PetRescue responds to rescue groups

December 14, 2019

PetRescue has responded. Well, mostly it hasn't - it has simply deleted critical comments off its facebook page. But it is talking to rescue groups.

And if you were hoping for a mea culpa or some self-awareness at all, you'll be sadly disappointed.

Ha 😂ha 😂ha 😂… yes it’s all just so, so funny. 😂

And why doesn't the Heart Foundation have a donate button for the Cancer Council on their website? 😂 Because those are two separate charities, and the Heart Foundation doesn't use the work of volunteers of the Cancer Council thousands of times a day to build an otherwise content-free website into a data-collecting, super-site that then canabalises Cancer Council donors. So there's that.

But then she details exactly the opposite; a fundraising button on the PetRescue website which is supposedly totes fair.

“We spent hours and hours of developer time developing this button…”

Yes. And this development time was paid for by donations from “Desexmas” - a fundraising campaign that featured dogs in cones, implying that the fundraising was for you know… desexing.

Holiday adopters being told that a donation to PetRescue is the same as a donation to rescue groups.

Instead PetRescue banked the money and spent it on paying their staff to build a button.

They had aimed to raise $100k - the campaign raised just shy of $50k.

“Last figure I heard around $22k has been donated to rescue.”

So the project is yet to break even. And to present the development of a button as an investment by PetRescue in its members isn't totally accurate, as all of the money to date has come from the public. Desexmas raised $50k spent on web dev. The new button has raised $22k. PetRescue has contributed $0.

A lot of criticism is from me, but it’s not for having paid staff.

Well, maybe for paying the director’s wife and his brother… but not for paying staff generally.

My objection is that PetRescue is built on the work of volunteers yet refuses to share their own good fortune with those same volunteers.

The volunteers that rescue the pets.

The volunteers that photograph the pets.

The volunteers that write the pet profiles.

The volunteers that upload the profiles to PetRescue.

The volunteers that take the phone calls and answer the emails from potential pet adopters.

The volunteers that screen and match and arrange the pet to go to their new home.

The volunteers that support the new owners and the pet in their new homes.

The volunteers that handle any problems and returns.

And despite the entire PetRescue business model being built on the back of the work of volunteers and PetRescue having an annual budget of $1.5 million

… PetRescue felt it appropriate to share none of their good fortune with rescue groups, instead growing their own team to fifteen paid staff.

But worse, because so many of these fifteen staff are hired for no reason other than generating more wealth for PetRescue, even more donations that would have once gone directly to rescue groups are now going into PetRescue’s bank account.

PetRescue have achieved financial growth from an annual budget of about $1,000,000 in 2017 - to $1,500,000 in 2019.

While none of those resources are being shared with the volunteer rescue groups doing the work that makes PetRescue’s business model possible. While rescue groups report major drops in their own donations in the same time period.

That’s what I object to.

Dan Pallotta advocates that charities act like good citizens and valuable community members - he doesn’t advocate that charities operate without oversight, accountability or ethics. I suspect he'd not argue in support of PetRescue's current model at all, as his is a model of giving back to the community and using resources to help solve problems, not simply self-sustenance.

PetRescue - as it currently operates - is a parasite reducing the rescue community's ability to resource itself.

*whew* That's a lot. So let's discuss a piece at a time.

The facts aren’t terribly complicated; no personal vendetta required.

PetRescue banked $1.5 million dollars last financial year ($1.4 million the year before that).

It shared none of that with the rescue groups that have supported them for more than a decade.

Is this “good enough”? Hardly. It’s not “horrible” to say so. It’s a fact.

This is where rescue groups should be paying attention. PetRescue is telling you that they feel perfectly ok with the model they are currently running - in their eyes they are doing nothing wrong.

In fact, rescue groups, you support them in their current model. Rescue groups are grateful for PetRescue’s "support".

So, if you thought they’d been taking on your feedback, you can put that thought to rest. PetRescue have circled the wagons. They have done nothing wrong. The only problem they have is “Shel”  and my personal vendetta.

Well shit. Maybe that’s it. Maybe I chose this time just to play spoiler of the honeymoon I knew nothing about.

Or maybe, just maybe… it’s that the christmas fundraising using Apollo and Fred launched at the end of November. And that the financials landed on the ACNC website on the 28th November, giving everyone the first look at PetRescue’s spend for the year and giving the public their first chance to comment on same. And that PetRescue hiring the director’s wife into a paid role while banking $1.5 million dollars made on the back of the work of volunteers who received nothing, generated a reasonable blowback from the community. And that this just happened to be at the same time you took a personal event holiday.

And that maybe that’s just the way karma tends to work. Inconvenience. Important things tarnished by unlucky timings.

I dunno - you’re the yogis. You tell me.

I couldn’t care less what your qualifications are. Nor do I care that the director's brother is an excellent banker.

PetRescue is hiring extra people - from three full time employees in 2017, to eight in 2019. This has included the brother of the director, and now the wife of the director. That PetRescue management see no problem with this, says a lot about their beliefs as to how charities should operate.

But leaving that aside this PetRescue rep, who is remember...

This is where she does something very interesting. She shares a personal message I sent to her for a video (which was made and can be seen here on literally the homepage of Saving Pets). I guess, to make me seem like a hypocrite? That a friend giving me $20 back in 2016 is totes the same thing as her new employer generating $1.5 million through their charity today.... she shares a private message to make a point.

Which is an interesting message to send in a community where trust is everything. Is that a new PetRescue policy? To share private communications should you make them cross? Rescue groups should remember that when you deal with them in written communications moving forward.

This is in no way "the reality".

I'm not an ex-employee; I’m the creator of this website. And I was the CEO for over a decade.

I'm not an ex-girlfriend; I’ve known JB since high-school, dated then stopped dating and then worked together for more than a decade with, without "romantic" issue. And I got married (to someone else!) and had a couple of kids in that time. Also not an issue.

But three years after I left the organsation and JB is marrying someone new, now I'm an ex-girlfriend with an axe to grind?

Have a bit of respect. Women can have and highlight problems, and not be romantically motivated.

And just as this isn't about my motives, this isn’t about your motives. This is about your organisation's behaviour. It is about the financial report this organisation submitted to the ACNC. It is especially not about how your "heart" feels.

We're not even debating the service PetRescue offers via their website - it’s a very good website, I've even said so right here on this blog - this is about the fundraising strategy of using dogs PetRescue have never met, without the rescue group’s permission, to fundraise for PetRescue to pay staff. And whether that is in any way fair and reasonable to the volunteer groups who need those same monies to keep rescuing.

This is about whether it is fair for PetRescue to use dogs like Fred in their campaigns and then bank the money for themselves. 

It is about whether PetRescue contributes enough real-word benefit to the volunteers who make their website possible to justify their impossibly high annual budget. Not the shallow corporate self-felicitation they're famous for, but proper investment in the things that help keep pet rescuers, rescuing.

It's also about making sure that public donations intended for rescue keep flowing back to the groups who save the animals, and are not hijacked by slick marketing and relationship building by an over-resourced team with no other KPI than building PetRescue's resources year on year.

If rescue groups were hoping for real change to come from PetRescue after this round of feedback of their Christmas fundraising, you are sadly shit outta luck.

PetRescue has just told you it plans to keep doing what it is doing. Rescue groups should plan accordingly.

Find this post interesting? Share it around.