How frequently can you do guiltless shopping?
Given that I was raised by Depression-era parents, shopping still carries a curse for me. Shrill voices from my adolescence ring in my ears:
“Oh, Debora, you don’t need that.” “Debora, those are senseless and ugly shoes. ” “I didn’t say you could buy a puppy!”
As always, Mom was right, but for the wrong reasons. I didn’t need the tie-dyed hot pants, the faux fur maxi coat or the tri-color platform shoes. I guess I was channeling Sly and the Family Stone. And I should have checked with my mother before buying an Irish Setter puppy! (Read about that here.) But I was working hard, every day, after high school. It was my money, even if I had no taste or common sense.
Well, many years later, it’s still my own money, and I like to shop at a store called Anthropologie. In love with Anthro skirts, I have quite a collection of markdowns. They’re fun without being boring or too outrageous.
Turns out that Dr. V, author of the great blog Pawcurious, shares my Anthro fascination. In the first Pawcurious post I ever read, Dr. V mentioned that the skirt she was wearing to the Pets Global Expo was… you guessed it… from Anthropologie! Veterinarians and Anthro skirts… I don’t know what the connection is, but I like it.
Kibbles, Kittens and Kardigans
This is not an ad for Anthropologie. They e-mail me all the time, and I never open them up. But a recent e-mail drew me in. “Be a part of our four-legged cause,” it read. Really? Shop at my favorite store and do something good for pets? A guilt-alleviating shopping excursion? Sign me up.
The Anthro stores are in their fifth year of sponsoring “Sit Stay Love,” a pet food drive and adopt-a-pet at 100-plus stores throughout the country in late September. Seems to me it’s a smart gimmick to get young women into the store. The ruffly retro, shabby chic appeal of the store’s merchandise goes hand in hand with petting puppies and snuggling kittens. With any luck, some local shelter pets may get some great homes.
This marketing event got me thinking about how my purchases might help pets or shelters, as well as how well my donation dollars perform. Turns out this was not an easy fact-finding mission.
After researching the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States, Halo and Petco Foundation, just to name a few, I can report that my head is still spinning.
There are more than 50,000 charities out there asking for your hard-earned money, and this doesn’t even touch on trying to find charitable retailers, or shopping at stores where pet or animal welfare is supported by the corporation.
You would think the great names like the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the U.S. should get high marks when it comes to how they run their nonprofit organizations, right? Well, bigger may not always better.
Did you know, for example, that some investigators claim the ASPCA spends up to $40 on fundraising for every $100 it raises? A smaller group called the Animal Welfare Institute spends only $2 for every $100 raised. This is according to the American Institute of Philanthropy, now called CharityWatch.
The Humane Society of the U.S. gets a “D” for its overall fundraising, according to CharityWatch. Compare that with PetSmart Charities, which gets an “A.” But wait a minute, PetSmart sells all those rabbits and chinchillas and hamsters! The Humane Society doesn’t sell sick geckos. They protect them.
Oy vey, what a headache. And the donation goes to…?
Although CharityWatch wasn’t thrilled with the effectiveness of the ASPCA, all these groups support animal welfare, and the ASPCA website listed some of its corporate sponsors of interest. Subaru does a ton for the ASPCA, for example. I was glad to learn that, but I don’t think a car is on my list of “impulse buys” this week.
Let’s think a little smaller, like Walkers Shortbread. This company is donating some profits from its “Scottie Dog” Shortbread to the ASPCA. Okay. So by me buying a case of Scottie Dog tins filled with delicious shortbread — a perfect staff Christmas gift — the ASPCA benefits. I feel good. An early Christmas task is accomplished. It’s better than buying those cookies at Target.
Speaking of Target…
In my quick research, the media gives Target high marks when it comes to philanthropy in general, and pet causes too. The store appears to be tops in corporate donations, and donates a great deal of pet food and pet goods too.
I figure if I need some of these retailers in my life, the least I can do is try to figure out which ones have some kind of a corporate conscience. All the big stores have lots of strikes against them. I’m just trying to pick the lesser of big evils when I need a new rice cooker.
Obviously, the more you know about an organization can help you decide whether you want to support it or not. I imagine most of you have a local shelter or animal rescue group you are familiar with. Find out how they operate and consider donating time, goods or money. Shelters and rescues vary tremendously in their philosophies. Find one that matches yours.
In my area in Massachusetts, the MSPCA raised a huge amount of money to build a state-of-the-art veterinary and emergency hospital several years back. Because of extremely poor management, they closed the facility in a relatively short period of time. That’s correct. All that locally raised money and donations: gone. Donors were furious, and it severely damaged the organization’s reputation.
A Frilly Blouse and a Pit Bull?
A few weeks ago, I attended a wonderful wedding on Long Island’s southern shore. On the table were little cards that read, “In place of wedding favors, we have made a donation to the New York Bully Crew.” What a great idea! Who needs another heart-shaped whisk in a white box anyway?
Here’s another idea. In terms of charitable donations for pets, one of the greatest gifts you can give a pet is your loving home. I know it’s only September, but many American households out there are already thinking “Christmas puppy.” If you’re serious about adding a pet to your family, start looking now for a great pup, dog or kitty that NEEDS a home.
Maybe I did too much walking in New York City last weekend and passed by too many pet stores. The rescues looking for a home in Union Square are more my style. And on Saturday, they’ll be hanging out at the Soho Anthropologie.
“Next guest in line.”
“I’ll take these dancing kitten earrings and a bully dog to go, please.”