BREAKING: Charity Navigator Downgrades HSUS Ratings

This is huge news. Massive. Earth-shaking.

Charity Navigator, probably the best-known (read: best-marketed) nonprofit watchdog, grades organizations on how well they spend their money. Today Charity Navigator downgraded HSUS’s rating from "four stars" to just three.

For the second time today, we need to be clear: This is not an April Fools’ Day joke.

Google’s cache of the Charity Navigator web page shows that as of this morning, HSUS still had a 4-star rating. Did someone over at Charity Navigator see the full-page HumaneWatch ad in USA Today this morning? Could be.

Previously, HSUS had a score of 62.61. It's now just 51.57, a decline of 17 percent. And there's more.

The updated ratings show that HSUS’s “fundraising efficiency”—I should say inefficiency—got significantly worse in 2008. While Charity Navigator shows that HSUS spent 13 cents to raise every dollar in 2007, that number more than doubled to 27 cents. In other words, HSUS’s fundraising inefficiency doubled in 2008.

Additionally, Charity Navigator writes that the percentage of money HSUS spends on fundraising (as an overall percentage of its budget) nearly doubled between 2007 and 2008, from 12.7 percent to 24.2 percent. In contrast, the percentage that HSUS spends on its programs—you know, supposedly saving animals—also decreased by 11 percentage points.

Charity Navigator also downgraded the rating of Humane Society International (HSUS's global arm) from 3 stars (see the Google cache) to just 1 star this morning.

This should be encouraging news to HumaneWatchers everywhere. It is possible to set the record straight. And this should send a clear message to HSUS that you can’t just stuff donor dollars away in pension plans, share less than 1 percent of everyone's contributions with real-live pet shelters, and expect no one to notice.

Just two weeks ago, Wayne Pacelle was still using the 4-star rating as cover for HSUS’s abysmal financial record. So, Wayne, what’s your new talking point? (Hint: Don't fall back on the American Institute of Philanthropy: That group's "C-minus" overall rating of HSUS is still in effect.)