Every year in the state of New York, the Attorney General issues a report called "Pennies for Charity." This is the official accounting from the Charities Bureau of the AG's office, showing what happened when professional fundraisers shook the public down on behalf of their nonprofit clients. The reports from 2005 and later are all searchable, and every report since 2000 is available online.
Here's a snapshot of what the Humane Society of the United States, a "factory fundraising" organization if there ever was one, has been allowing to happen in the Empire State.
It's really quite shocking. If you're reading this while walking on a treadmill or flipping through your iPhone on the subway, please sit down before you read the rest.
If you give money to the Humane Society of the United States through a professional fundraiser in the state of New York, barely seven cents on the dollar gets to HSUS at all.
Here's how the totals stack up from 2000 to 2009 (there was no reported professional fundraising for HSUS in New York in the 2003 report, which reflects activity during 2002):
|YEAR||GROSS||NET to HSUS||PERCENTAGE|
You read that right. If you responded to a fundraising solicitation (especially a telephone solicitation) in the state of New York from someone raising money for the Humane Society of the United States, an average of only 7.12 percent of your donation actually went to HSUS at all. The Share Group, a professional phone-bank fundraising company, kept the rest. And there were actually three years in the last ten where HSUS paid the fundraising company (instead of the other way around).
It gets even worse: A housewife in Syracuse who believes most of her donation is going to support hands-on pet shelters (and our recent poll indicates that this is a pretty typical belief), couldn't be more mistaken—remember that less than one-half of one percent of HSUS's spending actually consists of grants to real "humane societies." Since only 7.12 percent of that gift even gets to HSUS in the first place, less than four-hundredths of one percent of HSUS contributions collected by this New York fundraising company actually reaches a pet shelter:
0.0712 x 0.005 = 0.000356 (0.0356 percent)
We think we're going to be sick.
Now, before you professional nonprofit fundraisers start raising objections, we understand why this happens: This "Share Group" company is empowered to keep practically everything it collects because HSUS is more interested in keeping the resulting mailing lists than in collecting the short-term money. Funds raised later (in years two, three, four, etc…) will all belong to HSUS, since the names and addresses go to the Mother Ship. Think of it like a licensing agreement instead of a fundraising arrangement: HSUS is letting The Share Group use its name to raise money from an unsuspecting public, in exchange for a very tine cut of the profits.
But no one tells the donors.
It would be more honest if the Share Group's telephone fundraising script included a disclaimer. Something like "ninety percent of your donation will go to a professional dialing-for-dollars contractor, but your future donations will go to HSUS—and oh yes, they will be hassling you on a regular basis from now on."
Somehow we doubt that will ever happen.