Friday, July 18, 2008

Humane Society: Continuing to Rip off the Rubes

Back in November of 2007, I wrote a piece on this blog entitled Why the Humane Society Will Never Change in which I asked:

"Would people donate [to HSUS] if they knew 70 cents out of every dollar they gave to HSUS was spent to send out more direct mail? NO. .... Would folks continue to donate to HSUS if they knew the organization did almost nothing to help fund local animal shelters? NO."

In another post
, I detailed the mechanics of the HSUS' direct mail machine in which I concluded that:

"I think, if you follow my narrative, you will see I am really quite conservative when I say 70 to 75 cents out of every dollar most folks give to HSUS will simply go to paying for more direct mail. The real figure, for the average donor to HSUS, is well over 100 percent."

Well, guess what? I was right, and the The Los Angeles Times has finally caught up with me.

They report that the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) gets a "net return" of only 11 percent on their direct mail, and that PETA gets 28 percent. When the cost of central-office management is factored in, I have no doubt the true numbers are even lower.

What this means is that 90 percent of the direct mail money folks are giving to the Humane Society of the U.S. goes down the rat hole of more direct mail, most of which is tossed out unopened, having first been chainsawed out of ancient boreal forests in Canada). About 75 percent of the money folks give to PETA goes down the rat hole of more direct mail as well.

And what of the remaining money -- the small fraction that goes to "program?" In the case of HSUS, not one dime goes to support local shelters, but quite a lot goes to support folks like Wayne Pacelle and his staff who oversee the direct mail machine.

And over at PETA, of course, they have to keep their kill shelter going -- the PETA animal shelter where 90 percent of the dogs that enter are killed using "the blue solution."

At the end of an earlier piece, I wrote:

"If Wayne Pacelle or anyone at HSUS wants to go over specific HSUS numbers with me, I am more than happy to do so, as I work right around the corner from their office in Washington, D.C., and I would be only too happy to drop by to pick up a copy of their accounting ledgers.

In fact, if Mr. Pacelle will give me a copy of their raw direct mail expense and income data (not the processed IRS-990 data, but the real numbers showing the costs of postage, printing, paper, creative consultants, cost of caging operations, etc), I will buy him lunch and we can go over the data and run a cohort analysis to figure out how long it takes for a HSUS member to 'go green' and get out of the red.

My only stipulation is that after I run the data, I can publicize it. After all, who knew truth to suffer in a free and open investigation?

If am wrong about the fact that 70-75% of all HSUS direct mail money is going out to pay for more direct mail, I will be more than happy to report my error. After all, as Charles Barkley so famously said, 'I could be wrong . . . but I doubt it.'"

And was I wrong this time?

No I was not. As I said in my original post, my numbers were conservative. And they were. It turns out that the real data is even worse.


Anonymous said...

Before I throw the stuff in the trash, I do pull out the return address stickers that are usually included and use them, then I throw the rest out in the trash. This goes for all "charitable" organizations that bombard me with crap. Have to say though I have never gotten anything from PETA so far.


Anonymous said...

The HSUS has got to be one of the worst organizations in the nation for fleecing of the American public. It is frustrating and every day I have to educate non hunters about the damage this organization has done and the lies they spread. I hope that story continues to get out.\

Keep up the great reporting!!!

Anonymous said...

What is so frustrating is even know the LA times shows those the very same time they write the following article about the HSUS...,0,4840426.story?page=1

I just cannot understand why they support this organization so strongly.

Anonymous said...

I doubt that the Times does 'support' H$U$ or Pacelle. They just want to sell papers and advertising - and cute and fuzzy or pathetic and 'abused' - sells.

If you want a bit more irony in this direction, why has Dog Fancy Magazine (aka the best place to find a mill puppy this side of the interweb) run ads from HSUS and PETA the last two months in a row?

Simple - because they got paid to and because this month's bottom line is all that matters.

Caveat said...

So, does the H$U$ owns the direct mail, for-profit company?

That's the only thing that would make sense.

Chas S. Clifton said...

I tend to believe you, but a quick check at Charity Navigator shows different numbers for PETA.

Chas S. Clifton said...

Following my previous numbers, though, "expenses" can be shuffled into different categories -- I realize that!

PBurns said...

You don't have to believe me: The L.A. Times ran the data themselves(see the link in the above post).

As for Charity Navigator, as I note in a link also in the above post (and to be found here >> ) it is joke -- a creation of the nonprofit direct mail industry to fluff the nonprofit direct mail industry. And I know: I worked in the industry for a long time.

As I noted in my previous post:
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

"In fact, a huge portion of what is listed as a "program expense" for [PETA, HSUS, etc.] is really nothing more than direct mail costs for paper, printing, postage, name acquisition, and consultants to manage the direct mail machine.

"Or, to put it bluntly, HSUS and many other nonprofit organizations [like PETA] lie, and charity ranking sites like 'Charity Navigator' simply repeat those lies. ...

"The fact that the direct mail industry has spent a lot of time, money and influence getting the IRS and folks like Charity Navigator to allow them to call direct mail costs a 'program expense' does not make it so.

".... the IRS allows nonprofit groups like HSUS [and PETA] to calculate what 'percentage' of their direct mail letters are to be counted as 'fundraising.'

"The calculations to support these numbers are pretty amusing. If they have a 4-page letter (the average length) which sets out 'the problem' for 3.5 pages and asks for a gift in the last half page, then 87 percent of the letter is deemed to be 'education' and listed as a 'program expense,' and only 13 percent or so is deemed to be 'fundraising.'

"If you think this makes sense, you are ready to join the Washington, D.C. nonprofit direct mail industry.

"In fact, a direct mail letter is no more about 'education' than a used care salesman's pitch is about auto mechanics. Both exist for one reason: to close the sale and separate you from your wallet."

To see how Defenders of Wildlife does its accounting (for example), see >> PETA is doing the exact same thing, as is HSUS.