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.
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.