“How can they get away with it?” is a question we often hear in reference to the so-called Humane Society of the United States, which raises money with pictures of dogs and cats and yet doesn’t run a single pet shelter and only gives 1% of its money to pet shelters across America. Since we launched in 2010, our goal has been to educate people as to what they’re really funding—a radical, PETA-like animal liberation group, not animal shelters—and to get them to donate to their local shelters directly.
And it seems folks are getting the message about HSUS.
We looked at HSUS’s financial data from 2010 through 2013 (the most recent data) and discovered a stunning decline in contributions to HSUS since we launched our campaign.
First, a quick note on our methodology. We used contributions as stated by HSUS on its financial statements. You may recall that HSUS used to count PSAs (public service announcements—free donated air time by TV stations) as contributions on its tax return—a practice prohibited by IRS rules. We, along with the independent watchdog CharityWatch and Bloomberg News, called out this practice. HSUS filed amended returns with egg on its face in late 2013.
But HSUS can still count PSAs on its financial statement, so we removed PSAs using data provided by HSUS. What we have left is a good representation of how much money HSUS is raising from the figurative little old ladies. Here’s what it shows:
|Contributions to ASPCA||Unadjusted Contribs to HSUS||HSUS PSA “Revenue”||HSUS “True” Contributions|
Whereas HSUS’s adjusted contributions in 2010 were $95 million, in 2011 they dropped significantly, rose slightly in 2012, and then dropped again in 2013—big time. HSUS now sits at $14 million less than it raised in 2010.
HSUS, of course, can jigger the numbers by lumping in revenue from HSUS affiliates, or PSA “revenue,” or stock market gains to make it seem like the ship isn’t taking any water. But when you drive down into contributions there’s a clear hit.
Compare those figures to the ASPCA, the main competitor to HSUS. In 2010, contributions to the ASPCA were about the same as those to HSUS, at about $97 million. They have increased to $115 million in 2013, compared to HSUS’s decline to $81 million in adjusted contributions.
One group is heading north, and one is heading south.
We can’t rest on our laurels: HSUS still has plenty of assets to dip into to try to rebound and market itself—including the $50 million it put into Caribbean hedge funds. But the trend is in the right direction, and it shows that our grassroots effort—which is helped by every action our readers take—is working. While HSUS may make money in any given year from the stock market or bequests that were written 10 or 20 years ago, year-to-year donors seem to be getting the message that HSUS isn’t what it seems to be.
Just recently HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle told POLITICO that we haven’t had an impact on HSUS because HSUS has doubled its revenue over the past 10 years. We’ve only been around for 5, in fact, and our impact is clear. The numbers don’t lie, even if Wayne cherry-picks his.