Thursday, April 1, 2010

Quandary - My Arabian Horse Twins

The quandary I am in has to do with whether this is really appropriate. To explain my confusion here are the facts as I know them.

I first became associated with Mare Stare soon after my twin foals were born. The owner of the website contacted me saying she'd like to provide me with a web cam and host streaming for the twins on her site. (In actuality MS provided free hosting for me for a couple of years.)

Mare Stare was relatively new at the time and while I had never heard of it, I figured getting the name of my farm out there on the internet couldn't hurt, so I agreed. I knew that streaming the twins would help Mare Stare draw traffic to their site to build up it's readership. I figured that's what her motivation was for asking me in the first place. That was ok with me too, I figured we were scratching each others backs.

After we got the twins live webcam up and streaming, some of the Mare Stare people started the organization called Mare Stare Cares. At the time one of the foals featured on their cams had died leaving the owner with extraordinary vet bills. Then there were my extra ordinary vet bills with the twins. My twins and the foal known as "Lucky" were featured as the causes getting Mare Stare Cares off the ground. There may have been a third party mentioned as well but if so I'm blank on those details.

There were auctions, donations through PayPal and all sorts of things raising funds for this organization. Pictures of my twins were used as well as pictures of the other foal. Later in that year even a calendar was done with my twin foals featured on the December page.

I have no idea what kind of funds were raised but I can tell you I never received a dime from Mare Stare Cares. When I was recently contacted by them to provide pictures of the twins, I mentioned this fact to them because I think that people think their donations went to help paying my vet bills which just didn't happen. I am uncomfortable with that what people think happened is not what really happened.

The response from Mare Stare was they had provided me with a web cam and free streaming. While I'm certainly not denying that, I question it is appropriate to regard that as the help from Mare Stare Cares. It was done in the name of Mare Stare for the promotion of the web cam hosting site that is Mare Stare. I doubt detonators knew they were paying Mare Stare for hosting the twins' web cam on their site. Considering the founding of Mare Stare Cares came after that offer, it seems to me to be a misrepresentation of things.

I am all for helping out people who need help. My concern is about the way this has been done. As I said before people believe that I was given funds to help pay my vet bills not that funds were generated to pay hosting charges. The muddiness of this concerns me.

I realize that Mare Stare must pay for the volume of traffic on their site. I know the twins probably brought in a lot of volume and that affected the site's bills. But the twins being on that site benefited Mare Stare in terms of growth they accomplished. Using that growth correctly could definitely generate a considerable income to the founder of Mare Stare if she worked it right. So is it appropriate to raise funds under the guise of helping people with extra ordinary vet bills only to use those funds for the website?

I believe that Mare Stare Cares is operating now under a 501(c)(3) status. I'm pretty sure this "donation" as they call it towards my twins would not met the criteria for that designation. They might be able to write the hosting off under costs but I doubt they could say it was a donation made to my twins. If that is so, doesn't that make their use of my twins in their advertising as an example of those they've helped questionable?

I want to help IF and only if it is appropriate. I don't believe that Mare Stare Cares helped my twins in the manner purported by the fundraising efforts of Mare Stare Cares or the criteria set by the government. What do you think? If that is indeed the case, isn't it inappropriate for them to continue to use my twins as an example of "parties they have helped" so they can generate more funds? That leads me to another question. Are there others like me who never received any funds? And does this manner of doing business look like someone who is really above board?

I need to get back to MSC to let them know if they can use my twins in their advertising. If it was up to you, what would you do?


  1. No, an in kind donation is not considered a donation from a 501 (c) 3. Whether you should allow them to use your foals should rely solely on whether or not the publicity will benefit you from a business stand point. Hosting and media streaming is cheap these days. Traffic generation is what everyone is after. Only you can weigh the value - they'd have to agree to have a write up on your facility, for example...

  2. There is no quandary. It seems to me your thoughts are clear and on target. If they are an official non-profit I expect there is public record of their funds. If not, there should be.
    The dog rescue group for whom I foster collies have funds set up and truly help deserving people and needy dogs through their vet bills, food etc.
    Follow your instincts.

  3. A 501 (c)3 can raise funds for their cause without obligation in some cases on how they spend those funds. If I make a donation to a non profit at the holidays and they spend it on their phone bills, that is the breaks. I can however offer a restricted donation saying I wish it to go to a certain program or effort.

    Generally, this is good business for a non profit to raise funds, allowing donors to make a restricted donation that meets their intent.

    So technically, if MSC solicited unrestricted donations, they were not then OBLIGATED to donate to you, even if they used the twins pictures.

    But ethically, I think it is your decision on using the twins as "poster ponies" for future fund raising knowing that prospective donors will think they are donating or have donated to the twins.
    If it doesn't feel right, there is nothing wrong with saying "not at this time."

  4. The little beasties look good, don't they?

  5. I would say there needs to be some accounting. If there is none forthcoming; no, they cannot use your horses and circumstances to further their own. If they cannot answer your questions, they simply create more.

  6. "In order to qualify for assistance, you must submit copies of vet bills in excess of $250.00. Funds will be disbursed to the vet's office, clinic, or hospital only." Did not see that it is 501. Were your bills above $250.00? : )

  7. It sounds like they may be using your twins for their own benefit not yours. It's up to you but I wouldn't let them use your twins anymore to further their business unless there was something substantial in it for you. I'm sure what they did and are doing is probably legal but there are a lot of shades of legal these days.

  8. I think it's highly inappropriate. Indeed, I think it's fraud. Raising money for one cause and using it for another is illegal. If the IRS found out about it, at the very least they'd lose their non for profit status and probably be subjected to a major audit. It's this kind of thing that makes it harder for honest charities that are using the money for the stated purpose to raise funds.

  9. I sure as heck wouldn't let them use photos or reference the twins if it was me.

    I'd probably be pissy enough about it to aske them HOW exactly did they help the twins? Since they are claiming they did.

    And since the 501(c) Mare Stare Cares came AFTER the offer from Mare Stare-you don't 'owe' them anything. However, they may owe you if they are telling people they used the donations to help pay for the extra-ordinary vet bills.

    Sounds like they have some 'splaining to do about their collections.

  10. Breathe, I don't really know the specifics on their non profit status. I just remember they were applying and didn't follow the outcome. It just seems to me they are implying they helped me with vet bills when they didn't and I don't want to be a part of continuing that false impression.

    English Rider, my instincts have been screaming at me since this began but I would like to help others in difficult situations like mine was if I can so I have been torn.

    Diane, I realize they have latitude in what they do with funds they raise. What bothers me is I think they are implying they've done something with those funds that they did not do. I don't want to enable them to continue that impression using my name or those of my twins.

    phaedra96, I asked my questions and their response was they provided hosting and a cam for me. They also said if I was not comfortable with them using the twins, that was up to me. That's where it stands for now.

    And you're right. The little beasties do look good. They have grown into beautiful healthy horses.

    Connie, Sorry I have to laugh just a bit at your question, probably because there is enough distance now between when this happened. $250 is a drop in the bucket. My vet bills on the twins were in the thousands.

  11. Arlene, that's pretty much exactly how I feel. It probably is legal but that doesn't mean it really is right. I just don't want to be part of something that might be questionable in any way.

    Dragonhawk, I don't really know the specifics on non profit law to make that kind of judgement. I do however agree that those engaging any kind of questionable practices do make it more difficult for those who are totally upfront and forthcoming. We see that around here with a questionable horse rescue.

    BECC, I did tell them I had no received funds from them on behalf of the twins. Their response was they provided the webcam and hosting. As far as they are concerned that benefited the twins but I sure as heck can't tell you how. It introduced them to lots of people and even endeared them to many but in no way did that really benefit the twin horses or my farm.

    I will say that I met some folks through MS that are still my friends to this day. I am defintely grateful for those connections and the emotional support I received during that difficult time.

  12. I've gone back and looked at the site and their words specifically are "Those we helped" so I guess it all comes down to if people think "help" is a web cam and hosting that was provided after the twins were born and they were basically out of the woods as far as survival was concerned.

  13. Thanks for your visit...I love your babies..twins?! Thats amazing bet thats kept you busy! Have a good weekend :D

  14. Mikael if your intuition is telling you that something is not smelling just right you are probably right. I guess I would have to have a lot more information before I would allow them to use the twins pictures to make money. I don't consider the use of a web cam to be financially helpful as far as vet bills are concerned.

  15. First,I want to say, you get the BEST action pictures of your horses. They are gorgeous and make me want to sit on my corral fence with a webcam to get that kind of action shot!

    Second, what MSC is doing may be technically legal, but it really pushes by ethics button. I think you have spotted them right on and they need to understand that people are not going to look at them as being totally above board if they continue doing these things. Maybe they just don't know, but if you cover this with them and they give you those kind of answers, I would say protect yourself and your horses.

  16. It seems to me that there is a difference between Mare Stare, and Mare Stare Cares. One is a business, the other, a charitable organization, 501(C)(3) or not. Money that is donated with the understanding that it is for the medical expenses of your twins (beautiful kids, by the way), should not be given to an associated business.

    It is your decision as to whether or not to continue to let them use the twins, but, I would do like you are doing, find out more about what is going on.

    Can you contact Mare Stare Cares and ask them for a list of people that they have helped. Then, check with those people, if possible, and find out what the situation is.

    Thanks, by the way, for stopping by my blog. I like the looks of this blog, and I'm going to add it to my blog list.

  17. Julie, thanks for visiting. The twins don't keep me any busier than any of the others now that they are older but in the beginning they were a 24-7 task.

    MM, I'm with you not thinking the webcam was useful when what I really needed was help with huge vet bills. Guess I needed to know if I was being weird or if it was something odd to others as well.

    Juanita, This particular shot was taken by my son-in-law with my cam. He takes them for me at our annual open house each year. Gives me lots of pics for later blog posts.

    I believe I've already given them my concerns about this but will restate when I let them know I won't be providing more pics. I think I am going to tell them they need to quit using the ones they already have too. I just am not comfortable the way they have been used.

    Louise, Yes, I believe that you are right. I hadn't really thought about it in those terms. I don't know if funds actually went from one to the other to cover my web hosting or not but even so it just doesn't feel right to me.

    I am curious what others might have gotten in the way of help but I doubt I will ever know. Also I noticed that one of those on the list helped in the year of the twins is a filly owned by the MS owner. Not that there is anything wrong with that but knowing I received no assistance with vet bills I can't help but wonder what went towards that filly. Just one more reason to distance myself, I'm thinking.

  18. Hi, it's Terri again. Read "Quandary". My answer is.....
    If you have to think about the issue that hard, and ask that many questions, I would bale.

  19. So wait a minute. You accepted a few years of free cam streaming (not cheap) and also work to keep that running and only NOW are you complaining? I'm sorry but that's probably the most ungrateful thing I have ever heard. If you do not wish your photos to be used as 'advertising' for a charity then say no to the people running the charity, you don't go and post up in a public place about a company in a bad way. If you DID need to post that up here, I do assume that you spoke to the person in charge first to get their side of it? You took years of cash free publicity and you don't see the extra eyes, support and help gained through that service as help? Why didn't you turn it down at the time? At the least if you were posting it up here you should have shielded the name of Mare Stare, made it a question without insinuating that Mare Stare was cheating you or others out of any of anything! Years of hosting isn't cheap, and I'd assume as Mare Stare is there to help owners and horses that it was given to help out you in a time of need, many eyes watching and less worry for yourself if you had to leave them and needed eyes... I actually found about your twins while googling and found a link to your blog via a MareStare post, maybe they should start charging you for free publicity?