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On Restricted Funds

So you don’t like the large organizations that attempt to represent animal rights. You’ve got at least one serious issue with each of them. Serious enough that you don’t want to support them financially. Or at least not signicantly. Well, I’ve got a potential solution: give by way of restricted funds.

Restricted funds (donor-advised funds) are usually larger chunks of money, but don’t have to be, that are earmarked for a certain purpose. Let’s use Do The Planet Right, which I just made up, as an example. They have the best literature about the environmental and health reasons to go vegan, and their animal stance isn’t that farming is cruel, but that we don’t have the right to use animals as food. They’re perfect when it comes to what their literature actually says. But the campaigns are of the the usual larger cages, get elephants out of circuses, no gestation crates-variety, and that doesn’t interest me.

I can call Do The Planet Right’s development department (any big organization has one. It’s the people in charge of planning how the organization is going to attempt to become sustainable, and how it is going to bring in sufficient funds each year.). I can tell them that I want to make a donation, but I want it to go only to the vegan-advocating literature (/literature advocating veganism) and not to the welfare campaigns. After all, it’s my money. I can send a check, with a letter, asking then to allocate my funds toward the printing of literature. Or the postage. Or both. If they run out of money for their welfare campaigns, they cannot use my donation. It must be used for what it’s earmarked for.

If I don’t trust them to properly allocate my funds, I shouldn’t be dealing with them at all.

Large groups depend on some kind of campaigns in order to keep the money coming in. They have to demonstrate some kind of progress so they can continue to contact you to alert you of their progress and ask for more money to continue to make more progress. I ask you: What would campaigns for a true animal rights group look like? Loads of literature, yes. But what else? They’d be putting pressure on legislators and the public to do things like: ban circuses, ban greyhound racing, ban horse racing, ban rodeos, ban fur, and other uses of animals that are easier to tackle, probably, than banning cows for human consumption.

If the pressure is created by education and change comes from the public in the form of less demand for the supply of animal users, that’s one thing. But if the pressure is created by attempting to pass laws restricting animal use, like a state-by-state ban on horse racing, rodeos, circuses, and greyhound racing, that, my friends, is called lobbying, and the funds you just donated to your true animal rights group became instantly NOT tax-deductible.

Herein lies the problem. Your true animal rights group, if it’s going to have as its goal changing the property status of animals, is going to have to do some lobbying. And if it’s doing lobbying, which I have personal experience with, it’s not only going to have to ask donors to give and not get anything back (i.e., no deduction), but it’s going to have to play the lobbying game, which involves dressing the part and not coming across as a loony misanthrope.

Do you see the conundrum? There’s a reason "the movement" is a splintered mess. You can either find a way to support a large group, ditch the idea and go with one issue (e.g., carriage horses, zoos, dog and cat breeding), start your own group with your own agenda, or do nothing.

No group is everything to everyone. That’s a natural result of group dynamics. But if you’re not going to start your own group, why not find the best–for you–of what’s out there and create a way to support them (they should help you with this–they want your support) that makes you comfortable.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. I was under the impression that giving restricted funds generally makes no difference. The organization draws up a budget and then when you make a restricted donation they just fit it into the existing budget. So unless you make an extremely large restricted donation or convince a really large number of people to similarly restrict their donations it makes little difference in the operations or priorities of that organization.

    June 30, 2007
  2. A restricted donation MUST go to the line item in the budget that it is earmarked for. The organization CANNOT, for instance, put it toward general administrative expenses. The rules and regulations of nonprofit accounting are very specific about that. Now, can you change the priorities of an organization? That's a different issue. You would probably need a friend on the board (or get experience and work your way toward joining the board), a large contribution, or a group of donors to collaborate on an effort to alter the mission. It's like shareholder activism in the for-profit world. Thanks for this comment. It makes me realize I need to write more about this.

    June 30, 2007

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