The bogus non-profits (Better World Books, some animal rescues, United Way…etc)


I have decided to clarify this post because I got clarification from  Better Wold Books. Please bear with me.

Someone recently posted on Craigslist( in Chicago) that he noticed a  few pet rescues seem to charge an awful lot for the pets they offer for adoption, and  their members drive around in fancy cares.  He thought they were selling dogs, and making a profit.

I replied to the guy that  I didn’t think they were making a profit.  Most likely their expenses were high, and, most likely, they were  the type of RESCUE  that is private, and picks and chooses what they rescue…and has no problem getting a high adoption fee for the dogs they adopt out.  And—the people who could afford to support these endeavors had to be upper income—the types to drive fancy cars.

Shocking, but the fact of the matter is—-it costs a lot to own some breeds of dogs, and if you can’t afford the adoption fee (which goes towards the expenses of other dogs ), you most likely can’t afford to own that type of dog.  And—that  type of dog would most likely be a toy breed, a dog requiring professional grooming, or a brarcheocephalic  like a Bulldog, Boston Terrier, or Frenchie.

It got me thinking, however, about the really bogus nonprofits.  There are many.  The deal is that they are set up to not show a profit.  Or, if they do have a surplus , to show how it will be  reinvested in the mission.  They are (allegedly) open to public scrutiny (as opposed to being a closely held company answerable to nobody) but if you look closely, they are not not making a profit.

I think the colleges and universities are the biggest scams.  Don’t get me started on  special programs thought up, athletics, and  endowments. Meanwhile, people are paying higher tuitions to get an education.

One business just the other side of Kosher is Better World Wools.   As you will see from the comment, below, they are   social enterprice.  That means that, as a business, they hold themselves to  their own ethical standards.  They buy & sell used books, & what they don’t sell, they donate. Actually, many bookstores do this….but BWB is set up to take donations of books, and if you donate books to them (a  donation in kind), while you can’t take the tax write-off, you can feel good. Actually, most independet bookstores also take book donations, and spread them around. They have given books to me, to ship to community based projects in Malawi and Zambian, and  I also  take books to a project that gives books to women in prisons.    My 2 issues with BWB are:  1). Due to their huge marketing budget, they  make it impossible for small booksellers to survive—and  soon , due to this kind of practice, all we will have is chain stores in out neighborhoods.   That may be how it  (capitalism)works, but I don’t think that the people who donate books to them understand the larger picture.   Also—think about this…how socially responsible  can this business be?  We don’t know if the principals of this company  make 20 times more in wages than hourly workers. It would be interesting to find out.  I am not saying what they are doing is wrong…I just think that people who want to do good in the world  and who want to buy books should think about all the implications.

Another  rather shady outfit is The Humane Society of the United States.  Their names says they are a humane society—but they fund no shelters or rescues. They are basically a policy development/lobbying group. Granted, they are lobbying for better treatment of animals…but come on!  By misleading people into thinking they are a group that actually takes care of animals, they are draining donations away from local animal shelters that actually are physically taking care of animals. How ethical is THAT?

I met a woman who founded an organization —a non profit…which allows her to take her very well trained dogs  to local elementary schools and talk to kids about taking care of pets.  She does not charge the schools, but she solicits donations.  She  is very open about what she does, and that she has no employees but herself.  She gets some monetary donations, but  she raises money in a variety of ways, and is subject to audit by the state of Illinois.  I think it was very smart of her to  structure her ‘business’ in this way.    Very few schools are in a position to pay her, and very few teachers would take the time to  teach kindness and animal care.

I, myself, am a member of the Chicago Area Peace Corps Association. We are mostly returned  Peace Corps Volunteers…&  we say, “You never stop being a volunteer.”  We get together for monthly dinner meetings & networking (we have a listserv), we volunteer  with other social service groups, and we repackage money:  we give to partnership projects in our countries of service, and try to support other good works. We  are hopelessly inefficient and have no organizational memory.  We are what we are.

Unless you know  the missions of nonprofits, and know what they do, you really can’t address whether they are bogus or not.  Many are just small businesses with a mission—the  sfformentioned social enterprise.  But I know of at least  1 dog rescue that claims to be a registered nonprofit. The  director runs a small pet and grooming shop. Because  she  doesn’t keep good business records, she has been shut down by both the state of Illinois and the IRS several times. She also used to buy puppy mill bred dogs to resell. Somewhere along the line, she got religion, so now is attempting to work with the no-kill animal saving groups and adopt out animals.  I don’t trust her at all, but, in the general scheme of things, her operation is very small, and she tells potential adopters about the dogs’ issues (health, not being housebroken, etc).

I think we Americans have to learn to pick our battles & choose what to get out panties in a bunch about.

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2 Responses to “The bogus non-profits (Better World Books, some animal rescues, United Way…etc)”

  1. erin Says:

    Glad to hear that you’re involved with the RPCV community in Chicago! I am also a returned Peace Corps volunteer (as is my boss and another co-worker) I did Health in Madagascar – and completely agree that you never stop volunteering. Though I also openly share that I did go to Africa believing I was going to change the world and make a huge positive impact, and while I pray I did make a small positive impact, the largest change was in me through my Malagasy friends, family and neighbors.

    I should also be open with you that I work as the Community and Social Media Manager for Better World Books. I would like to address a few of your comments to ensure your readers have accurate facts.

    Better World Books is not a non-profit, and we regularly and proudly state that we are a for-profit social enterprise. Our mission statement points out our capitalist nature: “Better World Books is a global bookstore that harnesses the power of capitalism to bring literacy and opportunity to people around the world.” We’re striving for a new capitalism that leverages the significant impact that business can and should make to better our world.

    We’re also a B Corporation, a new kind of company that is held to higher social and environmental standards. We meet stringent criteria to become certified and undergo periodic audits that hold us accountable to those standards.

    I am proud to work here and believe it’s the perfect way to continue serving, while also being able to support myself at the same time. We provide an important service for dealing with discarded books. Millions of books are thrown into the landfill every year and we are able to re-direct these books to people who will enjoy and learn from them.

    Finally, donors cannot write off their donations because we are for-profit. I hope this response will inspire you and your friends to dig through our website, and those of other social enterprises, to learn more about this movement.

    • disparateinterests Says:

      Thank you for writing to me & reading my blog, & I have approved your comments. I will try to update the blog as soon as I can…but I still have to address—because I do totally believe you are a social enterprise, & I know the difference…you do encourage book donations to YOU, for redistribution…& many people are confused by this …& I will address this, too.
      I sell books to a lot of independent bookstores, and virtually all of them donate books they don’t sell, and support other community based ventures (Nancy Fagin & husband Ron Webber, N. Fagin books…support a community in rural Peru, where Ron did anthropology research). I believe the problem is one of perceptions, and of you all having a bigger marketing budget than the independents…& a side effect of your size is that they can barely stay in business. Most are going to internet only. I understand that’s capitalism. That’s how it goes. But the stand alone stores are what make a community, and people have to really understand what makes a venture a social enterprise and socially responsible, and weigh the pros & cons.

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