Saturday, August 28, 2010

How to Start a Non-Profit Animal Rescue

If you're an animal welfare supporter, you might have thought about starting up your own non-profit animal rescue. Perhaps there are no shelters in your area, or the existing rescues are being asked to assist more animals than they can accommodate.

If starting an animal rescue interests you, be aware that it is no small task. The smaller the rescue the more manageable it might be, but regardless of the size, you'll want to follow the same steps to get up and running.
Determine your community's need for an animal rescue. Visit local shelters in your area. Test the waters with them to find out how a new shelter would be received. If the need in the area for additional resources is great or if your community doesn't currently have a shelter, you're probably on the right track.

Determine your own strengths and weaknesses. Where does your expertise lie? Are you business-savvy, a natural at fundraising or is your experience focused on taking care of animals? Whatever your experience, you will need to augment your talents with people who can fill in the blanks.

Form a team. Use what you've learned from determining your strengths and weaknesses and seek out a group of like-minded individuals. You'll need people with experience in management, fundraising, accounting, and animal welfare to help get the rescue off the ground and keep it running. If you are incorporating, you will also need a board of directors.

Develop your business plan. With help from your team, write out your mission and goals. Define roles and responsibilities.

File for incorporation as a non-profit to qualify for the IRS's 501 (c) 3 tax-exempt status. You will need to submit your mission statement, bylaws, and articles of incorporation as well as a list of your board of directors. This can be a complicated process so you'll want to retain an attorney. Keep this in mind when you're assembling your initial team - perhaps there's an animal-loving attorney in your area willing to represent you pro bono.

Open a chequing account for the organization and put in as much money as you can afford to cover incidentals like photocopying and small fees.

Decide what type of animal rescue you'll pursue. Will the rescue be open to all animals, companion animals or a specific type or breed? Will you offer sanctuary until adopted ("no kill") or do you support euthanasia as a last resort? What role will you play in the community? Will you provide education through classes or newsletters? Will you require additional volunteers?

After about six months, your organization will receive its incorporation as a non-profit and you'll need to turn your attention to raising funds. Hopefully you have an experienced fundraiser on your team who can lead you through this. Just remember, people tend to ignore a general call for help but are much more likely to assist if you make a personal request. Get in front of as many people as you can.

Let the community know you exist. Scour the yellow pages for kennels, vet clinics, groomers and other animal-related businesses and services and let them know about your rescue. Start putting together a snail mail and email mailing list of other rescue organizations, individuals and businesses that would be interested in learning about your rescue.

Open the doors and call the press. Your organization is now ready to fulfill its goals and provide a safe haven for animals in need. Put up some balloons, ask local businesses to provide door prizes and call the local radio stations and newspapers for some free press

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