The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which is not affiliated with local humane societies, gives only 1% of the money it raises to pet shelters, according to its tax return. HSUS doesn’t run a single pet shelter of its own. HSUS gets a “C-minus” grade from the independent watchdog CharityWatch for spending a significant amount of money on overhead. And it seems the financial waste at HSUS even extends to animals on HSUS property.
HSUS runs a 20-year-old affiliate called the Wildlife Land Trust (WLT), whose reason for existence is to inherit land from people and subsequently prohibit development and hunting—forever. Essentially, WLT seems like a disjointed effort at creating wildlife preserves across the U.S., and it claims to hold rights to property in 32 states.
One such range of land is 3,000 acres in Oregon called the Greenwood Preserve. HSUS wants to build a water guzzler there to help the wildlife out with another source of water (despite, by WLT’s admission, that the preserve “contains three year-round sources of water – a rarity in the West”). HSUS has launched a “crowd-funding” campaign to raise $12,200 to build the guzzler, essentially a contraption that collects rainwater. Crowd-funding works by collecting small ($5 or $10) donations for a specific effort.
Here’s our question: Why?
HSUS’s budget is $120 million. The Wildlife Land Trust has a $6.9 million budget. Can’t they find $12,200 in there to build a watering hole? That’s about 0.0096% of their combined budgets, or nine one-thousandths. Not exactly breaking the bank.
The trouble with the crowd-funding exercise is that it frees up more money for HSUS to waste on other things. This wouldn’t be bad if HSUS was already a fiscally responsible organization, but it isn’t one. CharityWatch finds that HSUS spends up to 45 percent of its budget on overhead. The watchdog Animal People puts the figure higher—at 55 percent. There’s a lot of money to go around, but HSUS wants to spend it on direct mail.
So while HSUS is “crowd-funding” a project that could be easily financed using existing dollars, it can put that $12,200 it’s not spending on the water guzzler towards mailing costs and to conduct more fundraising. This might be a small drop in the pond, but it speaks volumes about the priorities at HSUS.