Money talks: Healthier animals mean healthier people

Just a few days ago, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen gave $26 million to his alma mater, Washington State University, specifically to benefit its School for Global Animal Health, which is planning significant expansion of research programs and laboratory capacity in Africa over the next ten years.  Allen’s gift to the school was preceded by a 2008 grant of $25 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support construction of the school’s research building in Pullman, Washington.

The school’s work to prevent the spread of dangerous diseases among animals has potentially far-reaching implications for humans as well.  A December 2 article in The Seattle Times reports that according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases in humans—including anthrax, avian flu, Ebola, HIV, mad cow disease, swine flu, and West Nile virus—originate in animals.  Animal health and human health are therefore closely linked, particularly in developing countries.  Furthermore, many of the world’s poorest people depend on livestock for their income, so sick animals pose an economic threat as well.

The Seattle Times‘s “Business of Giving” section features a video commentary by Paul Allen in which he describes his reasons for making the gift:

There’s a valuable lesson to be learned here for all organizations that focus on helping animals: To the greatest extent possible in your communications with funders, try to illustrate the potential benefits of your work for people as well, emphasizing the interdependency between the well-being of animals and humans.  Include supporting statistics and/or testimonials from reputable sources.  This will help build a stronger case for the merit of your organization’s efforts.  For example, organizations whose work involves humane education programs can point to the well-established fact that many violent criminals have a history of abusing animals as children.  Therefore, cultivating empathy toward animals when children are young may help to reduce the incidence of human-on-human violence in the future.  (The web site of the humane education organization HEART provides links to some documentation of the human/animal violence connection).

One thing that donors greatly appreciate is knowing that their funds will be leveraged—in other words, that their gift will provide the maximum bang for their buck.

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