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Testing Organisations

Periodically, I set tests for animal welfare/rights and vegan/vegetarian organisations in the UK and US to see if they past them. These tests are one of the ways I use to determine if the group is cost-effective, productive and deserves my support, recommendation and involvement.

My tests include signing up for e-newsletters, making donations, posting questions to their Web sites, attending events, reading publications, reviewing financial reports, volunteering my services, applying for jobs, asking others to make a donation in my name because I provided them with a professional service I would normally have charged them for and so on.

With one or two notable exceptions, most of the groups fail my test. It seems that many function on low levels of innovation and creativity. Some rely upon income from the dead (e.g., legacies) and do not care about their relationship with the living. Other aspects (usually disappointing) of their management style and campaigning or program effectiveness also become apparent from these tests.

I am not going to name any organisation–good, bad or indifferent–but I will summarise below some examples of my experiences. Do I report back to any group who fails one of my tests and explain why? No. Because I want to see how quickly or how long (if ever) it takes to make a correction or improve performance. If there is any pattern to be detected here I think it is one of lost opportunity.

One group, who I had not donated to but had some involvement with, repeatedly asked me on its Web site to sign up for e-newsletters, e-alerts and receive information in the regular mail. This I dutifully did. And when I began to realise I had signed up before and again before that, I made a point of signing up every three months just to see how long it would take to receive something. Anything! Well, I never did received anything in the mail but recently I started to receive e-alerts. This only took at least two years. This is a group with an annual budget of more than £1million. So, there’s no excuse for this incompetence. Nevertheless, the group should not have invited people to sign up to an e-newsletter without first having the means in place to deliver it. As I never received anything in the mail after I signalled my interest in their organisation, I presume they neither want my involvement nor my financial support.

To another group I made a significant donation in honour of a relevant topic for reasons it would be inappropriate for my to detail here. I didn’t a receive a prompt letter thanking me for my donation. It arrived some weeks later. I didn’t even get a phone call thanking me. I continue to receive their solicitations and mailings. I monitor carefully what they do because their work is interesting; however, I am disinclined to support them for the time being because of how they failed to recognise my donation. If they had responded personally and promptly I would feel differently.

I applied for a full-time position with one group, as I was more than appropriately qualified. Sometime after my interview, I had to call at least twice to find out the status of my application. Only then I was told I wasn’t required for a second interview, even though the position remained unfilled for sometime. I would feel differently about this group if they had not been so dismissive of my application.

I volunteered my professional services to more than one organisation. I even paid my own expenses to meet with them and donated my expertise to their projects. Eventually these situations came to nothing because of their choosing. The groups continue, from my monitoring of them, to be essentially where they were before I got involved.

I posted a question in response to a blog posted by one group on their Web site. The blog criticised a policy of another organisation which was an opponent. My question, which sought clarity on their position, was never answered. Why not?

Why not set your own tests? And see for yourself if your experience is the same as mine. If you discover a group fails a test you set them, well, question whether they continue to deserve your support.

 

 

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  1. Melissa
    May 21st, 2011 at 12:18 | #1

    Thanks for the interesting post, Kim! This is a topic I’m regularly thinking about, as I open one snail mail solicitation after another from animal groups of all stripes.

    The problem in your suggestion, as I see it, is that many of us (myself included) don’t have the time to do the exhaustive kind of screening or “testing” of organizations that you describe. What then? I clicked on your post partly because I was hoping that someone finally had done the legwork for me and was offering a list of “best groups.” Right now I’m just writing checks randomly . . . not to some, yes to others, distributing what modest resources I have mostly by intuition, or by the picture on whatever envelope most happens to move me that bill cycle. It feels scattershot.

    This might sound lazy on my part but it’s realistic! For others out there too. So . . . do you know of any such lists?

  2. May 23rd, 2011 at 08:01 | #2

    In the US there are organisations which rate nonprofits of all kinds based upon a set of criteria; however, I have heard over the years criticisms of them (e.g., the Better Business Bureau has its own charitable evaluation process). My recommendation is that we should assume individually the responsibility of making sure the funds we donate go to organisations we think are worthy of receiving them. At the very least ask groups for their financial and annual reports. US nonprofits are required to file annual reports with the IRS, which are available for public inspection via the IRS’s Web site.

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