practice “unquestionably” has implications for the BBB’s “credibility and possible conflicts of interest.”

    One issue is that the BBB excuses accounting practices that allow charities to classify fundraising costs as “educational” costs. HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle musters up a lame excuse for USA Today that HSUS has nebulous “influence,” as if that should excuse or take precedence over the organization’s practices.

    Fortunately, others aren’t buying what Pacelle’s shoveling:

    "If you like getting those mailings and want to pay for more of them, support the Humane Society," says [American Institute of Philanthropy head David] Borochoff. "It you want to give more for programs or services that benefit animals and advocate better rules and protections for animals, they are not a good target because the portion of their budget they give to these programs is too small."

    Nathan Winograd, an author and prominent advocate of "no-kill" animal shelters, says the disagreement is emblematic of a larger problem with HSUS.

    "Only the leadership of HSUS could contrive fundraising letters as program expenses," Winograd says. "If they actually spent as much time, energy and money on saving animals as they now only pretend to, not only would they not have to cover up their failures to do so with these kind of mental gymnastics, they could truly be the heroes they now only pretend to be."

    Wayne Pacelle can’t talk his way out of every problem. Today’s double-whammy could take a good chunk out of Wayne’s façade of running a legitimate, worthy charity.

    Posted on 12/29/2012 at 3:33 am by The Team.

    Topics: CircusesCourtroom DramaFundraising & Money


  • 19 Reasons Not to Give to $19 a Month to HSUS

    With Thanksgiving past us, it’s time to turn our gaze to the holiday season. It’s a wonderful time of year, and in the spirit of “it’s better to give than receive” many Americans up their charitable contributions. Unfortunately, that means HSUS is on the prowl, looking to cash in on unsuspecting Americans who don’t know how little the group does for pet shelters.

    We’re posting 19 reasons not to give the $19 a month that HSUS begs for in its commercials. We’ll post a new one every day starting Dec. 3, similar to an advent calendar.

    Help spread the word to “give local” and support humane societies in your community—unaffiliated with HSUS—and make this a merry season for shelters and needy pets alike.

    1. HSUS gives only 1 percent of its budget to pet shelters. That’s according to its own tax returns.

    2. HSUS’s CEO said notorious dog-killer Michael Vick “would do a good job as a pet owner.” That’s easy to say after you receive $50,000 from Vick’s employer.

    3. HSUS’s CEO has said, “I don’t want to see another cat or dog born” and “there's no special bond between me and other animals.”

    4. HSUS wants to put farmers out of business.

    5. HSUS shelters millions in hedge funds while millions of shelter pets die.

    6. HSUS hires radicals, then gives them a moderate mask. HSUS’s food policy director devised PETA’s “Holocaust on Your Plate” campaign, and an HSUS outreach manager used to be a PETA “lettuce lady.”

    7. Six Congressmen want an IRS investigation of HSUS.

    8. HSUS uses questionable fundraising companies, including one that has reportedly been under investigation from state attorneys general.

    9. HSUS uses your money to file frivolous lawsuits against its political enemies.

    10. HSUS is facing a federal racketeering lawsuit.

    11. HSUS has dozens of lawyers on staff—payroll money used to file frivolous suits that won’t go to pet shelters.

    12. HSUS shovels more money into its pension plan than it gives to pet shelters.

    13. Your local shelter could use the money more. Not only are shelters facing hard times, they are facing an uphill marketing battle against name confusion with HSUS.

    14. HSUS charges local shelters for many services. Why is HSUS charging $25,000 for evaluations when it has $200,000,000 in assets?

    15. HSUS gets a “D” grade from the American Institute of Philanthropy for “spending paltry amounts on their programs and maintaining high fundraising costs.”

    16. More than 150 people have filed complaints against HSUS with the Federal Trade Commission.

    17. HSUS is often at odds with veterinarians, and doesn’t have a single vet on its executive staff.

    18. The pet shelter community thinks HSUS misleads the public. Of 400 poll respondents, 71 percent agreed that “HSUS misleads people into thinking it is associated with local animal shelters.”

    19. HSUS’s own donors think HSUS is misleading. Nine out of 10 HSUS's donors were unaware that it gives just 1 percent of its budget to local pet shelters. Knowing this, 80 percent of HSUS's own donors think the group “misleads people into thinking that it supports local humane societies and pet shelters.” 

    Posted on 12/04/2012 at 3:35 am by The Team.

    Topics: Fundraising & MoneyPets


  • Unpacking the HSUS Gravy Train (2012 Edition)

    Every November, we get a peek at the internal operations of HSUS when we get a copy of its IRS Form 990, a publicly available tax return that nonprofits have to file with the federal government. We have a copy of HSUS’s latest Form 990 (PDF – 6.7 MB), covering calendar year 2011, and there’s some good and bad news.

    The good news: Public support for HSUS is down.

    You read that right. Contributions and grants to HSUS went down by about $8.5 million in 2011 compared to 2010, for an overall decrease of 6.5 percent. HSUS’s total revenue actually decreased by more than 10 percent, mostly due to the drop in public support and drop in investment income relative to 2010. (No wonder HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle has seemed especially vitriolic towards us recently. Or maybe it’s because his book can’t sell better than a beadwork guide.)

    Hopefully this decline in public support was matched with an increase in giving to local pet shelters and rescues. That’s something near impossible to measure. But we can measure how much of donors’ donations to HSUS are being sent to pet shelters.

    And that’s the bad news: HSUS’s grant-giving to support pet shelters continues to be criminal, figuratively speaking.

    Grants made by HSUS for the purpose of aiding pet sheltering appear to make up about only 0.25% (one-quarter of one percent) of HSUS’s budget. Even including spay/neuter and other grants made to shelters, that figure only goes up to about 0.50% of HSUS’s budget. Nothing to write home about.

    We’re releasing a report today to the media showing, state by state, how little HSUS gives to support sheltering. If you want to see how your state fared, click here to view a PDF. (The data comes from Schedule I of the tax return.)

    Here are the nuggets—lowlights, really—from the tax return:

    • HSUS spent less than 1 percent of its budget on grants to pet shelters.
    • Meanwhile, HSUS had fundraising-related expenses of $48.1 million, or a whopping 38 percent of its total budget. If that doesn’t tell you the real priorities of HSUS, nothing will.
    • HSUS paid $7.7 million to Quadriga Art, a fundraising consultant recently exposed by CNN that is reportedly under investigation in New York and California. Between 2009 and 2011, HSUS paid Quadriga about $25 million.
    • HSUS also reported paying about $333,000 to Infocision Management, whose questionable practices were exposed by Bloomberg this fall.
    • HSUS added another $2.4 million to its pension plan, bringing the total to about $17 million since Wayne Pacelle took over as CEO in 2004.
    • Speaking of Pacelle, he pulled in just under $300,000 in compensation. That brings his total haul since joining HSUS to about $3 million.
    • In all, HSUS had 24 people who received more than $100,000 in compensation.
    • HSUS’s “All Animals” magazine had a circulation of about 530,000. That’s a good estimate of HSUS’s true membership size, since the magazine is included with a $25 membership. (HSUS likes to claim it has a “constituency” of 11 million, which inflates its influence greatly.)

    In short, HSUS as usual had plenty of money to spare for overhead. But its giving to pet shelters—which desperately need resources in this economy—was once again scant.

    Same story, different day. Will HSUS ever reform?

    Posted on 11/27/2012 at 10:57 pm by The Team.

    Topics: Fundraising & Money


  • Wayne's Vanity Tour Goes Global

    Good news: HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle finally, finally ended his never-ending book tour in Pittsburgh the other week. Or so we thought. He has apparently just ended his U.S. tour. Today, he’s hawking his book in Chennai, India.

    Let’s review: Pacelle’s book The Bond hit the shelves in April 2011, and he launched on a nationwide book tour. Now, it would be one thing if, as a first-time author, he was on tour for a few weeks. But he was on tour for 18 months. To at least 100 cities.

    That might be justifiable if The Bond was selling like Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day. But was it? Not exactly.

    The Bond quickly dropped off the New York Times bestseller list after two weeks. And sales seem to have plummeted even further: Its Amazon sales rank is #140,418 in all books as of this writing. In the relatively small subset of animal rights books, The Bond has a ranking of #53.

    To put that in context, the following books are ranked higher than The Bond on Amazon’s bestsellers lists:

    You get the idea. Wayne Pacelle isn’t exactly Joel Osteen, E.L. James, or John Grisham. (And certainly not Herman Melville.) He’s not good bathroom reading, nor is The Bond a barnburner among animal rights books, either.

    We’re still puzzled over how Wayne is justifying his long tour. Surely, being “on tour” has got to distract somewhat from his CEO duties. And if he’s traveling on HSUS’s dime, that money could be spent on direct care for animals.

    What’s more likely: The Bond is secretly selling well, or Wayne Pacelle just likes getting his face out there and building up those frequent flier miles?

    Posted on 11/20/2012 at 3:46 am by The Team.

    Topics: Fundraising & Money


  • It's Real Simple: HSUS is a Scam

    We received word recently—from many sources, thanks to all who wrote us—that Real Simple magazine listed the Humane Society of the United States as a charity worthy of donations in its most recent issue. In the blurb, Real Simple claims that HSUS’s mission is to “care for animals and protect them from cruelty” and that a “$100 donation provides an abused cat or dog with medical care and shelter while it awaits adoption.” (Click here to view the blurb.)

    This is, at best, a recklessly misleading picture of what HSUS does. Given that the American Institute of Philanthropy calculates that up to 50 percent of HSUS’s budget is overhead, half of that $100 donation would go towards unscrupulous and deceptive factory-fundraising practices or to things like HSUS’s pension plan.

    How could Real Simple be so simply mistaken? A subscriber reached out to Real Simple and asked where the magazine got its information from and passed along the reply. Real Simple said: “all the specific information about the charity was researched and fact-checked directly with the charity.” (Emphasis added.)

    So did HSUS mislead Real Simple? Based on that reply, it would seem so.

    HSUS doesn’t run a single pet shelter. HSUS is not affiliated with any pet shelters. And HSUS gives just 1 percent of the money it raises to pet shelters. Yet somehow Real Simple – after its fact-check – was left with the impression that donations go to help care for pets and adopt them out.

    Moreover, while HSUS says its program spending is about 80% percent of its budget, that’s a bunch of baloney. That figure includes millions of dollars of fundraising expenses classified as “program” spending. This is legal, but grossly misleading to donors. People don’t want to fund doodads and direct mail campaigns. While Charity Navigator and the BBB gloss over this inconvenient accounting truth, other independent watchdogs don’t.

    Along with the American Institute of Philanthropy calculating that up to 50 percent of HSUS’s is overhead—which earns HSUS a “D” grade, by the way—the animal rights watchdog Animal People puts HSUS’s overhead spending at 46 percent of its budget. Whether it’s 46 or 50 percent, that’s a far cry from 20 percent.

    And the money that HSUS does spend on programs often goes to push a PETA-like animal rights agenda. Let’s not forget that HSUS’s Food Policy Director has compared livestock farmers to Nazis.

    Real Simple has been duped. But they’re not alone—many HSUS donors have been duped, and a number have filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission about HSUS.

    Contact the editors of Real Simple and let them know—politely—how you feel about their thumbs-up for HSUS and why they should reconsider. You can fill out a form here or email [email protected].

    There’s one place Real Simple should be advising animal lovers to give this holiday season: Their local pet shelters. Those groups could use the money a lot more than HSUS.

    Posted on 11/16/2012 at 10:55 pm by The Team.

    Topics: Fundraising & Money