Monday, January 11, 2016

Lottery dreams: How to open a non-profit for dogs

Congratulations! You've won the Powerball jackpot! You're a millionaire!

If you're like some of the many dog lovers I've met, you dream of opening a shelter, rescue, sanctuary or some other non-profit for pets. You thrill at the idea of opening all the cages at the pound and piling them into your car and taking them to a new home.

I'm sure you're also aware that it's not as easy as that.

 But if you have the cash to make your dream come true, we have the information to help you get started.

Before you begin

Think about it. Give it a good head tilt.
 Stop for a moment and think. What is it you want to do exactly? Do you want to adopt out animals that you rescue? Do you want to just keep them in one place? Do you want volunteers who will help you by fostering the animals? Do you want to specialize in a breed, or age, or health? Or maybe you want to start a fund or program to help people care for animals?

In this piece from, ASPCA says it's important to do your research beforehand. What does your community need? How can you best provide help to your community, while also fulfilling your dream.

Mission statement and business plan

Spell out your intentions in a Mission Statement and Business Plan.
It's important that you know exactly what you want to do. Start a business plan. Yes, what you're doing would probably be classified as a non-profit or not-for-profit. However, a business plan will give you focus and path to proceed.

ASPCA has a resource guide for developing a good plan for your fledging pet organization. Check out its leadership and planning section.

Also, start a mission statement. What promise will you make to yourself, your community and the pets you will care for?

Check out similar organizations

Visit rescue events and learn about the groups in your community.
Now that you know what kind of organization you want and have developed a plan, look up similar groups and start meeting with top people. If it's an organization with a main facility, be sure to visit and get a tour, if you can.

Start joining groups where you can meet people who run similar organizations. Networking is important.

Need to find those organizations? Talk to your local pet shops or groomers. They know how you can find your local groups. There may also know of events in your area where you can meet rescues.

Form your own team
Got friends who can help? Ask for their support.
No person can do it on their own. Start with friends who will listen and are willing to help. Also, think about the pet professionals you already work with: your vet, your groomer, etc. Ask them to help you form a network of supporters and advisors. Think about other people you may know outside the pet world: a lawyer, maybe, or an accountant. Also, someone who knows how to work with the media.

Make it official

Make sure you have someone who can help with the legal and financial stuff.
File for incorporation with your state and tax exempt status, a 501(c)3 with the IRS. For this, you'll need organization bylaws, a list of board members, that mission statement and business plan you wrote and an articles of incorporation. Information on getting started with all of this can be found on the ASPCA website.

Start raising money

Time to get to the nitty gritty! You can't run an organization without funds. This is where all that networking will start paying off. You need sponsors, patrons, people that will help you keep going. Host a grand opening event. Make sure to let the media know and like-minded groups too.

I hope you get to make your Powerball dreams come true. You can find more resources, including webinars, forms and articles on the ASPCA website.

Another great place to look is the Best Friends Animal Society. They have guides and other resources as well.

Good luck! 

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