It’s All About the Marketing

Yesterday I read a story in the Daily Mail UK about a dog named Lana that was so depressed over being returned to Mighty Mutts, a Toronto animal shelter, that she refused to go on walks. Of course, after you read the actual article, you see that behavior lasted for all of one day.

Photo copyright by Mighty Mutts.
Photo copyright by Mighty Mutts.

Compare that to the latest mailer I received from Best Friends– a no-kill sanctuary out of Utah and California, and soon to open a shelter in NYC. Best Friends sent me their holiday catalog with different “gifts” I could purchase that would help the animals Best Friends cares for.

For instance, for only $50 I can buy a Welcome Gift Basket for an animal because, “After a long journey, it’s nice to have a few creature comforts waiting at your destination….. With a welcome package, you’ll make sure these things are on hand to greet new arrivals the moment they walk through the door.”

Photo I took of the Best Friends catalog page I’m quoting.

The Daily Mail story riled me up. I could feel the adrenaline rush as my anger rose. The Best Friends catalog, however, made me feel happy and useful- “look what I can do for an animal in need!”

Now do I think Best Friends actually has on hand welcome baskets for cute little kittens like the one pictured above? No. And where will my money go when I donate to Best Friends? Almost 18% of it will go to fundraising costs. Another 8% will go to administrative costs. And 74% will go toward actual animal care. (Source:

The stark reality is this: Anger at atrocities committed against animals riles up folks like nothing else. Some of my highest traffic days were days I ranted about some sort of animal cruelty.

But the posts that have garnered me the most consistent support are those that answer questions or make people feel good. A post from 2012 that addressed why dogs like fans still gets steady traffic.

Folks were incensed about Cecil the Lion having been killed, but the tide has waned and his murderer is back at work while other animals are being killed every day by big game hunters both at home and abroad. is a great place to check out a non-profit before you make a donation. is a great place to check out a non-profit before you make a donation.

So what’s the takeaway from all this? Two things.

ONE: Anger riles up the masses in the short-term, but it doesn’t keep them riled up or interested. If non-profits want to develop a long-term strategy for consistent community participation, consider leaving the tear-jerking and move toward more sleek,feel-good promotions.


TWO: Folks like to give away money during the holiday season, and there are plenty of organizations out there with sleek campaigns designed to make you feel good when you hand them your hard-earned money. Make sure the organization getting your donation today is one you’ll still feel good about 6 months from now. Before you click send, check out that organization first.

28 thoughts on “It’s All About the Marketing

  1. Very timely post, Rumpy. Local shelters/rescues should be checked out first before falling for the glossy marketing of big brand holiday rescue campaigns. (Those do know how to pull on those emotions.) There may be more need and more efficient use close to you – especially those who lean heavily on volunteers. (Good time to be gathering old towels and blankets to donate to local shelters as winter is coming)
    One interesting news bit…you know where Cecil was killed? Another hunting party was by the same refuge area recently, only this time the lion attacked and killed several of them – one man escaped up a tree, but found out lions are quite successful hunters, too. Karma or not, odd.

  2. Great piece. I love The Daily Mail. I’ve managed to avoid cancer, getting hit by a meteor and blown up by a terrorist thanks to their accurate headlines… Phew! What we would do without them? 😉

  3. I stay away from those pictures of sad or beaten animals (think PETA) because it affects me too negatively for a long time. I love Best Friends and Big Cats because both send success stories which make me believe my dollars can help. Although I donate to the big ones (they are the ones that help out in disasters), my first love is always my local rescues. That’s were my feline family is from. I have a super large bag of towels for my husband to drop off. I cannot drop them off without coming home with a “friend” so he does it. It takes a strong person to go there and not want to rescue every one of them.

  4. I now have enough Christmas cards that if I start today, I can mail one a week to everybody I know and some I don’t; I can put at least 25 labels on each one so they’ll know they’re from me; if I take down all the pictures of my dogs, cats, and people who claim they’re my kin, I’ll have a wall where I can hang all my calendars. I can feed my dogs for a month with all the”last” half dollars I get 3-4 times a month from the same organizations. In other words, I’m a soft touch for the stories and the pictures, and I swear I won’t do it again, and then I do it again….I intend to donate only to local shelters but then the barrage of shiny pictures and sad stories arrive in my mailbox. I think I’ll take that damn thing down, and as an added bonus, I won t get any bills either !

    1. I think to ensure consistent giving, that’s the way to go. Otherwise you end up in trouble like the Red Cross did for soliciting funds for the disaster du jour, then socking a significant portion of the donations back for other needs. Worthy though they were, that was not the intention of the donation.

  5. I LOVE this post – I understand exactly how you feel. You really need to do your research when donating money because you really don’t know where all of your donation is going. I personally donate to my local shelter by bringing supplies like blankets, leashes, cleaning products, and food. Things like that. I know they go through blankets like crazy there, and you can get fleece ones for really cheap this time of year.

    1. That’s a good idea..and I have several comforters that can be made into 2 or 4 beds for the pens. I have cleaning rags out the wazoo…do you know if shelters take coupons for money off dog food and cat food? Probably better to just buy the food and take it..

  6. I save the weight circles from my ProPlan dry cat food and send them to my charities. I go through 5-6 16-lb bags a month. It’s another way to help that doesn’t cost me anything extra except the cost of postage. When the hospital where I work replaced all our pillows last spring, a couple of us divided them up and took them to our local shelters and vet offices. Again something free!

  7. Plus a bag of food kept in your car can feed community cats and that is priceless. At work, we feed ours out front under a nice tree next to the employee of the year sign! Of course TNR!

      1. Purina gives them things like starter packs for kittens. I’m not sure if there’s other items they can get.

  8. Doesn’t work for me. I always get these “give an animal a present”-advertisements from an animal rescue group in the country I live in. I hate it. I always start to cry when I open their letter and I throw everything away instantly, because it makes me so angry that they make me cry. But I know it works well on other people.

Leave a Reply to Gay Johnson Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s