The holidays are upon us. My mailbox is loaded with brightly colored catalogs (not just Cabela's) and of course the inevitable charity mailers looking for donations. They include a "free gift"-usually mailing labels, and the picture on the front page, in all the gory detail, is of an abused animal with sad looking eyes. Since we can't do a hands on rescue, we feel the need to send them a check to help out.
Here's the problem: very little of that check we send actually goes to the animal. Maybe 3 cents on the dollar, if that.
Those mailers, especially with color pictures cost at least $30,000 to print up and mail out, and the price goes up with how much crap is included in the envelope. By the time the costs are paid, the administrative staff gets their checks, the actual animal only gets about 3 cents of every dollar donated. The law states that it must be disclosed in the mailing, and you'll find it, in very tiny print only a fly can read, buried at the bottom of the back page of the mailer. Most people can't get past the pictures and the large bold print horror story, which is what they are counting on.
If the horse rescue I help out had that kind of money to spend on mailers, all of the residents would look like centerfolds for Horse Illustrated. If most local legitimate animal rescues had that kind of money, there wouldn't be wish lists for any of them. Hell, a banner year for us was having enough to send thank you cards to donors during the holidays.
While certain "big box" rescues do get a ton of media recognition and billions of dollars in donations, there are thousands of "mom and pop" (usually mom) that do help more animals than most of these combined. Particularly high on my shit list is the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). You can find more information about them, and their affiliate companies here and here (pdf).
I plan on doing some future blog posts about rescues and donations, including choosing who to help and other non cash donation ways of helping. Rescues are needy all year long, so if you are stretched thin by the season of giving, it's okay to wait. Toss those mailers in the trash without reading them (or grab the free return address labels) and find a way to give where the animals actually get the full benefit of what you're giving. Whether you're moved by the plight of the wild mustangs or wish to help unwed cats, you can give where it's most beneficial.