A Culture Of Competition: How Charitable Giving Perpetuates Inequity
The other day I was chatting with a few leaders from other animal protection organizations. Although not the original purpose of our call, the conversation eventually turned into a discussion about what is holding our movement back. As my fellow advocates can imagine, we had a lot of thoughts on the topic, but something that we kept coming back to was competition vs. collaboration. And at the heart of this issue? Fundraising.
Fighting For Scraps
Year after year, Giving U.S.A. reports that animal and environmental nonprofits receive only about 3% of all charitable giving. That’s not a big piece of the overall pie — what does this slim figure actually look like for individual organizations? According to data from the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are around 15,000 registered and reporting 501(c)(3) public charities in the United States working on animal and/or environmental causes. If the total reported revenues of these cause areas were divided up equally, it would provide about $1.3 million for each animal/environmental charity.
But we know that revenues are not split evenly across each cause area, nor among the groups within each cause area. Indeed, even just among the organizations listed on Charity Navigator (which until recently only rated charities with revenues over $1 million for at least two consecutive years), there are over 100 animal organizations with expenses over $3.5 million and 30 with expenses over $13.5 million, most of which are humane societies and SPCAs that focus primarily or entirely on companion animal issues. By contrast, a 2016 Animal Charity Evaluators report found that ten major U.S. farmed animal organizations combined controlled less than $20 million.
We know that charitable giving isn’t distributed equally, and I’m not even advocating that it should be (though it sure would be great if animal advocacy got a bit more love). Organizations are unique, with varied needs that may demand more or less funding and resources to achieve their missions. However, funding isn’t just unequally distributed, it’s inequitably distributed.
Inequity In Fundraising
In Race To Lead, a survey of more than 5,000 nonprofit staff on their overall experiences of race and leadership, researchers found that 35% of people of color (POC) reported a lack of relationships with funding sources as a challenge or frustration faced on the job, compared to 25% of white respondents. Additionally, POC-led groups were the most likely to have budgets of less than $1 million. Findings like these aren’t unique.
The Bridgespan Group collaborated with Echoing Green to specifically research the depth of racial inequity in philanthropic funding. No surprise, they also found stark inequities: revenues of Black-led organizations are 24% smaller than the revenues of their white-led counterparts, and the unrestricted net assets of Black-led organizations are 76% smaller than their white-led counterparts. What’s more, a separate report found that foundation funding designated for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities accounts for just 0.2% of all U.S. grantmaking.
A Culture Of Competition
This is just the tip of the iceberg, and doesn’t even touch on the culture of philanthropy in the nonprofit sector and in animal advocacy, both of which further the inequity in fundraising. The “Nonprofit Hunger Games” are no joke – nonprofits have to compete with other nonprofits for the finite donor dollars available in order to survive. Giving Tuesday in particular noted the executive director of the Boston Women’s Fund, feels like a “rat race” that perpetuates competition among nonprofits, especially those that serve communities of color.
When it comes to winning donors’ attention, however, the inclination to support certain charities may actually be about familiarity rather than preference. Faunalytics’ study on people who donate to animal causes found that the smaller proportion of donations to non-companion animal charities (e.g., farmed animal charities) may be partially explained by their lack of visibility rather than donors’ lack of motivation. When presented with the option to expand their donations, many people took it.
Sharing The Spotlight
This Giving Tuesday, the Faunalytics team would like to use our platform to elevate ten organizations in our movement that we think deserve a bit of the spotlight. We haven’t analyzed the nitty gritty details of these organizations – we aren’t looking at their program/admin expense ratios (nor should you!) and we aren’t suggesting their work based on a specific definition of effectiveness. Our team members do, however, think that these groups are doing great work. We hope you’ll join us in supporting them this Giving Tuesday and beyond.
Africa Network For Animal Welfare
They keep tabs on and coordinate work with a number of groups working in a broad range of animal protection areas, and I really appreciate how they help people to evaluate where and how they can support such groups and initiatives.
Veganism is often thought of as one size fits all, and I love that AfroVeg pushes back against this overly simplistic view. They play a critical role in the movement by making sure that resources and support are both available and relevant to communities that are often not prioritized.
Animal Alliance Asia
I appreciate their work in promoting the importance of culturally, politically, and socioeconomically specific advocacy. They represent groups spanning the largest continent in the world while acknowledging and supporting the complexities that make them unique.
Food Empowerment Project
I think they do a really excellent job of connecting interrelated issues applicable to different social justice movements.
I really appreciate that Liberation 360 provides educational materials, such as why vegan consumerism alone will not save animals. I value compassion, anti-oppression, and smart solutions, which is why I also want to highlight that they work with communities that the food system disenfranchises to co-create a better system together.
Program For Pet Health Equity
This amazing program is focused on improving access to veterinary care for those not properly supported by the current system. I firmly believe income should not dictate whether or not someone has the ‘right’ to a companion animal, so services like theirs are an absolute necessity.
Rethink Your Food
I love that they are employing a multi-pronged approach to change that includes both individual and institutional outreach, and that it is all done through the lens of a culture and history that can't be generalized from surrounding areas.
Save Rez Dogs
I am inspired by what a small group of volunteers have accomplished in providing the resources needed to advocate on behalf of reservation dogs in their communities.
I especially admire that Sterling is trying to change the stereotype of animal welfare as a white woman’s industry, as well as building bridges with the Black community to engage them in community cat care.
Vegetarianos Hoy is a female-led organization that is an animal advocacy powerhouse in Latin America. This amazing organization works on numerous levels, helping expand the vegan food selection in the region, fighting against chicken confinement and rodeos, campaigning for the legal recognition of animals as sentient beings, and much more.
This is just a small handful of the many incredible organizations in our space that deserve support. There are several other donation options, including grant funding sources such as The People’s Fund (run by Mercy for Animals and focused on addressing racial inequity in funding), the Movement Grants program (run by Animal Charity Evaluators and aimed at building and strengthening global animal advocacy), or Women Funders in Animal Rights (a giving circle that prioritizes organizations run by women of color/women/non-binary advocates), to name a few.
To learn more about other ways that Faunalytics is working to address inequity in our organization and in the movement, please visit our Commitment to Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility.