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After year of scandal, CASPCA tries to boost fundraising in final days of 2023

With only one week left in 2023, the Charlottesville area’s primary animal shelter announced a fundraising drive to raise "50k in 5 days."

But with charitable giving down nationwide, and the Charlottesville-Albemarle Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals still recovering from a scandal that rocked its senior leadership earlier this year, $50,000 may not be an attainable goal.

As of Thursday, CASPCA had raised only $3,000.

It’s not the first time the nonprofit shelter has attempted the feat, and would not be the first time it fell short.

CASPCA’s first go at "50k in 5 days" last December was launched “to give people one last chance to band together to provide for the animals,” CASPCA marketing and communications manager Sierra Stevens told The Daily Progress. In 2022, it raked in $29,000.

With $47,000 remaining to be raised this year, and just days before deadline, the shelter has a long way to go before it even meets last year’s figure.

“The CASPCA started the 50k in 5 Days Challenge as a way to engage our community of supporters and stakeholders in making a meaningful and positive monetary impact on the critical services we provide to homeless animals and pet families in the community,” the shelter’s advancement, marketing and communications director Hilary Bryan told The Daily Progress in an email.

CASPCA isn’t the only nonprofit organization that has struggled to raise money. Charitable giving has been slowing down nationwide for the past several years. Total donations by corporations and individuals towards nonprofit groups dropped by 10.5% in 2022 compared to 2021, according to the “Giving USA 2023” report published by the Giving Institute, which monitors and counsels the philanthropic sector. It was the only the fourth time in 40 years that giving had declined. A study done by the Fundraising Effectiveness Project found the number of charitable donors declined 3.8% in the first quarter of 2023 compared to the first quarter of 2022, the seventh straight quarter of donor decline.

Another factor that could be keeping donors’ checkbooks closed this year, at least as far as the CASPCA is concerned, is the recent controversy over its now former CEO.

Angie Gunter left the organization in May amid protests outside the local SPCA’s door and a stream of letters from current and former employees and volunteers who said “Ms. Gunter’s management style is demeaning, divisive, and punitive. She creates a culture of fear among her staff and volunteers.” The letter writers claimed that Gunter mismanaged the shelter to the point of animal neglect bordering on abuse.

Gunter’s departure only came after the CASPCA’s board brought in international law firm McGuireWoods to look into the matter. The firm recommended a number of changes “to improve our workplace culture and the quality of care for the animals entrusted to us,” the SPCA’s board said in a statement. Gunter was gone by the end of May. Sue Friedman, a veteran of the nonprofit world, stepped in as interim executive director until October, when the CASPCA board named Libby Jones, former COO of Seattle Humane and vice president of operations for Humane Society of Charlotte, as its new executive director.

“We are thrilled to have Libby Jones join this amazing organization,” Jenn Corbey, president of CASPCA’s board, said in a statement. “The input, thoughts and insight of our staff was of utmost importance to us while seeking a new Executive Director. With her help, we will continue on this upward trend, growing our shelter and focusing on our vision and mission.”

It may have found steady leadership, but it could be some time before the shelter sees a steady stream of donations come back. Ironically, many of the protesters outside the CASPCA earlier this year worried that the public outcry over Gunter’s leadership, their public outcry, may disenchant longtime donors and hurt the organization’s ability to work with and for the community.

The shelter generally raises more than $1 million annually to cover operations but saw a decrease this year, according to Bryan, who did not divulge how much fundraising had fallen.

“The CASPCA is very grateful for our generous donors and stakeholders here at the shelter,” said Bryan. “The dollars we raise go towards basic needs of our shelter animals to critical care when necessary and other services that we provide to the community.”

When The Daily Progress asked if the dip in funding could be attributed to the issues surrounding Gunter’s departure, the CAPSCA emphasized its efforts to move on.

“The situation involving Angie Gunter is no longer a topic of discussion for staff, donors and stakeholders,” said Bryan. “Like any organization we learned from the experience, we grew and now we are focused on being the best animal shelter CASPCA can be in the community.”

For a shelter that currently is home to more than 200 animals, the daily operation costs can be steep. Microchipping one animal costs about $25, vaccines range from $25 to $50, and space can cost as much as $200 depending on the animal.

The $50,000 the shelter is hoping to raise in the last five days of the year would only last the nonprofit between two weeks and a month, according to Stevens.

“The 50k in 5 days is one of our last pushes for charitable contributions before we move into 2024,” said Bryan. “We hope that we can raise more money for our homeless animals by the end of tomorrow for the 50k in 5 days campaign and that our CASPCA supporters will answer our call to action to support our homeless animals before 2023 comes to a close.”


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