As you watch this video about a rescue/rehab farm in the United Kingdom, you might wonder why I am suggesting that you donate to a British charity this Christmas. I'm actually suggesting that you just watch the video as an example of one aspect of World Horse Welfare's work. They do run farms in Great Britain, but their outreach programs mean that their educational impact is felt all over the world.
World Horse Welfare sets a standard for others to follow, develops programs that can be implemented by others, and inspires us all to become active in efforts that directly help horses recover from cruelty or neglect, or that help educate humans to take better care of horses.
We will all surely be besieged by requests for donations as the end of the year grows nearer. Many nonprofits are fighting for their very survival. But when those letters come in the mail, or into your email's in-box, don't give blindly based on an heart-tugging brochure or a well-worded appeal.
Check out a charity using tools like the Charity Navigator, which ranks non-profits according to the percentage of their annual budgets that might actually be used for programs to help horses rather than be used for executive salaries or posh fundraisers.
Would you rather give to an agency that prioritizes calculated, professionally-produced fundraising campaigns in its budgets...or to one that actually puts money to work for animals? If you donate to a university research fund, how much of your donation goes to the university as general revenue, and how much will actually reach the research fund?
You may be surprised to find out what some charities do with the money you donate, and if you are aware of it and still want to give, that's fine. Many people are shocked and angry what happens to their money...after the donation check has been cashed.
It's always a good idea to split your donations between local and national or international projects. Your local non-profits may not be listed on the big web sites like Charity Navigator, but you should be able to get information and see the agency or project in action.
People often ask me for suggestions of organizations that are deserving of their donations. I don't have good answers there, because there are many. Too many. If you have $100 to give each year, should you give it all to one organization, or split it between five?
Some people like to donate to organizations that give something in return, such as a newsletter or magazine or admission to a center or museum.
I generally suggest that people develop connections and awareness of issues and causes that are near and dear to their hearts. For many right now, this might mean wild horse preservation and rescue or so-called "unwanted" horses. If you can afford it, it might be advisable to space your giving over the year, so that as a crisis arises, you'd be able to help horses in dire need.
For my own giving, I like to support organizations that fund laminitis research, and I follow them like a hawk. I've always whole-heartedly supported the Animal Health Foundation because it is one of the few organizations that has had a huge impact on a problem with virtually 100% of donations going directly to research. You might feel that education is more important than research in relation to your topic, or wish to fund political action over education programs. Everyone has priorities.
Another organization I support is the equine ambulance and safety program of the Massachusetts SPCA. It sounds like a local program but it is actually national, in that the MSPCA educates people around the country in horse rescue techniques and provides consultation in all kinds of emergencies. They show up at horse trailer wrecks on the highway and were even on hand at the World Equestrian Games. But if I just donated to the MSPCA, it wouldn't do much good for the ambulance program; I know that I have to specify "equine ambulance" on my little check to make sure it goes to that fund.
Another possible way to help non-profits is to give thought to how you shop. Are there ways that you can buy gifts through a non-profit like
Lifesavers' Wild Horse Rescue so that they can benefit? Many non-profits maintain terrific online stores, and some major retailers give a percentage to non-profits; look on company websites like
Smartpak for their donation program information. Dover Saddlery runs the
"Dover Donations" program to support horse rescue.
And everyone is going to need a 2011 calendar in a few days; could you do better than the
beautiful 2011 Old Friends Calendar from the Old Friends Retirement Farm for Thoroughbreds? (You can also call 502-863-1775 or email firstname.lastname@example.org They now have farms in Kentucky and New York; Old Friends is an active organization that is very appreciative of even the smallest donation. And their calendar rocks!
What are your priorities when you consider a donation? Do you give based on emotion, your own experiences, or do you have a plan to support specific organizations or causes?
Another thing to keep in mind is whether your donations are tax deductible. The organization's tax status and the type, timing and amount of donation are critical. Check with an accountant before you make a donation if you want any sort of IRS credit for largess. If you don't itemize deductions of your taxes, your donation is just a donation. But it will do just as much good to the organization, and to your sense of helping out to make the horse world a better place.
And if you're like me and you can't give much money, you can volunteer, especially with local organizations. Your skills, your time and your energy might be just what they were hoping to find under their Christmas tree!