How to Choose a Legitimate Pet Charity

The sad stories of so many homeless pets in need can touch the heart of even the toughest person, and often our first instinct is to try to help in some way. So that your act of charity does the most good, it’s important to ensure that you are supporting a worthy charity.  You want to make sure that the charity is legitimate, and also that it is well-run so that most (75-80%) of your donation goes towards actually helping pets, rather than for administrative expenses. How can you find out more about a specific charity before you give your hard-earned money?

First, decide how you want to help. Do you want to make a monetary donation, donate supplies, foster a pet in need, or volunteer your time?  Make sure the organization you want to assist accepts, and is in need of, the type of help you wish to offer. You can choose to help one of the large, well-known charities, or many people prefer to help a smaller local charity in their own neighborhood.

Next, find out if the group is considered a charitable, nonprofit organization.  A not-for-profit pet charity will have a 501(c) 3 tax-exempt status, and your donation will be tax-deductible. However, having tax-exempt status doesn’t guarantee the organization is legitimate or well-run.

Do some research by asking for written information from the charity, or a link to their website so you can find out more information such as the charity’s mission and goals, their finances, and how your donation will be used. There are a number of “watchdog” groups that you can use to find more information about the charity in question, such as the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, and GuideStar.

There are certainly many animal charities that can use your help, and it’s a great feeling to know you have contributed in a meaningful way. Just a little bit of research can help you ensure your hard-earned dollars will do the most good.

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There are 2 comments

  • Val says:

    My sister recently passed and we would like to make a considerable donation to her life passion, animals. We would like to have her name presented/posted as a loving donor. We are very concerned re: administration costs etc. as overhead to organizations. How could we ensure 100% of her donation would be beneficial to her choice of funds?

  • Erin Gleeson says:

    Hi Val, I’m so sorry to hear about your sister. You may want to check out charity rating sites if you’re concerned about how a group uses funds. Charity Navigator is one I’ve come across, but I know there are others as well. If the rescue is a 501(c)(3), it has to make certain financial records public each year. It might take some research, but you should be able to determine how donations are used by looking into past years’ information. A lot of groups are completely volunteer-based and have virtually no administrative overhead, so it might just take some digging to figure out if the groups your sister supported are among those.

    Also, many animal rescues have funds you can contribute to that are only used for specific causes- i.e., an emergency medical fund, a fund for mother dogs and puppies, or even a fund for a specific pet’s care. This could be a good option if your sister was passionate about a very specific cause and you want to ensure the entire donation supports that cause.

    I hope this helps! Again, I’m very sorry to hear of your loss.

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