Sleuthing on Rescue Finances - how to know how rescues spend their money

Nikki Waterson -  20 Mar 2021

Do you know what I really love? And I mean aside from animals, and helping others, and spreadsheets.

Publicly available information. 

And when I recently wrote a blog post on where donations to animal rescue really go, I realised that I wouldn't be the only one who would want to look up animal rescue financial reports when choosing Aussie animal rescues to support.

But sometimes navigating a bureaucratic website that you are unfamiliar with, or reading and interpreting financial and other reports, can just be a little bit confusing.

So I wanted to show you how you can do your own research into every animal rescue, and find out more information on where our donations go. This applies to any Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission registered organisations, which all of our rescue partners are.

So whether you are searching for more information on a dog shelter, pet sanctuary, wildlife rescue or cat foster network, this step-by-step guide has you covered!

1. Search for the organisation on the 'ACNC register'

The first place I always start my search to find out more about any Charity in Australia is the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission(ACNC).

The ACNC is the federal government regulatory body for all Australian Charities and Not-for-profit organisations, and you can find a huge amount of publicly available information on every registered organisation on their website.

To look up information on a specific animal rescue, just go to the ACNC Charity Register, type in your the rescue name, and hit search.

For our guide we are using one of our wonderful Rescue Partners, the North East Animal Sanctuary of Tasmania (NEAST). Normally we would tell you a bit about NEAST right now, but on theme with our step by step guide, instead we are going to reveal information about them as we go. Ooh, suspense!

Once you locate the correct organisation from the search, you will see a snapshot of all of their information that looks like this:

2. Read the first page, which has an overview of the rescue.

Here are a few of the things this page tells us about NEAST:

  • Charity details - name, address, contact email, website, size, who they help, date established, last report date and next report date.
  • Summary of activities- a description of who the Charity helped and how they helped them over the reporting year.
  • Where the charity operates - for many rescues this is one state or territory, and for some it is across several states.
  • Financial Overview- a summary in two pie charts showing the total income and total expenses of the organisation.

As you can see from the financial overview section for NEAST, while it is informative and provides us more information than we would have otherwise had, it does not give us specific information on where donations are being used.

But what helpful information do we now know?

NEAST are a small animal rescue, they operate in Tasmania, and they rehomed, raised, rehabilitated and provided medical care for animals that came into their care, including providing a furever home with NEAST to the animals that were not suitable for rehoming due to medical or behavioural issues. Go NEAST!

A great start to our quest to understand more about our chosen animal rescue. Let's move on to the next step.

3. Click on the tab for 'Financials & Documents'

Once we click on the 'Financials & Documents' tab, we will be shown a page that has a list of the documents that Charities are required to submit to the ACNC every year. Each organisation generally publishes two reports every year:

  • Annual Information Statement
  • Financial Report

     There are some exceptions where you won’t find a recent financial report, for example if there is a note saying a report is ‘Not Required - small’ then (as you might guess) that rescue hasn’t reached a certain size and doesn’t need to submit a yearly financial report yet.

    Sometimes you may also find a statement saying a report is ‘Not yet submitted’, although the due date for that report is passed. Equally, you might find a report was submitted months after the due date.

    This isn’t anything unusual, and in my opinion can be attributed to the grassroots nature of small and medium animal rescues - they don’t normally start out with a dedicated financial officer, that’s normally the role of the Founder, along with all of their other duties. Which there are generally… a lot of.

    But it looks like NEAST submitted their financial report for 2020 right on time!

    Let's take a look at it.
  • 4. Open the most recent Financial Report and scroll to the 'income and expenditure' page

    As you can see we have the exact information we have been searching for. The NEAST 'Statement of Income and Expenditure' shows us where NEAST received their income over the year, and where that income was spent.

    Income

  • $33,922.69 from donations
  • $31,287.00 from adoption fees
  • $20,684.65 from fundraising
  • $5,621.00 from grants

  • Expenses
  • $37,154.51 on veterinary costs
  • $20,693.07 on animal food and litters
  • $10,944.15 on building, repairs and maintenance
  • $5,058.53 on fundraising costs
  • $4,182.42 on plant and equipment
  • $3,819.58 on incidental expenses
  • $2,125.34 on insurance and utilities
  • $550.00 on audit fees
  • $357.15 on balancing entry
  • When I look at this report, there are several things that really jump out at me when analysing NEAST's most recent (2019-2020) expenses.

    • Veterinary costs were nearly half (43.8%) and food and litters nearly a quarter (24.4%) of the year's expenses. 
    • The next largest expenses were building, repairs and maintenance (12.9%) and fundraising (6%). 
    • There were no wages paid to any NEAST workers, meaning all work was volunteer. 
    • Income for the year came from donations (37.1%), adoption fees (34.2%), fundraising (22.6%) and grants (6.1%). 
    • Comparing NEAST's fundraising expenses ($5,058.53) with their fundraising income ($20,684.65) shows that they did an excellent job fundraising for the year with a great return on investment. 
    • About 95% of NEAST's income relies on members of the public choosing to support NEAST (fundraising, donations and adoptions).

    I asked NEAST to help us understand what some of the less obvious expenses were. Here are their helpful responses:

    Plant and Equipment- Vacuum cleaners, heaters, whipper snippers, mower, pump for fire fighting etc.

    Incidental Expenses -Postage, tip fees, fuel, admin costs, website, domain registration fees

    Audit Fees - For the auditor to make sure NEAST accounts are in order

    Anyone can find this information, try it!

    So, overall, it’s well worth looking into the financial and annual reports of the charities and not-for-profits you’re considering donating to. In fact, I challenge you to! Head over to the ACNC website and find out some more information about the rescue you would support if you were to buy from the Paws for Giving shop right now.

    Alternatively, have a read about our rescue partners at our Rescue Partner page. Each is doing impawtant work in the world of rescue, and covering a unique area, animal, breed or particular rescue need.

    If you found this article helpful, please share it, comment on it, or shoot me, Nikki, a message. I am by no means an expert when it comes to Charities and rescues, but I will do whatever I can do to help answer any questions!

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