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The Dog Days of Summer: Animal-Welfare Organizations


Nonprofits dedicated to protecting animals engage in a broad range of activities. Some focus on spaying and neutering feral cats. Others provide homes for miniature pigs that have outgrown their house-pet status. Still others work to preserve exotic and endangered species or to rescue dogs from shelters and train them to assist people with disabilities.

On the whole, animal-welfare organizations appear to be benefiting from the nation's strong economy. The American Association of Fundraising Counsel estimates that contributions to environment and wildlife groups increased 11.1 percent in 1999. Nearly half (48 percent) of the participants in a December 1998 donor survey for Craver, Mathews, Smith & Company said that they gave to groups that focus on animal protection and animal rights.

Overall foundation support for these organizations has also increased. According to the Foundation Center, in 1998 the proportion of grant dollars given to organizations devoted to the environment, animals, and wildlife "grew to a record 5.6 percent … , up from 5.2 percent in 1997. Actual dollars grew by 30.3 percent, from $414.3 million to $539.8 million."

On the other hand, the National Center for Charitable Statistics found that less than 1 percent of large charitable gifts made in 1999 went to nonprofits concerned with the environment and animals. To find out how individual organizations are faring, GuideStar contacted animal-welfare nonprofits that have provided information for the GuideStar database.

The Best of Times

Many groups report that they are receiving increased support. Michael Mountain, president of the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, notes, "Our donations are up 34% so far this year, over last year. Donations have been up every year since our membership program began in 1991."

Defenders of Wildlife president Rodger Schlickeisen relates that his Washington, D.C.-based organization has experienced "record growth to over 400,000 members and supporters." From Sausalito, California, Susan Andres, director of marketing, communications, and membership for The Marine Mammal Center, reports that support for the center "has increased over the years since its inception in 1975. In 1989, our revenue was one million dollars. In 1998, revenue was 4 million dollars."

Andres attributes the rise to the public's growing knowledge and use of the center's programs. "The demand for our rehabilitation services has increased as more people and marine mammals come into contact with each [other] on our California coastline; awareness of our science program has deepened interest in supporting advancing knowledge of marine mammal health and ocean health; and our education programs are in higher demand, [and] thus receive more support, as they fill a valuable need for marine science education among school age kids."

Dr. Nicholas B. Carter, executive director of Border Collie Rescue, Inc., of Melrose, Florida, also credits publicity for the growth in contributions to that organization. National attention given to the nonprofit's Birdstrike Control Program, which trains border collies to chase birds away from airport runways, has both "helped focus the spotlight" on the Birdstrike Control Program and "allowed more people to become familiar with our overall Border Collie rescue program."

Media coverage helped Animal Angels of Paradise, Texas, as well. President and director Carole Sanders reports, "1999 was the best [year] by far due to exposure given us by a newspaper article in February of that year. Donations came in hand over fist for the rest of the year."

Cats Exclusive, Inc. in Margate, Florida, has also attracted press attention. According to Ann Seidner, the organization's development chair, "Our shelter is unique because the cats (once they have been spayed/neutered and received all their shots) roam free until they are adopted. They sleep in bookshelves, on couches, in cat trees, etc. At any given time, we usually have 60-80 cats at our facility. We have been featured in the local newspapers because the cats are not caged."

Bob Silver, secretary-treasurer of the Horse Protection Association of Florida, Inc., attributes increased support for the Miami-based organization to four factors:

(a) people love and admire the grace and majesty of horses, (b) people are grateful to know that there is an organization devoted to the rescue and rehabilitation of horses that have been subjected to cruelty, starvation, abuse or abandonment—this is our primary mission, (c) the truly excellent job that has been done by [executive director] Morgan Silver and the reputation that she has established over the past ten years in this work and (d) the fact that every contributor  always receives an individualized 'Thank You' letter for every contribution."

Some organizations have received more support from foundations. Shirley McGreal, chairwoman of the International Primate Protection League in Summerville, South Carolina, reports, "More foundations are moving into the animal welfare/animal rights area. We recently received a challenge grant from the Arcus Foundation for construction of an animal care center for our sanctuary gibbons. This is a real incentive to all of us to meet the match and donors feel they are getting double the value of their donations." Bequests have become another source of funding for the sanctuary, which is now 27 years old.

The Worst of Times

The funding picture is not completely rosy, however. Even organizations whose support has increased face financial challenges. Carole Sanders notes that the influx of donations precipitated by the news article on Animal Angels has now "dropped off with the exception of our regular [faithful] few."

Shirley McGreal believes that the International Primate Protection League's location makes fundraising harder. South Carolina, she observes, "is not a wealthy state." Additionally, "there are a lot of foundations in North Carolina, but a real dearth in South Carolina. Most of the foundations that do exist have very restricted missions." She also finds that "the direct mail market for animal protection is saturated and there are some very poor quality lists so fundraising through the mail is an increasingly tough challenge."

Nonprofits concerned with certain kinds of animals encounter additional challenges. Marjorie Bender, program coordinator for the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy of Pittsboro, North Carolina, explains, "Rare livestock breeds don't carry the glamour and exotic lure of the conservation of rare wildlife." Janelle Gourley, vice president of the Rebel Oaks Exotic Animal Sanctuary, Inc. in Noble, Oklahoma, agrees: "It is very hard to find grants or funding foundations for exotic animals." She continues, "There are many services [available] to domestic dogs and cats but few to cougars and bears."

Richard and Laura Hoyle face similar financial hurdles for Mini-Pigs, Inc., their Culpeper, Virginia, sanctuary for miniature pigs. Richard Hoyle reports, "What minimal support our sanctuary receives comes primarily from pet pig owners and pig lovers from around the country. Although a number of famous celebrities own potbellied pigs ... we have had no luck in being able to plead the pigs' case to any of them."

Hoyle notes that people's perceptions of the animals exacerbate the problem: "Pigs … suffer from a serious PR problem anyway. … The misguided and incorrect image of pigs as filthy, slovenly animals is a serious impediment to raising funds for their rescue." Further, "companion animal rescue organizations often refuse to assist with funding of pig sanctuaries since the animals are legally classified as livestock. Farm animal rescue groups refuse to support their rescue since they are obviously not farm animals."

Publicity—A Double-Edged Sword

Animal-welfare organizations also find that publicity can have a negative side. Although it can stimulate contributions, it frequently increases demands on the nonprofit as well. Jo Anne Normile is president of the Communication Alliance to Network Thoroughbred Ex-Racehorses (CANTER), a Plymouth, Michigan, organization that finds homes for retired racehorses that otherwise would be slaughtered. She describes the situation CANTER is facing:

This year numerous national magazines have written articles on this unique Michigan based program and CANTER is proud to announce the addition of new programs operating in other racing states. Within the last three months we have added a CANTER in Illinois, a CANTER of West Virginia, a CANTER in Minnesota and in the starting gate is a CANTER in Ohio. Inquiries from other racing states are received on nearly a daily basis.

That's the good news for our nation's racehorses but unfortunately the sudden interest in the program means three times as many horses being processed through the program yet we are operating on a 1999 budget. Fundraising at this critical time of explosive expansion is our deepest concern.

Other nonprofits report the same problem. Nicholas Carter of Border Collie Rescue notes, "Though the demand for adopting a dog has increased, so have the requests to relinquish dogs to our care." According to Ann Seidner, Cats Exclusive is "receiving many phone calls from people who want to surrender cats. We have a waiting list and try to coax the people into keeping the cat until we have room." Richard Hoyle says that Mini-Pigs "has been featured in newspapers, magazines and on the local television stations out of Washington, DC. The result has been an increase in the number of calls we get to rescue or take in pet pigs, but virtually no offers of support."

Publicity has generated an additional difficulty for Border Collie Rescue. Carter explains, "Because of the success of our program and the international attention it has garnered in the media, we have acquired a small group of personal critics of our program that have spent a great deal of time trying to inhibit our progress. Combating false rumors and negative opinions concerning our organization is not a task that we were expecting to encounter in our growth, nor one that we are particularly fond of addressing. Time spent battling false accusations and rumors could be better spent on something far more important—helping Border Collies in need."

Help through the Internet

Several groups have turned to the Internet as a tool to raise funds and inform contributors. Defenders of Wildlife has developed the Defenders Electronic Network (DEN) to e-mail news and action alerts to 310,000 people. President Rodger Schlickeisen terms DEN "a powerful tool to alert citizens about important environmental issues in a timely and cost-effective manner."

The International Primate Protection League also alerts members via e-mail, and The Marine Mammal Center has found the Net to be "an invaluable tool to inform about our work." Susan Andres explains:

We receive website visitors from around the world. It is updated with breaking … events as they occur, so it's a dynamic medium. In addition, when working with the media on stories or others interested in our work, we often refer them to the site for background information. It has helped us to more efficiently address information requests and thereby enhance exposure. Our long-range plans include increasing our online communications and fundraising activities.

Shirley McGreal reports that the International Primate Protection League's Web site has already helped with fundraising. "Our web site ... has started to bring in new members. We link with other organizations and post a variety of primate and general animal lists. This really helps our campaigns and petition drives." Bob Silver reports that the Horse Protection Association of Florida's site "has resulted in a substantial number of contacts and supporters for our work."

The Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage, Inc. in Zambia has "benefited tremendously over the past 12 months through an increased focus on the internet." Trustee Doug Cress reports from Boston, Massachusetts, that the organization's Web site, which was launched in August 1999, "is already becoming an integral part of the sanctuary's fundraising, logistics and advertising." He continues:

The site itself has received well over 4,000 hits and earned several awards, but it is the ability to advertise our own merchandise, sign up on-line memberships and on-line chimpanzee adoptions, and link up with other animal welfare organizations that has made the greatest difference. In addition, the website allows us to inform our members of news in a much more timely and colorful fashion than the old, quarterly newsletter. Alliances with websites such as Virunga and WildNet Africa have helped us spread the word about our work, and we recently freed two chimps from a deplorable zoo in the Central African Republic—with much of the paperwork and logistics accomplished through the web.

Carole Sanders of Animal Angels says, "The internet has been the most valuable tool I have found to raise funds and support and share information. … The exposure the internet provides cannot even be gauged. … We are able to touch the lives of animals and be touched by them from all over the world." Richard Hoyle notes, "The Internet has been a great help to" Mini-Pigs. "Exposure via our website and linking to other sites has provided a great deal of public exposure for the animals and the sanctuary with a minimal investment in time and money."

Some groups, such as CANTER and the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, work extensively through the Internet. Michael Mountain reports that Best Friends went online in the early 1990s, making the sanctuary "one of the first animal organizations to operate online." Today, he says, "The Best Friends network is primarily internet-based, consisting of an e-mail volunteer network and bulletin boards where people offer advice and assistance to others." The organization will be starting an online membership program this fall.

Other Strategies

Animal-welfare nonprofits continue to raise support outside cyberspace. The Marine Mammal Center holds special events for donors who give more than $500 a year. According to director of development Pamela Westfall-Bochte, donors particularly enjoy witnessing "the releases of rehabilitated animals back to their ocean homes—these releases truly allow donors to experience their gifts at work."

Susan Andres also points to The Marine Mammal Center's Adopt-A-Seal® Program, which "enables people to adopt a previously rehabilitated patient and thereby contribute to the rehabilitation of those animals currently in our hospital." Another benefit of this program is that it "educates people about the issues that marine mammals face to their survival."

Michael Mountain notes that fundraising appeals from the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary differ from those used by a number of animal-welfare organizations. Faced with "endless quantities of sad, shocking, gruesome photos and stories of animals in distress" and the message "that the situation would get worse for these animals unless we sent money NOW!" Best Friends decided to "send out only materials that we ourselves would want to receive." The sanctuary, he continues, "raises funds entirely through sending our members good news about what their dollars have achieved. Our members and donors enjoy what we send them, and we enjoy sending it. We regularly receive requests for extra copies of what, from other organizations, would be called 'junk mail.'"

Success Stories

Despite the challenges they face, animal-welfare groups have many success stories to share. Nicholas Carter sees Border Collie Rescue's Birdstrike Control Program as "an all-around positive venture." He explains:

We are helping to save dogs (as funds generated help support the entire rescue organization), as well as saving the lives of birds (that avoid being hit by airplanes), saving money for the airlines, consumers, and the general population (by reducing the costs of birdstrikes to aircraft), and potentially saving people's lives (by making air travel safer for the flying public). It's a win-win situation, no matter how you look at it. And though we cannot assist every Border Collie in need across the country, it gives us pride to know that we are accomplishing our small part in this tremendous undertaking.

Carole Sanders tells of a wounded Akita that Animal Angels rescued. "Magic" was adopted two years later "and lived happily ever after. This is what we are all about."

Richard Hoyle takes satisfaction in knowing that the pigs living at the Mini-Pigs sanctuary "are happy and healthy. All have been rescued from lives of horrible abuse or saved from slaughter."

Shirley McGreal notes that the International Primate Protection League is "helping primate rescue centers in many countries with funds and volunteers and we have many tales of animals who would otherwise have died, but who are living happily in spacious enclosures. We have provided 80% of the running funds for the Limbe Wildlife Center in Cameroon. … Recently we gave phone advice and funds to a Thai sanctuary taking care of an injured baby gibbon and we have been told that our help was a major factor in his survival."

Ann Seidner of Cats Exclusive echoes McGreal's sentiments:

The best part of running our organization is the satisfaction that comes when we adopt a cat out to a good home. We are a no-kill shelter and once we take a cat in, it stays until it is adopted out. … It is also very satisfying when we are able to get feral cats spayed/neutered and re-released and maintained by caring volunteers. In 4 years, our organization has been responsible for spaying and neutering more than 3,000 cats and adopting out more than 750 cats.

Sandra Farnik, director of the Clarence Foundation, of Darien, Illinois, reports:

We are 3 years young and provide service dogs free of charge to disabled children and adult recipients. We adopt our pups/dogs from humane societies and animal rescue groups. … These are formerly unwanted dogs[;] many would be put to sleep. Volunteers provide tlc and these pups are nurtured into becoming helpers to disabled children/adults. These dogs can perform up to 70 tasks to aid their recipients in going to school/work, shopping, household help, etc. This is the BEST part of working with The Clarence Foundation, [the] full circle of dogs aiding their new owners.

Supporters of the Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge in Oakland, New Jersey, are excited about the shelter's new Pet Emergency Assistance Program (PEAP). According to Karen C. Russo, vice president of the board of trustees, PEAP "provides temporary, short term care for the pets of individuals facing a medical emergency. The program takes a proactive approach to pets at risk of being left homeless."

Michael Mountain sees "the fact that the number of homeless pets being killed in shelters every year has now dropped to five million [from fifteen million in 1987]" as "remarkable evidence of what has been achieved in the last decade." Supporters of the Best Friends Sanctuary "now believe that No More Homeless Pets is a practical goal [that can be achieved] by the year 2010."

Linda Deveney, treasurer of the Good Mews Animal Foundation in Marietta, Georgia, celebrates the six extra years of life the foundation was able to give an abused cat named Dillon. Debbe and Dave Evans, vice president and treasurer, respectively, of the Fancy Cats Rescue Team in Herndon, Virginia, tell of Charlie, a cat whose owner had just died and who was scheduled to be put to sleep because the vet thought he might have cancer. Charlie wasn't in pain, so Fancy Cats took him. He is still alive today.

CANTER's Jo Anne Normile writes of Make It Happen, a thoroughbred who won a race in 1999 but was awaiting slaughter the following January. CANTER bought "Happy," nursed him back to health, and found a new home for him.

In the end, it is stories like these that sustain the people who work with animal-welfare organizations. For Shirley McGreal, "the best part" of her work with the International Primate Protection League "is the time I can spend in hands-on care of our 31 sanctuary gibbons. They are a constant source of motivation and have kept me functioning for 27 years without burning out."

For Nicholas Carter, "the best part of running our organization is the knowledge that [we] are helping dogs in need." Carole Sanders notes, "People ask, how can you let them [rescued animals] go after caring for them and loving them? How can we not[?] Every animal in our care deserves [its] own home and family."

About This Article

To gather information for topical articles like this one, GuideStar sends an e-mail query to all nonprofit organizations in our database that work in the appropriate subject area and that also participate in GuideStar. For "The Dog Days of Summer," we contacted 156 organizations; for our forthcoming article on nonprofits fighting hunger, we e-mailed 272 nonprofits.

In general, about 10 percent of the organizations respond. From their replies, we select the statements that best outline different aspects of the organizations' work—the challenges they're facing, successes they've had, new programs they're trying.

Inclusion in a GuideStar article does not constitute endorsement by GuideStar. GuideStar does not evaluate the charities in our database; our mission is to provide information that will enable donors and nonprofits to make their own decisions. That is why we try to let the organizations speak for themselves as much as possible, both in their GuideStar Reports and in our feature articles.

GuideStar is not a watchdog organization. The Better Business Bureau and the National Charities Information Bureau, however, do evaluate several hundred charities according to their respective standards of accountability, governance, and financial performance. Should you have concerns about a particular organization, you can contact the Better Business Bureau's Philanthropic Advisory Service at (703) 247-9329 and the National Charities Information Bureau at (212) 929-6300.

Sources Cited

  • American Association of Fundraising Counsel. "Total Giving Reaches $190.16 Billion as Charitable Contributions Increase $15.80 Billion in 1999: Second Largest Increase of the Decade." Press Release, May 24, 2000.
  • Andres, Susan, director of marketing, communications, and membership, The Marine Mammal Center, Sausalito, California. E-mail to Suzanne E. Coffman, July 27, 2000.
  • Bender, Marjorie, program coordinator, American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, Pittsboro, North Carolina. E-mail to Melanie Beaumont, July 24, 2000
  • Carter, Nicholas B., executive director of Border Collie Rescue, Inc., Melrose, Florida. E-mail to Suzanne E. Coffman, July 25, 2000.
  • Cress, Doug, trustee, Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage, Boston, Massachusetts. E-mail to Suzanne E. Coffman, July 25, 2000.
  • Deveney, Linda, treasurer, Good Mews Animal Foundation, Marietta, Georgia. E-mail to Suzanne E. Coffman, August 2, 2000.
  • Evans, Debbe, vice president, and Dave Evans, treasurer, Fancy Cats Rescue Team, Herndon, Virginia. E-mail to Suzanne E. Coffman, August 2, 2000.
  • Farnik, Sandra, director, the Clarence Foundation, Darien, Illinois. E-mail to Suzanne E. Coffman, July 30, 2000.
  • Foundation Center. "All Fields Benefit from Dramatic Rise in Giving by Top-Ranked U.S. Foundations." Press release, January 2000.
  • Gourlay, Janelle, vice president, Rebel Oaks Exotic Animal Sanctuary, Noble, Oklahoma. E-mail to Melanie Beaumont, July 24, 2000.
  • Hoyle, Richard, director, Mini-Pigs, Inc., Culpeper, Virginia. E-mail to Suzanne E. Coffman, July 24, 2000.
  • McGreal, Shirley, chairwoman, International Primate Protection League, Summerville, South Carolina. E-mail to Suzanne E. Coffman, July 23, 2000
  • Mountain, Michael, president, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, Kanab, Utah. E-mail to Suzanne E. Coffman, July 31, 2000.
  • National Center for Charitable Statistics. "Where the Large Charitable Gifts Go: Giving Patterns from 1996 to 1999." Spring 2000.
  • Normile, Jo Anne, president, Communication Alliance to Network Thoroughbred Ex-Racehorses (CANTER), Plymouth, Michigan. E-mail to Suzanne E. Coffman, August 1, 2000.
  • Russo, Karen, C., vice president, board of trustees, Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge, Oakland, New Jersey. Letter to Suzanne E. Coffman, July 25, 2000.
  • Sanders, Carole, president and director, Animal Angels, Paradise, Texas. E-mail to Suzanne E. Coffman, July 24, 2000.
  • Schlickeisen, Rodger, president, Defenders of Wildlife, Washington, D.C. E-mail to Suzanne E. Coffman, August 2, 2000,
  • Seidner, Ann, development chair, Cats Exclusive, Inc., Margate, Florida. E-mail to Suzanne E. Coffman, July 27, 2000.
  • Silver, Bob, secretary-treasurer, Horse Protection Association of Florida, Inc., Miami, Florida. E-mail to Suzanne E. Coffman, July 23, 2000
  • "Toward 2000 and Beyond: Charitable and Social Change Giving in the New Millennium." A Craver, Mathews, Smith & Company Donor Study conduced by Peter D. Hart Research Associates. 1999, p. 10.
  • Westfall-Bochte, Pamela, director of development, The Marine Mammal Center, Sausalito, California. E-mail to Suzanne E. Coffman, July 27, 2000.


suzanne-coffman-150x150.jpgThe preceding post is by Suzanne Coffman, GuideStar’s editorial director. See more of Suzanne’s sector findings and musings on philanthropy here on our blog. 
Topics: Nonprofits Welfare