Thursday, December 31, 2009

I need your thoughts on Why SHI charges a fee for our services

To: My Blog Followers:

In the beginning before there was a large group of caring people to help victims search for their horses, there were three women. These three women bounced ideas back and forth, supported each other and offered support to me along with constructive criticism. They were my sounding board in many ways. Eventually and a nonprofit called Stolen Horse International was born from the comradely we shared. They went on to do other things, but are still supportive of NetPosse.com I stayed and work every day of my life keeping SHI/NetPosse alive.

This blog is in its infancy much like Stolen Horse International was way back before we knew it was even going to be Stolen Horse International. I hope that some of you in my small group of bloggees (is that a word?) will offer me the same support as those three women did years ago when I ask.

Recently I have been offering our assistance to UK victims via message boards post, and at times offering a free listing to the victims. Today on one of those message boards I received this message which said, “You should also be advising people that there is a registration fee to report a horse stolen.”
I was scratching my head on that one. I was not sure how to take the message as words and emotions are often interpreted differently between the person posting and the reader. I sat and thought about this for a moment. This person may have thought that I was deceptive or thought we were just out for financial gain. Clearly they didn’t understand what stands behind that small fee.

Would you be so kind as to offer your opinion on my response please? I was trying to explain our organization, our services in an educational matter of fact way. Did I accomplish that task?

You are now my sounding board and your thoughts are greatly appreciated. Thanks to all who reply.

Why SHI charges a fee for our services

Thank you for giving me the chance to address your concern. Yes, there is a very small fee. We are a nonprofit that is supported by these small fees and donations. No one is paid in this organization and it is run by all volunteers. I personally work more that 50 hours a week, in the office. On weeks that I travel to trade shows and do seminars where I am working around the clock the hours are even higher.

These fees are necessary to pay our bills and to keep our doors open so that we can provide help to victims and our educational services to horse owners. We do not have grants or government funding. We do not have advertisers who pay our expenses. We have to find our own way to make ends meet.
This fee does two things:

1) As stated above, it helps us pay the bills we have in our mail box each week. We are a business and like any business we have to pay electric, Internet, website cost, insurance, office supplies, travel, cost of supplies, maintenance, dues, contractual services (Ex: accountant and computer services)etc. We have all of the expenses applicable to any business. Just because we are a nonprofit business doesn't mean that we are exempt from bill payments and that everything is given to us free. However, some people are confused or perhaps don't think about it and tend to think that we do get everything free; therefore we should not charge for our services. All of the money we collect goes 100% back into keeping our doors open, victim’s services and our many educational programs.

2) The second purpose for the fee is to help keep dishonest people from filing false reports. I have been doing this since my own horse was stolen in 1997. I have seen and heard it all and nothing surprises me anymore. We use to pass along emails and list horses for free a long time ago about stolen horses. The more people found us the more we learned the harsh truth about a small percentage of the people, some people lie. Since we started charging the fee we have had very few cases where people are not telling the truth. Dishonest people in general do not want to pay to distribute their fabrications.

It is rare that a person who has a stolen or missing horse even thinks about the fee, especially since it is so small. We did a poll a few years ago and one of our questions asked if the fee was justifiable. The response was totally in support of the fee. Most thought the fee was to low for the work that we do and the help that victims received. All thought that if a person who could not afford to pay $25 for the huge benefit they received may not even need the horse back. The comment that was made most was, "If they can't afford this small fee how can they afford to have a horse?"

I am a victim of theft myself and I would have gladly paid any fee, let alone a small $25 fee like the one here at Stolen Horse International that may do any the following but is not limited to this list alone:

1. Allows listing not only one but two horses for that price.

2. Gives you your own personal webpage with as many pictures as you want to place on the page.

3. A professional looking printable flyer to be distributed through IDAHO ALERTS. A link will be placed on your personal page so anyone can print as many flyers as they wish from anywhere in the world.

4. Your information is not just sitting on a webpage waiting to be found by people who stumble upon the information. An IDAHO ALERT, named after our stolen horse, is sent to thousands of email boxes, first through our NetPosse volunteers who send the alert to their friends and associations who send the alert to theirs and so on and so on. With the help of the victim we also try to pinpoint areas of concentrations to distribute the alerts.

5. Your info will also be included in one or more of our newsletters using the email service Constant Contact, a professional service (another expense) which reaches thousands.

6. If the information we request is sent to us we also do press releases which are sent to all of the AHP, (horse world version of the AP service) which may lead to the victims exposure on more websites and magazines. (By the way, this is another one of our expenses. There is a fee to join this service)

7. Consultations: Need to talk to someone who has been there already? You may call us for help.

8. Experience and support from people who have been in your shoes, work in law enforcement, legal services etc.

9. Currently the stolen, missing, lost and fond listings are administrated by three primary people, allowing a personal touch to each case.

10. Nothing is hidden, not even the fee on our site.

We have worked hard to accomplish what we have in the horse industry. Our reputation is above reproach and we do try hard to keep it that way. I understand that you may not trust me so I invite you to Google Stolen Horse International, NetPosse or Debi Metcalfe and to get to know us better.

I hope this addresses your statement successfully.

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Any thoughts? You can post a comment here or email me privately at idahonc@aol.com

5 comments:

Lynn Baber said...

Hi Deb. Your response was a good one. Perhaps you might reduce it to bullet points and put it front and center on your site (if you haven't already.) The services you offer far exceed the fee you charge.
May I repeat a marketing message I gave at the conference? If you have been asked the same question more than once, find a way to provide information that eliminates the question from arising again.
Keep up the good work. Happy New Year.
Lynn

Linda Ann Nickerson - National Equestrian Examiner said...

Great explanation. Thorough and fair!

Happy New Year!
Linda

Angie @ Ranch Dressing said...

I agree completely with Lynn...a perfect response to your questioner (if that's a word) You really shouldn't have to justify the minimal fee, but I suppose there will always be people that question where their dollars are spent.

Too, I would pay any fee within reason to have my horse safely back home. I haven't had a stolen horse, but when my beloved dog was lying on the operating table after a gunshot I would have paid anything to save him and have him back with us.

Tragedy will make you see your priorities instantly. Thanks for your good work. Happy New Year!

plowgirl said...

Debi,
I agree with your post. I feel the charge in small in comparison to the loss? Plus, all the work involved is very time consuming and I only did one case. So kudos for your organization. No, $25.00 is not too much to ask. A couple of bags of feed can costs that or more? It took 16 hours of your time and mine to do one case, me being on satellite and you waiting for my weather to clear. I, well, remember. The fee is not excessive.

Keep on keeping on! :-)

sillypoet said...

Hi Debi.

Though this was published over a year ago, I just now found the blog through a SHI e-mail & read this post...

Well & clearly explained. There is always more going on behind the scene of any non-profit. To be putting 100% of donations back into SHI is tremendous!

If you ever have a case where someone legitimately cannot pay the $25 fee, *please* let me know. You know how to contact me....(Hint - computers & packages:)

mtrvrpoet