When news went out over social media groups that a young sable and white collie had been shot in the jaw in Kentucky during the second week of February, collie lovers everywhere went to work, sharing and re-sharing as well as putting up money and giving to the non-profit organization that had taken the case: The Arrow Fund. In recent days, as the The Arrow Fund continued to ask for more donations, questions were being asked that The Arrow Fund refuses to answer.
The young collie, now named Lad, has been the frequent topic of conversation among local collie lovers as well as collie lovers nationally and internationally. Some people voiced concern that The Arrow Fund was overwhelmed. The Arrow Fund was not listed in the FirstGiving non-profit directory. The foundation's EIN number (61-1396389) was listed as belonging to another now-defunct animal organization, Neuter Town, Inc., in the GoFundMe directory. A bit of checking with the IRS confirmed that The Arrow Fund is in good standing as a non-profit with the state of Kentucky.
According to the Kentucky Secretary of State website, the president is Rebecca Eaves and the organization (0522030) was founded in 2001 (5 September). As with all non-profits, The Arrow Fund has a board of directors which includes: Leslie Speltz (vice president), Laura Adams (secretary), David Shaver (treasurer), Kathryn Callahan (director), Pam Rogers (director), Thom Ham (Director), Mary Campisano (director) and Christina Stoll (director). All this is listed on The Arrow Fund website, but there are other things that are not.
At the time of formation Jeff Seidenfaden was a director and was the incorporator. Seidenfaden was also a director for The Pets Project Foundation, but is currently not listed as a current board of director member. At the time, I didn't think to dig any deeper.
On 19 February 2014, I sent a routine email to the info email address of The Arrow Fund. I asked three questions:
How much has been raised so far?
How much have you paid at this point?
What is the projected cost?
I also suggested that The Arrow Fund work with Tri-State Collie Rescue, making it clear that I have no contact with that particular rescue but Tri-State Collie Rescue is listed in GoFundMe and that would make tracking donations easy.
On Facebook, I saw mention of UC Davis in relation to Lad's future need of reconstructive surgery and sent a private message to the Facebook page for The Arrow Fund and I asked about UC Davis. That was on Saturday, 22 February 2014.
Although I went on to other more pressing projects, I suddenly got an email yesterday (26 February 2014) from the Louisville Pet Rescue Examiner, a newbie with only two months on the job who told me that Rebecca Eaves had asked this Examiner to contact me because The Arrow Fund, or at least Eaves, was leery of giving out financial information. From looking at the Pet Rescue Examiner's most recent article on Lad, it became apparent that the writer was willing to ask for money from the readers, but not ask the questions that those who had already donated where asking.
The excuse was that The Arrow Fund has so many animals that they apparently can't track their expenses and account for the donations given specifically for each animal although they continue to campaign for more money.
The question people are asking is simple: How do you know you need more money if you don't know how much money you have?
It's unusual to have a fellow freelancer on another city edition attempt to keep you from doing your job. You have to wonder if this particular Examiner is also being asked to rein in other freelancers or journalists instead of just asking the questions that need to be asked. Are they going to rein in Wynonna Judd as well? Judd's phone call to The Arrow Fund was enthusiastically noted by Rebecca Eaves of The Arrow Fund on Facebook.
As of yesterday, I hadn't asked The Arrow Fund for any more information although as per the other Examiner's practice, I copied them on my exchange with my fellow freelancer. If The Arrow Fund is unable to track, account for earmarked funds, project costs and keep donators informed about the financials, then they'd probably be better off transferring Lad's ownership to a rescue that can. I suggested two: Tri-State which covers Kentucky and Northern California Collie Rescue--neither of which I had direct contact with.
Transparency isn't a trifling issue. The National Council of Nonprofits outlines accountability practices in fundraising on its website. The website clearly outlines how to cultivate a culture of accountability and transparency. According to the IRS, "In general, exempt organizations must make available for public inspection certain annual returns and applications for exemption, and must provide copies of such returns and applications to individuals who request them." This morning, I asked for copies of financial documents and they should be interesting.
According to the documents on the website of the Kentucky Secretary of State, in 2002, The Arrow Fund was registered under the name of Neuter Town, Inc. and the registered agent was Pamela Rogers. The name was changed in 2013 to The Arrow Fund.
Pamela Rogers is the Kentucky State Director of The Humane Society of the United States. In 2008, Rogers was listed as the president of Neuter Town, Inc., with Denise Berry the secretary and Jennifer McComas the vice president. This board dates back to 2005.
Records show that when Jeff Seidenfaden incorporated (August 2001) this non-profit as Neuter Town, Inc, the board was Seidenfaden, Karen Little and Jackie Gulbe. By 2002, the organization had failed to file its 2002 annual report and was dissolved. In 2003, Rogers took over by filing a statement of change in July of that year. In 2009, Neuter Town, Inc. was dissolved again due to failure to file a 2009 annual report. In 2012, Pamela Rogers submitted a change of address and the organization remained named Neuter Town, Inc. In 2012, the organization was still going under the name of Neuter Town when it was reinstated.
Under Pamela Rogers as president, the name change to The Arrow Fund was approved in March 2013. In April of that year, the registered agent was changed to Leslie Spetz. Since the 2001 incorporation, the Articles of Incorporation which state that the organization's goal is to "provide high volume surgical sterilization of domestic dogs and cats" and this goal has never been amended.
However, according to an article in Kentucky Living in 2011, Eaves founded The Arrow Fund in 2009. She was working with The Shamrock Arrow Fund which was part of The Shamrock Pet Foundation in Louisville. The Shamrock Pet Foundation was incorporated in 1991, for the purpose of animal welfare and protection. The foundation was dissolved in 1996 and reinstated in 1997. The Shamrock Pet Foundation is an assumed name corporation. Eaves is not listed as a director or having been one at any time.
This would all seem cause for concern. The non-profit The Arrow Fund has only been in existence since 2013, at which time Rebecca Eaves was not president nor is she listed as a director or president or treasurer for any other organization in the organization search for Kentucky. The same can be said for the person who is now listed as treasurer. Vice president Leslie Spetz is listed as owning a company and that makes her a good choice for the registered agent since she has had the company since 2009. Laura Adams is a director on another charity board (Blue Grass Charity Ball, Inc.) and the director of LTJ Transport, Inc. which has a history dating back to 1987.
Dave Shaver, the Arrow Fund's treasurer, is listed on LinkedIn as the vice president, principal project manager at the Fifth Third Bank where he has been since 2010. He has a bachelor of science in business administration and accounting from the University of Louisville. You'd think with this kind of person as treasurer, reports would be managed well enough to give simple answers to simple questions.
The Arrow Fund takes donations through PayPal and that service doesn't have a delay in reporting (i.e. quarterly reports) so it's curious that The Arrow Fund is unable to provide answers to simple questions and requests for transparency. People who have been involved in animal rescue long enough have all heard of well-intentioned organizations that went under, or worse, resulted in law enforcement actions due to financial woes or mismanagement.
You can't help but wonder just how much The Arrow Fund received before Wynonna Judd gave her support and even if Judd also added financial support as well. The case broke about 11 February 2014 and we're at the end of February. Lad seems to be doing fine, but the calls for more money aren't supported by data and statistics related to actual need.
Based on the records, The Arrow Fund seems to be an organization that has only recently become a legal non-profit and under the leadership of someone who isn't experienced enough to make judgment calls and respond to routine inquiries. From its Facebook page, one can see the organization is taking on desperate cases and the organization is racking up high vet bills, but it is too soon to say if The Arrow Fund has a workable financial strategy or plan, particularly if, as the website claims, all the directors work for free ("Neither Rebecca nor members of our Board are paid for their services.").
I have no doubt that The Arrow Fund and Eaves are both well-intentioned and I am warmed by the rescue of Lad and the care he is receiving at Blue Pearl Veterinary clinic, but rather I question both The Arrow Fund's administration and transparency. When you ask the public for money, the public has a right to some answers and they aren't getting them from Rebecca Eaves or The Arrow Fund.