Did you know that only four per cent of us here in British Columbia have planned bequests in the event of our death? And that a mere two per cent of all charitable donations in Canada are directed to environmental and animal protection organizations? These are sobering statistics for the charitable sector and downright depressing ones for animal charities.
Animals and their suffering matter to me. They’re not able to speak for themselves – and in every instance, they’re at the mercy of humans and their activities. That’s why I have provided a bequest to the Vancouver Humane Society in my will. And I hope that some of you will consider doing the same – bequeathing a part of your earthly estate to a cause that matters to you. Here’s why.
At the Vancouver Humane Society, we depend on bequests for about one-third of our revenue each year. In fact, it was a bequest that provided the means to hire program directors rather than relying on one underpaid employee and overworked volunteers to manage the many issues that animals face in BC. This has meant a huge boost in productivity – the successes we’ve had are many. But our future is still dependent upon the generosity of those who think ahead, beyond their lifetimes, when the animals will still need their help.
Some people hesitate to give to animal charities (or any charities). How do you know if an animal charity does what it says it does? You have to do your research. The name of an organization is not enough to make a decision – it doesn’t provide any information as to how effective the organization is at carrying out its mission. For that kind of information, you need to dig a little deeper –by looking at the organization’s website, annual reports (including yearly financials), newsletters and other resources that can and should be readily available.
Another good source of information, particularly about how much money charities have and what they spend it on, is the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) - http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/menu-eng.html. Charities’ information returns are posted annually and reveal, among other things, how much money was spent on fundraisers and the range of salaries for employees.
Although there seems to be quite a bit of information in the information return, some of it can be misleading. For instance, management and administrative expenditures are somewhat loosely defined by CRA and many expenses, such as salaries, can be considered administrative or program expenses. Even if a charity spends a major portion of its expenses on salaries, it’s wise to remember that charities need people to develop and carry out programs. Of course there are thousands of volunteers who generously give their time to help others. However, volunteerism is becoming increasingly difficult to fit into busy lifestyles, especially as families often need two wage earners to make ends meet. The right paid staff is invaluable and provides stability, consistency and effectiveness.
The bottom line is that donors, including those who provide for charities in their wills, need to do their homework. Phone the charity; speak to the executive director; ask what achievements have been accomplished, not only recently, but in the past. Read, listen and ask. Then call your lawyer, and extend your compassion – not only beyond your lifetime, but also, I hope, to the other species that share this wonderful world with humans.
Vancouver Humane Society