Montreal SPCA is millions in debt to Quadriga Art, a direct mailer paid to raise funds for the shelter
by Jennifer Mishler
Categories: Animals, Causes.
Photo: daveparker / Flickr

The Montreal SPCA says they’re deep in debt to a direct mail company paid to help them raise donations.

According to a segment shown last night on AC360 with Anderson Cooper, the SPCA organization signed a 7-year contract with Quadriga Art who began sending fundraising mailers across Canada. While the fundraising expenses increased, millions in donation money went back to the direct mailer.

Nicholas Gilman, Executive Director at the Montreal SPCA, told CNN reporter Drew Griffin that they once owed $4 million to Quadriga and have managed to bring their debt to $1.7 million. Quadriga Art now has a lien on the shelter, though. Gilman says it was a poor decision to sign with the company, but they are now locked into their contract.

Quadriga Art’s website says that they “offer nonprofit organizations, fundraising agencies and commercial brands innovative direct marketing campaign solutions that produce extraordinary results.” However, CNN reports that the same company has been paid millions by veterans charities as well, which are paying more than the donations they’re receiving. The Disabled Veterans National Foundation, for example, received around $56 million in donations in the last three years but have paid Quadriga Art over $60 million in fees.

While Quadriga Art has denied requests for interviews or comments, a spokesperson did tell CNN “This has been a proven model for 50 years, despite being criticized by charity watch groups.”

About Jennifer Mishler

Jennifer Mishler is a writer, and a vegan and animal activist. When she's not writing, you can often find her volunteering or advocating for animal, environmental and human rights causes. Along with writing for Ecorazzi, she has contributed writing for nonprofits like Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and enjoys blogging. She resides in the Washington, DC area (and loves all the vegan food it has to offer). Follow Jennifer on Twitter: @jennygonevegan.

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  • guest

    This is the reason I never donate SPCA or PETA, I only donate to local groups.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1342364678 Mandy Monk

      the spca got screwed

  • MisterCadet

    The former CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, Paul Irwin, worked with Pierre Barnotti to create SPCA International as a kind of fake umbrella group for local SPCAs. That is nearly identical to what he did at HSUS – fundraise aggressively and deceptively, pretending to run or meaningfully fund local humane societies. Irwin has a criminal history and worked with Quadriga during his tenure as CEO (1996-2004). Paul Irwin introduced Barnotti to Quadriga. HSUS continued to work with Quadriga after Wayne Pacelle took over and still does.

    Both SPCAI, the fake SPCA umbrella and HSUS, the fake humane society umbrella, pay the hucksters at Quadriga millions every year to harass animal lovers for money. They target the elderly, women and low income people. Online donors are generally younger and more aware of where donations really go, so these con artists concentrate most of their fundraising efforts on old fashioned direct mail. SPCAI is based in the United States, where the vast majority of the money stays. Similarly, “Humane Society International-U.S.” raises money for suffering animals abroad, while donations go to the DC headquarters. A small percentage goes for the intended purpose.

    Without HSUS’s assistance, there would be no SPCA International. Without Quadriga’s assistance, tens of millions of dollars HSUS fleeces from the public might actually go to charities that actually help animals.

    The way a charity conducts it’s fundraising reveals it’s character. Decent charities do not work with thieves like Quadriga. Neither SPCA International nor the Humane Society of the United States are decent charities.

  • MisterCadet

    As expected, HSUS damage control employee Sarah Barnett, who spends her days surfing the internet, typing up – over and over again – the identical spin written by HSUS lawyers and PR execs. Much of the script dates back to 2007, demonizes critics, and avoids the legitimate issues raised. The most common theme of this nonsense involves the Worth Magazine and Charity Navigator ratings. They are mentioned on countless websites and fundraising letters and, like most HSUS claims, are based on false and misleading information. HSUS scriptwriters did not and cannot respond to fact-based, documented information about HSUS’s ties to Quadriga and SPCA International. Both are indefensible, so Sarah types the same irrelevant and bogus defense. That’s all they got.

    Fact checks are always a necessary rebuttal. Here goes.

    1. Charity Watch was deeply involved in every part of the CNN investigative series of three F-rated Quadriga clients, especially the SPCA International report. Charity Watch’s 2010 piece on SPCAI and Quadriga is available online. Charity Watch’s 2010 exposes of the two other Quadriga clients, both veterans charities, actually inspired the CNN investigation. The CEO of Charity Navigator was briefly featured in Part 2, trying to defend his 3 star rating for one of the veterans charities. He looked extremely embarrassed to be there. Charity Navigator also gave 4 stars to East Asia Institute, the topic of a major CBS 60 Minutes expose in 2011. The CEO of CN tried and failed to spin their botched rating. Charity Navigator has and continues to award 4 stars to a host of F rated charities and refuses to change it’s methodology. CN didn’t rate SPCA International and Disabled Veterans National Foundation at all. Any one viewing the CNN report could see that Veterans National Foundation deserves zero stars for funneling 100% of it’s taxpayer subsidized donations to Quadriga. Like HSUS, Veterans National Foundation lies on it’s tax returns, categorizing a large chunk of Quadriga’s fees as program expenses, not fundraising. Charity Navigator, which rates 6000 charities and does not read past Page 1 of the tax forms, does no analysis whatsoever and not even a cursory review of reported data versus the true numbers. This is inexcusable because it both rewards and encourages bad charities to cook their books. Honest charities are penalized for accurate accounting. Charity Watch, the only major watchdog that audits tax returns, gives HSUS a D for spending 48% of it’s revenue raising money. According to the NY Times, Newsweek, Smart Money and others, Charity Watch is by far the best evaluator. It is also the only one to testify before Congress on charity fraud and abuse. HSUS now claims to spend 80% on charitable programs, abusing the joint accounting loophole and also omitting some fundraising and lobbying activities completely from it’s IRS 990s. Some of this is legal but unethical. Some is illegal. HSUS doesn’t care. Animal People newspaper publishes an annual watchdog report on animal charities. HSUS gets the equivalent of a D for spending just 57% on charitable programs. Worth Magazine, which is barely hanging on, based their 2009 rating entirely on Charity Navigator’s robo rating and the short article was written by a freelancer with no expertise in the field. When Worth was a serious and successful investigative publication, it had a special issue in December 2002 on America’s 100 Best and Ten Worst Charities. Their in-depth research took 6 months and used Charity Watch, State Attorney General charity regulators and public records. HSUS made the 10 worst list. Worth changed formats in 2003 and it’s been downhill from there. HSUS doesn’t care.

    2. Veterans National Foundation responded to the CNN report by reluctantly acknowledging their terrible contract with Quadriga. The subject of Part One, Disabled Veterans National Foundation, responded with threats of a lawsuit against CNN and several written defenses of losing money on fundraising with Quadriga. They claim that direct mail builds up their donor list, raises awareness, and is necessary for a new charity to grow. They defended themselves with the same drivel in response to Charity Watch’s 2010 piece. HSUS avoids the subject of Quadriga like the plague, but offers essentially the same outrageous defense as DVNF. HSUS, like DVNF, condemns Charity Watch for accurately calculating their fundraising expenses and questioning their creative accounting. Like DVNF, HSUS defends direct mail and guilt gifts as raising awareness and building up a constituency, in their case, a political constituency. Even that is a lie. HSUS claims 11 million members, but according to their own tax returns (page 2), their active membership is 450,000. HSUS claims that telemarketing and TV pleas for money are raising awareness and educating the public not fundraising. Charity Navigator rewards this because they do no analysis. HSUS loves them for it. It’s all they got. By the way, thanks to CNN and Charity Watch, DVNF and Quadriga are now being investigated by the Senate Finance Committee. HSUS continues to work with Quadriga.

    3. In 2008, BBB received a complaint about HSUS’s reporting abuses and omissions. BBB Wise Giving Alliance ordered HSUS to stop or they would fail their next review. HSUS had to double it’s figures from 12% on fundraising to 24%, a modest improvement. Inept Charity Navigator had to plug in different numbers from page 1 and downgraded HSUS to 3 stars for 2008 and 2009. Desperate for damage control material, HSUS started cooking the books again, and in February, got what they wanted from Charity Navigator.

    4. Humane Society International raises money as a separate organization and files it’s own tax return. HSUS raises money for international work as well. This may or may not be technically legal, but it is extremely deceptive and unethical.
    HSI should be the only one raising money for international work and should use the vast majority of the donations overseas. They do not, nor do they help animals on a “massive scale.” (Whatever that means.) HSUS fundraises on a massive scale, gives Quadriga money on a massive scale, misleads the public on a massive scale and enriches itself on a massive scale. HSUS also raises money for HSUS’s sanctuaries, which are not HSUS sancuaries but the Fund for Animals’ sanctuaries. The Fund raises huge amounts of money for the same sanctuaries separately. HSUS keeps the change, which is massive. And the Fund’s Black Beauty Ranch was cited by the USDA for poor conditions on numerous occasions. HSUS does the same double dipping for it’s other “controlled affiliates.”