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37 Reviews
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December 12, 2012
5 people found this review helpful

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December 12, 2012
5 people found this review helpful

As a donor, I know you are eager to ensure that the dollars you invest in causes near and dear to your heart are used efficiently and effectively. As president, CEO and board member of Defenders of Wildlife, I too want to make sure that every dollar invested in our organization is used to maximize the impact of our wildlife conservation efforts.

That’s why I was alarmed to recently learn that we had been downgraded on Charity Navigator’s site. The lower rating occurred despite the fact that there had been no change in our financial or operating status. We are proud to receive clean audits and financial reports every year, and we had achieved a three star Charity Navigator (CN) rating based on our most recent audit.

Donations to Defenders of Wildlife are put to good use, with 73 cents of every dollar going directly into our core mission to conserve wildlife and habitat, 18 cents going to management and general expenses and 9 cents going to fundraising.

Upon investigation of this unexpected downgrade, we learned that CN had unilaterally changed its rating methodology to a system that, we believe, unfairly penalizes membership organizations like Defenders. As a membership non-profit, individuals who care deeply about wildlife can join Defenders and become part of our strong voice for wildlife. We are effective in large part because our 440,000 members and donors, as well as an additional 700,000 on-line supporters, serve as advocates for wildlife throughout North America.

To educate our members about timely and important wildlife issues and call on them to take action, such as writing to Congress, contacting federal agencies, or submitting opinion pieces to newspapers, we send frequent email and print mail outreach materials. Part of the purpose of these mailings is fundraising, but a much larger part is education and/or advocacy. Under SOP 98-2, a well established accounting standard set forth by the independent Financial Accounting Standards Board, non-profit organizations are permitted to allocate part of the costs for these mailings to core program expenses and part to fundraising expenses. These standards, which have stringent criterion, have been in place and supported by the accounting profession and the Internal Revenue Service for the past 15 years. Despite this history, CN has now unilaterally decided to disallow these “joint allocations,” and has made adjustments to Defenders’ audited numbers. We strongly disagree. Organizations that are not member-based are not affected by this change as they are not conducting mailings to their members or the public and therefore do not have these types of costs.

Their adjustment puts all of the costs for member outreach into the fundraising category. Because of this change in CN’s rating system, they now have inflated our overall fundraising costs to 30%, rather than the 9% that had been properly recognized under the federally accepted joint allocation standards. This has subsequently created a misconception that Defenders is spending an inordinate amount of donor funds on fundraising compared with other organizations and a corresponding low amount on our mission-driven programs.

Charity Navigator told us that they are implementing the changes resulting from their new methodology on a rolling basis, and therefore there are quite a few non-profit ratings on their site that have not yet been changed. This may result in inconsistencies when donors utilize a feature on the site to compare what they consider to be similar organizations.

Defenders of Wildlife is a voice for imperiled wildlife in the halls of Congress, in the administration, in the courts and on-the-ground in vital ecosystems around the nation. Wildlife has a powerful voice when I can stand up and advocate with more than one million members and supporters behind me. The reality of having a powerful advocacy voice is that we must spend money to continue to grow, educate and engage that constituency.

Charity Navigator is now applying a one-size-fits-all yardstick for evaluating all charities, regardless of the wide differences on how they are organized, whether they operate on a membership model, how effective they are in achieving results, and whether they engage in public advocacy. Dan Pallotta laid out quite well the downside to this rigid approach in his post on HarvardBusiness.org (http://blogs.hbr.org/pallotta/2009/06/efficiency-measures-miss-the-p.html). He notes that in 1997, Physicians for Human Rights had a 2 star rating from Charity Navigator, yet their effectiveness was such that they received the Nobel Peace Prize that same year.

I am deeply concerned about this situation. Effective and necessary membership or advocacy organizations should not be unfairly penalized by an arbitrary star rating system that discards years of well established accounting standards. We believe that donors are not being well served by this rating system, and the charities that help our environment, wildlife, children, the elderly and others in need will be hurt as well.

Thank you for considering a donation to Defenders of Wildlife. I hope this explanation provides you with confidence that we value every dollar that donors like you give us and will use these funds effectively to conserve wildlife. If you have further questions on this issue, please don’t hesitate to call as at 1-800-385-9712 or defenders@mail.defenders.org. Jamie Rappaport Clark



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Will you volunteer or donate to this organization beyond what is required of board members?

Definitely

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

A lot

Will you tell others about this organization?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

December 10, 2012

I know that Defenders does really great collaborative work with ranchers and other stakeholders to protect wolves, bears, and even bison. From their 2011 Annual Report, I also see that they used 91% of their funds on program and support services and only 9% on fundraising.

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Will you volunteer or donate to this organization?

Likely

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

A lot

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

November 17, 2012
5 people found this review helpful

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Review from CharityNavigator
November 17, 2012
5 people found this review helpful

I had no idea that these guys spent so little on programs and so much on fundraising and administrative costs..It must have changed recently. I'm throwing their stuff in the recycle bin as soon as I'm done this rating

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Was your donation impactful?

Unsure

How likely is it that you would recommend that a friend donate to this group?

No

How likely are you to donate to this group again?

Unlikely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

September 19, 2012
3 people found this review helpful

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Review from CharityNavigator
September 19, 2012
3 people found this review helpful

Less than 52% of their income goes to program expenses. That should be criminal. I'm stopping any future donations to them. I'll be giving my donations to Animal Legal Defense Fund (4 star, 84.4% to program), Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation (4 star, 90.9% to program) and Animal Welfare Institute (4 star, 94.4% to program). Defenders of Wildlife is a ripoff. I wish I could take back my previous donations.

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Will you volunteer or donate to this organization?

No

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

Some

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

May 20, 2012
6 people found this review helpful

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Review from Guidestar
May 20, 2012
6 people found this review helpful

Up until today I had an automatic monthly donation set up and had for years. Today I began researching all of the organizations I currently donate to and am thinking of donating to. I would rather donate to an organization that pays it's CEO/president a minimal compensation rather than one so exorbitant. Defenders of Wildlife pays one of the largest salaries of any of the groups I researched today. I'm canceling my donation.

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Was your donation impactful?

Unsure

How likely is it that you would recommend that a friend donate to this group?

Unlikely

How likely are you to donate to this group again?

Unlikely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

April 25, 2012
3 people found this review helpful

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Review from CharityNavigator
April 25, 2012
3 people found this review helpful

When I was a regular donor, there was no way to identify your membership renewal...there's no place on the form to add your membership number. Hence, I got duplicate memberships because I didn't renew EXACTLY as I did the year before. When I decided to cut back expenses, Defenders refused to stop sending requests for $$ after sending many requests...I send their form back in the postage-paid envelope.

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Was your donation impactful?

Unlikely

How likely is it that you would recommend that a friend donate to this group?

No

How likely are you to donate to this group again?

No

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010

April 23, 2012
1 person found this review helpful

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April 23, 2012
1 person found this review helpful

I honestly don't remember how I came across this site. But they pulled me in with their wolve slaughter prevention. I ended up signing a petition and felt good about it. But a little while after I did so I have been getting e-mail after e-mail asking me to donate money NOW! One e-mail even stated "have you gotten outlr last messages Liz?" Sorry but I have NEVER gotten e mail after email from ASPCA, best friends animal society, WWF. Basically The NON PROFIT organizations that one would think needs the most help don't hound you at all! This organization is like 90% profit sounds like! The people that run this thing get the most money out of the donation! Basically if you love wolves and want to protect theirs or any other habitat. Make sure you go to a NON PROFIT donation charity! Or at least look it up on here!

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Will you volunteer or donate to this organization?

Unsure

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

A lot

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

January 19, 2012

Like many of the other reviewers, I have found Defenders to be lacking in the management of their funds and totally unresponsive to suggestions as to how to improve their efficiency. Specifically, I do not like their executive pay scale or the constant mailings. I have written to them three times to remove my name from their mailing list to no avail. I have informed them that my decision to no longer support them is based on the information and reviews on Charity Navigator, but they don't seem to care. So be it! There are many other environmental organizations who do excellent work.

More feedback...

Was your donation impactful?

Unlikely

How likely is it that you would recommend that a friend donate to this group?

No

How likely are you to donate to this group again?

No

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

December 13, 2011

I used to donate to this organization, but now send my donations to other wildlife organizations that don't inundate me with mail, and sent gifts that I have declined. The organization does good work, but have lost control of their donation request process.

More feedback...

Was your donation impactful?

Likely

How likely is it that you would recommend that a friend donate to this group?

Unlikely

How likely are you to donate to this group again?

Unlikely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2011

November 11, 2011
2 people found this review helpful

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Review from CharityNavigator
November 11, 2011
2 people found this review helpful

I am grateful for the information provided by Charity Navigator, and I personally mostly look at program, administrative and fundraising expenses, including the president's salary, as well as reviews (I don't agree with giving so much importance to the rest). According to these criteria, Defenders is not performing well. I too have been solicited for extra donations for the wolves, and I am disturbed to read comments by donors on this issue. I have found a charity called "Wildlife Conservation Network" in California, which seems to be doing the kind of work I thought Defenders was doing, and I decided to make the switch.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

I just donated

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

perhaps be more honest

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