How to select the right animal charity for you

November starts the holiday giving season. There are numerous reasons we donate to animal rights organizations, including sharing similar ideals, honoring or remembering a treasured pet, or wanting to make a positive impact on animals in Dayton and surrounding communities.

Over the past few years, I’ve received emails from readers asking if I had heard of a local animal charity and whether it was worthy of their donation. I’ve always steered them to websites such as Guidestar and Charity Navigator for general information. For example, Charity Navigator looks at the finance and accountability, impacts and results, leadership and adaptability and culture and community of a charity.

But what if the local animal charity hasn’t been reviewed by one of the websites? For advice on evaluating local animal charities, I spoke with an expert in the field who also loves animals.

Jenny Lewis is president and CEO of the Miami Valley Hospital Foundation and The Good Samaritan Foundation-Dayton. The foundations' missions are to support programs and services to improve and enhance the quality of care for patients and their families.

For example, currently all four of the Premier Foundations – Miami Valley Hospital Foundation, Good Samaritan Foundation-Dayton, Atrium Medical Center and Upper Valley Medical Center – are raising money for the purchase of additional COVID-19 tests for the Premier Hospitals' use.

Jenny’s family includes Bruno, a 55-pound pit/rottweiler mix rescue. They live in a rural area near Dayton and from time to time people will literally dump their unwanted pets on their property. The much-loved, 12-year-old Bruno was “dumped” on their property about 10 years ago.

Jenny has some specific questions she says you should ask when looking at an animal charity or any charity, local or national.

First, she said to designate your gift and be specific as to what you want it to support.

Many animal organizations have different programs such as spay and neutering services, adoption and fostering programs, health maintenance, emergency health care and training. On occasion, an animal has a special need and a charity will ask for donations. It’s important to designate where you want your donation to go or it will be placed in the general fund.

Also, ask how gifts made an impact the previous year and how many animals were cared for. On many animal charities' websites you can read stories about how a specific animal was adopted or received a special treatment through their charity.

Next, Jenny said you should ask what percentage of the gift goes to cover administrative costs. You want to look for charities that use the largest percentage of their donations on the animals' welfare

Ask what the need is for this year – what program or service needs your support the most and how it will make an impact. Many local charities will highlight special campaign drives throughout the year. Check their websites.

Jenny says a good question to ask is, what will happen if the need is not fulfilled or the money isn’t raised? Will the animal not get the surgery it needs? Will the program end?

Finally, ask or look for a board list to review the diversity and leadership of the organization. Many times, board members are listed on charities' websites. For an animal charity you want to see a good mix of local community leaders, veterinarians, pet trainers, pet owners and charity members.

Websites for basic charity information