Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: May 2, 2023 by Crystal Uys


Written by Peter Kennedy*

Many of us are interested in supporting organizations and charities that do great work in certain interest areas, especially in the form of supporting one or more animal charities. But do you know how to narrow down your options to make a decision on an organization that is worthy of a donation? Below are a few helpful tips that will assist you when it comes to choosing the right animal charity.

What Are You Focused On?

Before deciding to volunteer, write a check, or shop for an animal charity, first be clear on what you would like the donation or contribution to do. What is important to you?

Are you interested in supporting a small local shelter or rescue that operates on volunteers, heart, and a small shoestring budget?

Maybe you prefer supporting an organization that researches specific health issues? Maybe you’re interested in helping to feed pets of destitute or homeless people? Maybe you’d like to support a wildlife charity?

Do you want to support cats or dogs, or all types of animals? Maybe you are interested in specific types or breeds of cats and dogs that you would like to help? For example, you might may want to support an organization that cares for colonies of feral cats, or help an organization that rescues greyhounds from the tracks and re-homes them.

Where Does The Charity Operate From?

Are you interested in supporting national or international organizations, or do you prefer to support local ones? Would you like to support a newer charity that is just starting out or a well-established one?

How To Find The Right Charity For You

Focus on the mission of the charity. Once you have selected three to four possibilities, start finding out more about where the donation is going to go. There are several websites that you can use to narrow done your choices since they have already collected information and done a lot of research on every charity featured on their lists.

Do a web search on “choosing an animal charity.” The websites that come up include various helpful tips that will guide you through this process. They can also assist you when it comes to weeding out a non-legitimate cause that is marketing itself as a charity.

Check out financials

One of the easiest ways to evaluate potential charities for the donation you would like to give is to ask how much will go directly to a cause and how much will go into “overhead”. Even though you probably want your donation to go directly to a cause, in reality, the only way these organizations can survive, collect data (to assess what type of impact they are having) and organize their missions, they need overhead to ensure their mission remains successful. Dan Pallotta, who is known well for his TED talks and organizing highly successful AIDS Rides and the Breast Cancer 3-Day walks, says “do not ask about the overhead size of an organization, but rather about the size of their dreams”. Provided the percentage of the overhead is reasonable, you can expect that all legitimate charities will have overhead expenses that they have to cover.

Ask questions

Once you have chosen 2 to 3 charities, contact them and ask questions. Ask about the type of progress the charity has made toward its goals. Ask how these goals are measured and accomplished. Ask the charity to provide its Annual Report. Is this report inspiring and/or does it display how the mission of the charity is in alignment with your specific philosophy? You should also ask about each organization’s privacy policy. You want to make sure your information is not sold to any other non-profits, telemarketers, or mailing houses.

Be patient while you wait for answers. Many small charities are usually solely run by volunteers that may be doing many different things at once. This means it may take a couple of days before someone will respond.

Most donations are usually motivated by a personal connection. Perhaps a story on the news has motivated you to make a donation, or a friend has asked you to support one of the charities that are near to their hearts. Major organizations often have a large marketing budget, while many worthy smaller charities don’t have the budget or marketing know-how, or even the extra hands to achieve such marketing.

This does not mean the organization is less worthy. In most cases, these charities are extremely passionate about their cause and they operate on shoestring budgets. In some cases, they even pay the expenses from personal bank accounts or out of their own pockets.

Do your research to ensure that a charity’s claims are backed up. With animal charities and organizations, it is mostly the grassroots, small charities that are working the hardest to make a difference.

Peter Kennedy is an animal lover who has volunteered for and donated to numerous charities in the pet sector.

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*FTC Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, which means that I was compensated to feature this content. Regardless of payment received, you will only see topics featured on this site that we believe are of interest to our readers.

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8 Comments on Tips on How to Choose an Animal Charity

  1. i donate on a regular basis to Safe Haven for Cats, Raleigh, NC, it was started in the garage of the president, and has grown considerably. People come from the tri state area to adopt cats. they even have their own low cost clinic, where they treat cats, but also dogs. They have the only pet food bank in the area for both cats and dogs. most of the people are volunteers, few paid staff. i donate a lot of food, items for both cats and dogs, and things for their charity parties to be auctioned off. They have some very prominent people that donate. They also have a neuter, spay and release program, and feed the colonies as well.

  2. What a wonderful post. Terrific information about choosing responsibly and the best was to accomplish your specific goals.

    I don’t think anyone who subscribes to this page would be surprised to learn my interests are feline. Two years ago I discovered Orphan Kitten Club, founded by Hannah Shaw, @Kittenxlady. Her dedication to advocacy for kittens and to educating/sharing with others of course; how she compassionately advocates for other species; the partnerships with other organizations, TNR programs, innovation in the care of tiny kittens are all part of the reason I choose to be a monthly donor.

    There are so many other, smaller feline non-profits/rescues that I donate to when I have available funds, either by purchasing from their wishlists or perhaps targeted to the medical treatment of a specific kitten.

  3. It is amazing what rescue groups do, not only getting cats fixed, wormed and checked out by the vets and testing for feline leukemia, to finding the perfect forever home for these special kitties. My friend works for Wish Animal Rescue and they now are even fighting in the courts and have an attorney for a town that is banning any feeding of outdoor cats! These are very dedicated people saving animals!

  4. Great advice on doing research before donating to a charity. I like to support the smaller charities and I also donate to our county shelter.

  5. Thanks for this excellent article, Ingrid. It is also helpful to know that you can give your money as “restricted” or “non-restricted.” Organizations prefer nonrestricted so that can use the funds for any of their needs/purposes. A restricted donation/gift can be as simple as allowing you to help cats vs dogs/other, or direct animal services vs overhead or marketing. And you can be very specific, such as, funds to be used for surgeries and medical care for the animals, or for assizi loops for ill/injured/senior animals, etcetera. If your donation is sizable, you may ask also that it be invested and the interest be used for specific purposes. For example, many donors to universities restrict their funds to be invested to generate ongoing scholarships or direct academic expenses of students in a particular academic department (e.g., books/laptops for English majors) or category (e.g., transportation/child care for a single parent)—unrestricted funds in this example, in contrast, could be used for example to build a sports stadium or a dormitory. Animal charities, however, may have a dire need for building and operating expenses. Or a home foster-based charity, like one near me, may need money for boarding expenses when no fosters are available. Some of the ones near me are even set up as charities on Amazon so you can designate them for Amazon’s Smile program for your purchases or you can buy the things on Amazon that they identify as needed, which can vary say when kitten season arrives. Animal charities can be named in wills also. Some people have even discussed with the charity’s director leaving a portion of their assets in exchange for specific care of the donor’s animal(s) should they outlive the donor. So talking to their financial folks and studying their financial reports, as Ingrid says, is important.

    • I have a donation set up through I’ve also bought specific items from the shelter wishlist. also will allow you to donate items to specific shelters.

  6. This is some really good advice. Thank you! There are a lot of things I never would have thought about.

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