Who’s in charge at the National Humane Education Society? FOUNDER, 83, TAKES NO PAY; FUNDRAISER TAKES $512,909

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1993:

LEESBURG, Virginia––The history of the
National Humane Education Society is in microcosm the
history of the humane movement in the 20th century––and
perhaps that’s the problem.
Financially struggling for 37 years, NHES con-
tracted with the fundraising firm Steve Cram and Associates
in July 1986. Tear-jerking direct mail campaigns increased
revenue from $852,007 in fiscal year 1986 to $2,230,076 in
fiscal year 1990: almost a three-fold jump. The growth in
revenue enabled the three NHES no-kill shelters to more
than double the number of animals in their care, from circa
300 to the present 800. But expenses in connection with
fundraising have claimed an increasingly large share of the
income: 39% in 1990, and as much as 52% in fiscal year

Despite the increasing expenditures for fundrais-
ing, the rapid growth would appear to be over. Receipts of
$2,266,410 in 1992 barely kept pace with inflation. In fact,
NHES founder Anna Briggs loaned the group $30,000 to
help it make ends meet.
Cram collected $70,117 in 1990; $512,909 in
1992. Some of the difference may result from costs associ-
ated with direct mail being passed through Cram in 1992
instead of directly to other contractors.
Attorney and board member William J. Kropp has
also enjoyed a rapid rise in income. Hired on February 16,
1989, for a monthly retainer of $1,100 plus $55 an hour for
services over 20 hours, Kropp received $53,072 in 1990,
and $70,077 in 1992. At $55 an hour, which is not unusual-
ly high for a lawyer, Kropp would now be working at least
halftime for NHES, but his duties are still just “as needed,”
according to tax forms.
Tactics annoy other shelters
Neither Anna Briggs, 83, nor anyone else at
NHES responded to a set of detailed questions about the
organization’s financial affairs, faxed to the NHES offices
on June 25, ten days before this issue of ANIMAL PEO-
P L E went to press. Nor was an ANIMAL PEOPLE
reporter successful in repeated attempts over a five-day peri-
od to contact Briggs directly to find out just how much she
knows about direct mail fundraising efforts that have drawn
cries of “Foul!” from hundreds of miles beyond the radius
served by the NHES shelters––which besides “humane edu-
cation” undertaken in connection with direct mail fundrais-
ing are virtually the whole NHES program.
The initial controversy, brought to ANIMAL
PEOPLE’s attention by the director of a well-reputed
regional humane shelter, was an appeal letter dated May 12,
1993, that opened, “The National Humane Education
Society is now conducting its 1993 (name of city) Annual
Fund Drive.” Such appeals, also used by some other
national organizations with similar names, are often
misidentified by recipients as requests for money which will
be used to assist local shelters.
Misleading financial report
Many other questions arose after an inspection of
recent NHES tax filings. The 1992 financial report the
group filed with the New York Department of State omitted
any answer on the line asking how much it spent on “Public
information combined with fundraising.” Yet on page 6 of
the NHES financial statements, which prospective donors
requesting the one-page financial report wouldn’t normally
see, NHES acknowledged that, “In 1992, the Society
incurred joint costs of $959,791 for informational materials
and activities that included fund raising appeals. Of those
costs, $233,788 was allocated to fund raising expense,
$726,003 was allocated to Program Services expense and
nothing was allocated to Management and General
The one-page financial report also claimed that
NHES spent only that $233,788 on fundraising, whereas the
NHES Statement of Functional Expenses and Part II of
NHES IRS Form 990 Schedule A both acknowledge the
$512,909 payment to Cram, explicitly for professional
fundraising services. Accordingly, it would appear that
NHES underreported its fundraising costs in the financial
report by more than half.
NHES reported spending $904,371 on humane
education, of which the above-mentioned $726,003
––80%––was admittedly spent in connection with fund rais-
ing. Further, $421,562 of that amount was expressly identi-
fied as the cost of “professional fundraising” in the
Statement of Functional Expenses.
Reallocating the $726,003 from the Program
Services line of the financial report to the Fund Raising line,
to get a more accurate picture of the balance of costs, one
finds that only 48% of NHES expenditures were not in con-
nection with fund raising. National Charities Information
Bureau and Better Business Bureau guidelines require
respectively that 60% and 50% of expenditures be separate
from fund raising.
Anna Briggs
Anna Briggs, according to staffers, is still firmly
in control of NHES, despite some appearances to the con-
trary. Her life’s work is not in question, nor is the standard
of care afforded to the estimated 700 cats and 50 dogs at the
three NHES shelters. Briggs has spent almost her whole life
in humane work, accepts no salary, and still lives on the
premises of the shelter in Leesburg, Virginia. As she
recounted in her 1990 biography, For the Love of Animals,
she spent much of her childhood in St. Vincent’s Orphanage
in Washington D.C., at a time when in the absence of a
governmental “safety net,” homeless children were as
much the responsibility of charitable institutions as home-
less animals. In January 1925, the young woman met
Humane Education Society founder James Briggs, when
she was obliged to give away a beloved pet dog.
James Briggs, many years her senior, had begun
HES in 1920, on the 80-acre Be Kind to Animals Rest
Farm. A noted crusader against trapping, vivisection, and
other abuses, James influenced Anna to become a vegetar-
ian; made her his driver when she got her driving license
later that year, a rarity then for a 15-year-old female; and
married her on her 18th birthday, December 9, 1927.
They lost the Be Kind to Animals Rest Farm in
1932, the depth of the Great Depression, but the Bide-A-
Wee Home in New York accepted 150 of their 200 dogs,
and they managed to adopt out the rest, along with 70 cats.
They continued in humane work, as Anna volunteered reg-
ularly for the Animal Protective Association shelter. The
shelter director was Virginia Sargent, in whose honor
James and Anna named their daughter, born in 1937.
James Briggs died on September 8, 1945, after delivering
an antivivisection speech in Philadelphia. Sargent then
hired Anna as her bookkeeper. When Sargent was obliged
to close the APA shelter in 1948, Briggs sold her home,
using the receipts to found the National Humane Education
Society in partnership with Alice Morgan Wright. From
1948 until 1965, NHES ran a shelter called the Peace
Plantation in Sterling, Virginia; relocated to the present
Leesburg site after Briggs retired from a government job
she’d taken to make ends meet; and added the present
Peace Plantation in Walton, New York, in 1983. This
facility, the NHES flagship, is managed by Briggs’ daugh-
ter Virginia and her husband Earl Dungan. NHES also
runs a small shelter in West Virgina called Heart’s Haven.
Costs and salaries
Of the 750 animals in the NHES facilities,
approximately 700 are cats. NHES expenditures on animal
care, veterinary bills, caging, and other items directly
connected with the maintenance of the animals are closely
comparable with the same line items as reported by other
major no-kill shelters: around $450 per animal per year, or
$1.25 per animal per day. (Per day expenses for animals in
conventional shelters run considerably higher, because the
greater portion of veterinary and other service costs are
associated with arrivals and euthanasias.)
However, when fund raising and management
expenses are taken into account, NHES is spending $2,968
per animal, 7.5 times as much as the most closely compara-
ble organization ANIMAL PEOPLE could identify, a no-
kill shelter housing almost exactly the same number of cats,
circulating a comparable amount of humane information,
maintaining similar physical facilities with almost the same
ratio of staff to animals.
The salaries paid to Virginia and Earl Dungan
account for only small part of the difference. Virginia’s
salary of $39,815 and Earl’s of $43.098 are both substan-
tially above the U.S. median for paid animal shelter man-
agers of $32,173––and these salaries are combined with
significant fringe benefits including the apparent use of
vehicles that cost NHES $99,316 in 1990 and $15,007 last
year. (The 1990 figure included the purchase of a truck.)
Both have received pay raises of approximately $10,000
over the past two years. On the other hand, their compen-
sation is still within the normal range for the work, their
tenure is long, and although private shelters in New York
state are not subject to humane inspection by any public
agency, visitors report that the Peace Plantation facilites
compare well with most other no-kills. The cats are kept in
two former farmhouses, where tame cats have the run of
comfortable downstairs rooms and ferals occupy open
rooms upstairs, where they have less chance of escaping to
the outdoors. The buildings are said to be odor-free and
clean, despite a recent problem with the septic system.
No other NHES employees earn more than
$30,000 a year.
Professionalism v. volunteerism
That leaves the cost and uses of fundraising as the
big question. NHES is not the first animal protection group
to become a vehicle for big-money fundraisers after estab-
lishing a good reputation through decades of frugal man-
agement by dedicated and self-sacrificing activists. Nor is
it likely to be the last. Nonprofit financial management is
now a business specialty, not just something an executive
director does along with the work the organization was
founded to do. In a growing number of organizations, the
executive directors are now hired for their business skills,
not for their knowledge of and commitment to the cause.
An advanced degree counts for more than a history of
effective volunteerism.
As professionals, fundraisers, attorneys, and
other nonprofit financial managers expect to be compensat-
ed at rates competitive with the governmental and for-profit
sectors. This expectation becomes problematic when the
financial managers become the guiding influence on the
organization ––when founders die or become incapacitated,
and boards of directors who often have had little to do with
day-to-day operations turn for help to the people on the
payroll who know the most about the matters of which
board members typically know least.
That’s when an organization runs the risk of oper-
ating not so much to serve the purpose for which it was
founded, as to serve the personal interests of the managers
who figuratively inherit it. And that’s when informed
donors may start looking elsewhere.
––Merritt Clifton
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