When You Give to Us, Where Does Your Money Go?


Second Chance Rescue used a grant from the Petfinder Foundation to buy 14 extra-large dog crates. The crates let them save dogs like Sprokett, who’d been scheduled for euthanasia at a shelter. “He’s now very happy in a wonderful foster home!” Second Chance’s Debi Root tells us. “Thank goodness we had the room (and the crate) to take him in before his time was up — he’s one terrific boy!”

Emily Fromm, VP of development

Once in a while someone will write to me and ask, “If I donate to you, how much of my money will go to actually helping pets?”

This is a question I’m always happy to answer, because it gives me a chance to show off the fact that the Petfinder Foundation does great work at very little administrative expense. It’s a question everyone should ask before giving to charity, and I’m going to tell you how to find the answer in our Form 990, the return we file each year with the IRS. You can follow the same steps with any organization’s 990 (many make theirs available on their websites, or you can use independent watchdog group Charity Navigator’s 990 finder).

You can find our 990s from 2008 through 2011 on our About Us page, or open our 990 for 2011 by clicking here. (We’ll post our 2012 form in the spring after the accountants have submitted it to the IRS.)

On our 990 for 2011, go to p. 10, the Statement of Functional Expenses. Here’s where you can see how we spent our money in 2011. Our total expenses, at the bottom of column A, were $6,625,517. Of that total, $6,490,962, or 98%, went to program service expenses — that is, the programs that help homeless pets (that includes $6,209,323, or 94% of our total expenses, in grants directly to the shelters and rescue groups).

You’ll also see that we spent $75,201 (1.1%) on management and general expenses and $59,354 (0.9%) on fundraising. So …. is that good? Well, according to Charity Navigator, “the most efficient charities spend 75% or more of their budget on their programs and services and less than 25% on fundraising and administrative fees.” So with 98% of our budget going to programs and services, we are really efficient.

Trinity had been in constant pain from a botched declaw. Our grant allowed her rescuers, CATS Cradle, to get her surgery to relieve her suffering.

But you don’t have to take our word for it. We’ve been reviewed by the three major independent watchdog organizations: the Better Business Bureau (we have an A+ rating), Charity Navigator (we have four out of four stars) and GuideStar (we have five out of five stars).

One thing we don’t spend our money on: for-profit telemarketing firms. You may have read some of the recent exposés about these companies and the huge percentage of donors’ money that they keep for themselves. (Here’s Charity Navigator’s article about them.)

If you ever receive a call from the Petfinder Foundation, I can promise you it will be from me or another member of our three-person staff. We never have, and never will, hire a telemarketing firm, nor do we purchase mailing lists.

Back to our programs and services. We give grants to the adoption groups who post their pets on Petfinder.com — meaning the overwhelming majority of shelters and rescue groups in North America. Our grants are designed to help groups find homes for their adoptable pets, prepare for and recover from natural disasters, and become more sustainable.

An organization must apply for a grant in order to receive funds. Some of our grant programs include emergency management and disaster recovery, vaccination, Train to Adopt (in which we train shelter dogs to make them more adoptable), transport (moving pets from crowded shelters to regions where they are more likely to find homes) and Rescue U (volunteers renovate dilapidated or disaster-damaged shelters). We also give grants for care and feeding, spay/neuter and general operations.

But all our grants are designed with one ultimate goal in mind: ending the euthanasia of adoptable pets. That means we do whatever it takes to help shelters and rescue groups keep the pets in their care physically and mentally healthy, and available to adopters who will give them loving forever homes.

Charitable giving is a great way to have an impact and receive a tax deduction. I hope this post has answered any questions you may have had about giving to us. If it hasn’t, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at emily [at] petfinderfoundation.com. You can also learn more about us by exploring our website, following us on Facebook or signing up for our monthly newsletter. Thank you for everything you do to help homeless pets!

Other resources:

Real Simple: What to Consider When Making Charitable Donations

Charity Navigator: Top 10 Best Practices of Savvy Donors

Charity Navigator: Evaluating Charities Not Currently Rated by Charity Navigator

Charity Navigator: Holiday Giving Guide: Giving Tips