Horse Rescues React to Unauthorized Fundraising

Two equine rescue operators are revamping their fundraising policies after learning about unauthorized fundraising activities taking place on their behalf.

The situation came to light June 3, when Tawnee Preisner, vice president of NorCal Equine Rescue in Oroville, Calif., saw a vendor displaying a NorCal sign selling decorative items outside a Yuba City Wal-Mart store. The vendor claimed sale proceeds would benefit NorCal. The same vendor was also soliciting cash donations for the Horse Rescue, Relief and Retirement Inc. in Cummings, Ga. Director Cheryl Flanagan later said these were also being collected without that agency's consent.

Yuba City police were called to the scene, and the vendor subsequently surrendered $130 for NorCal and $23.56 for the Georgia group.

Police Department Media Director Shawna Pavey declined to identify the vendor because no one was arrested in connection with the incident.

"But we are looking into the possibility of other wrongdoing," Pavey said.

Flanagan said she had no previous contact with the man. However, Preisner said she accepted the vendor's offer to raise funds for NorCal in 2006 e-mail message. She had not heard from nor received any funds from the man prior to the June 3 incident.

"Who knows how much money he could have raised in the past three years," Preisner said. "It's a hard lesson to be learned."

In fact, nonprofits are prime targets for unauthorized "fundraisers," said Daniel Borochoff, president of the American Institute of Philanthropy, a Chicago-based charity watchdog group.

"It's a slippery slope because nonprofit operators are so dedicated to their mission, they don't always have the time or the help to be vigilant about fundraising," he said.

Since the incident, Flanagan and Preisner vow to conduct background checks on all prospective fundraisers. Preisner will also station a NorCal volunteer at any fundraising event sponsored by an individual or group not directly affiliated with the rescue.

Borochoff also advises nonprofit operators to:

  • Develop a contract specifying the location and time of the event and the percentage of funds the agency will receive.
  • Request and check both local and out-of-state references.
  • Require professional fundraisers to prove they are registered with appropriate local and state agencies.
  • Insist that donors write checks directly to the nonprofit.

"If someone comes to you and asks to raise money, you have to check them out," Flanagan said. "It's time consuming, but it's another job you just have to do."

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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