Helping animals can create a more compassionate society, but it can be tough for animal lovers to know where their donation dollars can best serve the wild and woolly creatures they wish to protect.

The Animal Welfare Foundation of Canada (AWFC) helps donors maximize their charitable gifts. The foundation is run by a volunteer panel of animal welfare experts whose primary goal is to ensure that the animal welfare charities they support are truly fulfilling their objectives.

“We support organizations we think will have the most impact on animals,” says AWFC Board President Leanne McConnachie. “People who love animals can sometimes be overwhelmed by these decisions. They’re not sure who to give to, and they can get misled simply because a group sent them an evocative picture that pulls at the heartstrings.”

Since 1965, the AWFC’s grant programs have funded dozens of projects across Canada that support the welfare of all animals — at home, on farms, in research laboratories, in zoos, and in the wild — through research, public outreach, and education.

Recent projects include a program run by Wolf Awareness to educate Ontario’s farming community about non-lethal coexistence between livestock and predators, and a grant to Sierra Club Canada’s Atlantic chapter supporting their Watch for Wildlife campaign to reduce road collisions with animals. The AWFC partially funded Humane Canada’s participation in the creation of Codes of Practice for farm animals, as well as many programs benefitting companion animals.

The AWFC receives small, individual donations as well as substantial legacy gifts through estates, and awards about $35,000 per year to registered Canadian charities. Applicants must submit a letter of intent to the AWFC and short-listed groups are invited to submit a full proposal in the following months. The board reviews all proposals based on outcomes, assessing the impact of the program on animal welfare, without advocating for one perspective over another.

“We are able to support a wide variety of groups, and we are constantly changing who gets support depending on the worthiness of the project,” says McConnachie.

For donors wanting to explore other options, McConnachie recommends looking into an organization’s philosophy. It is important to consider the proportion of donations dedicated to fundraising and salaries, but McConnachie believes it’s more important to ensure the organization aligns with the donor’s values.

“Once you know what a charity stands for, and what it stands against, you’re in a better position to know whether you share a common vision,” she says. Donors can also review the management team and determine whether the charity has delivered meaningful results, such as influencing regulatory changes or eliminating a harmful practice.

If that seems time-consuming, consider donating through the AWFC, whose passionate team of animal welfare professionals has already done the legwork.

“How we treat animals says a lot about our own empathy and compassion as human beings, not only toward animals but toward each other,” McConnachie says. “Helping animals is about looking beyond ourselves.”

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