Animal Charities Put Donation Money to Work

Potential donors have a variety of resources to help them choose a charity to support and the means in which to provide the funding.

By Marissa Heflin | Posted: May 15, 2007 5 a.m. EDT

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Americans gave about $260.28 billion to charities in 2005, $8.86 billion of it going toward environmental organizations and groups working for animal welfare, reported Giving USA, a publication of Giving USA Foundation, researched and written by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

This sector saw a 16.4 percent increase from the prior year. Cheryl and David Duffield, who contributed $93 million to Maddie’s Fund, the animal welfare organization they created in 1999, topped environmental and animal contributions for 2005.

In turn, these charities distribute money toward animal-related causes, many in the form of grants.

Maddie’s Fund is an example of money at work. It announced in December that it is offering spay/neuter grants of up to $200,000 over two years. The grants are for counties with Live Animal Release Rates of 40 percent or less, counties where the animal control, traditional and rescue shelters euthanize 60 percent or more of the total shelter population of dogs and cats.

Earlier in the year, other animal charities announced how they will distribute their money. Morris Animal Foundation approved funding for 2007 in the amount of $4.3 million. The money will go toward 55 new studies and 45 continuing studies addressing issues such as canine cancer and influenza virus, feline leukemia and kidney disease, and equine genetics and pain management.

Since MAF funded its first feline study in 1950, the organization has provided $4.9 million in financial support for 144 feline studies, including studies that helped lead to the first vaccine for feline leukemia.

A recent MAF-funded study identified that the drug fenoldopan holds promise for treating cats with acute renal failure. Another recent study successfully tested a long-acting, single-dose sterilization vaccine that could help to humanely control feral cat populations.

Current studies are investigating feline asthma, feline leukemia virus, feline injection-site sarcomas, gastrointestinal disorders, heart disease, hyperthyroidism and urinary disease, among others.

The Winn Feline Foundation recently announced that it is funding eight studies for a total of $127,544.

One of the studies will examine the ability of transdermal gels to deliver drugs into the bloodstream of cats following several days to weeks of therapy.

The study, authored by Dr. Dawn Boothe of the Auburn University, will compare cats receiving drugs prepared as a transdermal gel for treatment of an illness with cats receiving the same drug orally. The drugs to be studied are prednisolone/prednisone, methimazole and metronidazole.

The study, entitled “Evidence of effective drug delivery using transdermal gel delivery systems in cats,” is receiving a grant in the amount of $14,990.

Other studies include, “Characterization of feline immune responses to recombinant DNA vaccines against avian H5N1 influenza virus,” by Dr. Elizabeth Uhl of the University of Georgia, for $15,000; and “Targeted gene mapping in gaps of the feline-human comparative map,” by Dr. William Murphy of Texas A&M University, for $14,585.

For pet lovers interested in donating, there are several resources to help guide the way. One is GuideStar, which provides information on more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations.

GuideStar offers tips for donors: clarify your values; identify your preferences; focus on the mission; verify a charity’s legitimacy; get the cold, hard facts; and avoid charities that won’t share information or that pressure you.

Charity Navigator, a nonprofit charity evaluator, is another resource. It provides information on more than 5,000 charities.

Charity Navigator suggests questions donors should ask before giving: Can the charity clearly communicate who it is and what it does? Can the charity define its short-term and long-term goals? Can the charity tell you the progress it has made (or is making) toward its goal? Do the charity’s programs make sense to you? Can you trust the charity? Are you willing to make a long-term commitment to the organization?

Pet owners may be surprised to learn that there are other ways to support a charity other than just donating cash, one of which is called planned giving. The North Shore Animal League America, a no-kill pet rescue and adoption organization in Port Washington, N.Y., provides some examples:

  • Bequests – This is through a will or living trust. A gift can be made of a specific amount, a percentage of an estate or even all or part of the residuary of an estate.Planned giving provides a lasting gift to the organization of choice, but there are other benefits as well. A valid planned gift will offer savings on income tax, capital gains tax, gift tax and estate tax, according to Pets In Need, a nonprofit, no-kill adoption shelter in Redwood City, Calif.
  • Charitable Gift Annuities – This is an agreement between the donor and the organization whereby the organization pays a certain amount of money to the donor each year in exchange for a gift.
  • Appreciated Assets – The donation of stocks, bonds or real estate.
  • Life Insurance Policies – A donor can name the organization as a beneficiary of his/her insurance policy.
  • Retirement Plans – A donor can name the organization as a beneficiary of his/her retirement fund. Upon the donor’s death, all or a portion of the unused balance in the account is transferred to the organization as a charitable gift.
  • Trusts – A charitable lead trust will generate funding for an organization until it is time to transfer the remainder of the fund to the donor’s heirs.

Pets In Need advises that potential donors consult an attorney or estate planner on all such matters.

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