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What would you do with a million dollars?

“If I had a million dollars, I’d be rich!” – Barenaked Ladies

Growing up in a lower middle-class family, we did not always have a lot of money.  I remember doing chores to earn a $.25/chore weekly allowance and feeling excited when I could save up enough money for a new video game after months of saving.  My brother and I would dream about what we would do with $20 or $100 never even fathoming what we would do with a million dollars.

In the rescue world, I often hear conjecture from people regarding how the bigger organizations like the ASPCA and HSUS waste their millions and that they do not do enough to help reduce the unnecessary euthanization of animals.  I am not defending or prosecuting these organizations here, but rather trying to spark a conversation on how we think we could do better.  So I ask you, “What would you do if you had a million dollars to focus on animal rescue?”  Seriously.  What would you do?  It is a very difficult question to answer but let’s explore a couple of approaches for this good dilemma to have, just in case we’re lucky enough to be tasked at solving it in the future.

One approach to using the million is to disperse it equally among the rescues and shelters that are already in existence, in order to further their efforts existing lifesaving efforts.  So if we took that million, and equally distributed the money to every shelter and rescue in the U.S., you’d be making distributions to roughly 20,000 organizations and you’d give each of them $50.  That level of donation is likely not something that would make a big dent or impact in their live-saving programs is it?  If you were more focused and choosy, you could approach it from the standpoint of not distributing it evenly across the board and select the top 10% of organizations to receive your funding (based upon criteria you select of course) and so you’d select 2,000 organizations to give $500 to.  Definitely this approach would help the 2,000 organizations out more, but again this donation may not make a significant impact in any one area and it would likely be deposited into their operational budgets for doing what they are already doing.

Of course you could just keep the million in your organization (or start an organization if you did not have one) and use it to fund the programs that your team executes on to help save more animals.  Maybe you do transport and so you could offer more gas stipends to volunteers to try and increase the number of transports your group manages.  Or maybe you do adoptions and so you could use the money to build a new building, thus allowing your organization to keep more animals at any given time than through your foster homes alone.  Be careful though, if you spend all of the money expanding out your building you may not have enough to keep it running with electricity and running water for years to come.  If you focus on spay and neuter, you could increase the number of surgeries you do annually, and if you focus on rehabilitation programs you could put more animals through the program.  What I am saying is that you could increase the throughput for whatever your current programs are that support your mission.  So imagine you did this and now ask yourself, “Is the annual rate of euthanizations going down?  Is our program working?”

If you imagine the problem on a much larger scale, consider for a moment that organizations like the ASPCA, and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) receive hundreds of millions in donations each year from corporations, endowments and even from individual donors that are moved by their TV pitches (we’ve all seen the sad ASPCA commercials with the Sarah Mclachlan ballads in the background).  Whether you agree or not with how they spend the money they have, simply contemplating how to spend 1 million is a hard enough task.  Now try to contemplate how you would spend 150 million (amount the ASPCA brings in annually) and to have every dollar be seen as focused in the right way on saving animals and you can start to grasp the difficult challenge.  I’m not intending to defend in any way where the money from these organizations goes, rather I am seeking to bring into perspective the enormity of the challenge.

I like to consider myself an entrepreneur for having started Doobert.  Even today I am self-funded so I can move fast, make decisions quickly and continue to develop features to help the volunteers and organizations saving animals.  I do not have the same overhead that other organizations do and I can easily show you where each and every dollar goes (since it’s way, WAY less than $150M / year).  As I mentioned in another blog about focusing on the one thing, ( I focus on increasing the number of transports because I believe that if we can move the animals more fluidly throughout the U.S., we can better balance out the supply and demand problem and ultimately save more animals.  So if you gave me the $1M I would focus on developing more software solutions and technology that made transport even more efficient and I would hire the people, and equipment to grow the transport solutions.

What would you spend the million on?  Think big!  What life-saving program or product or solution could you develop?  How could your idea transform this industry and save the estimated 4 million still euthanized every year?  Your idea just might be the next step in our journey to save them all so please share and let’s work on it together!

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