The Humane Society of the United States does not run a single pet shelter and gives only 1 percent of its money to local pet shelters. Despite the common misconceptions among the general public and HSUS’s own donors, HSUS claims that its fundraising isn’t deceptive. New documents cast doubt on that defense.
The Massachusetts attorney general publishes online contracts between charities and their solicitors or fundraising counsel. It also requires these companies to file forms with information about how much money from a campaign is expected to go to charity, and how much donors are told will go to charity.
There’s a disparity in some cases.
Fine Line Communications runs HSUS’s in-bound call center for a fee, and tells the Massachusetts attorney general that HSUS will receive 10% of the gross receipts of the money it raises. But then, in the very next line, states that it will tell prospective donors that “approximately 90% will go to the charitable organization.”
It doesn’t take a math whiz to see that things aren’t right. This contract goes through June 2015.
Here’s Donor Services Group, which has a contract with Humane Society International (based out of HSUS’s office in Washington, D.C.).
The charity will receive 2% of the gross receipts, but prospective donors are told that 100% of their donation will go to charity.
That’s certainly misleading. It may be technically true that 100% of the proceeds go first to the charity, which then pays the solicitor 98% of the proceeds. But when people ask how much money will go to charity, they mean net gain of the campaign.
And then there’s Donor Care Center, raising money for HSUS:
Starting to get the picture?
People who support the Humane Society of the United States think their donation will help cats and dogs. But much of that money never reaches pet shelters or even HSUS, instead winding up in the pockets of for-profit solicitors who use misleading statements. HSUS knows this; it agrees to the contracts.
CharityWatch, an independent watchdog, gives HSUS a “C-minus” grade and finds that up to 45% of HSUS’s budget is spent on overhead. But if you asked the HSUS solicitor on the phone, you might not ever learn that.