In my position as president of the American Horse Defense Fund I get alot of emails asking questions. I try to answer them all as quickly as possible. However there are two that I get so many times a day that I am blown away. I try to answer every email personally and not use form emails because each one is from a wonderful caring individual and they each deserve an individual answer. someone has asked the question on my blog and rather than simply answering her personally I am going to answer it so it will be available to others too. Her question is...
Hello Shelly, I happened across your blog by accident one day and thought who better to ask this question than yourself. I am the happy owner of 2 QH geldings they are mine I love them unconditionally. BUT, in my family of horsey lovers there is a total of 11 horses, we have acquired through various ways. These lovely animals are cared for by my sister mother, niece, and myself. I really think we should be doing something in the way of the horse rescue as all of them came with issues, and have in our care grown healthy. Now of course we would like to find good loving homes for some of them but not all, and in our passing have run across more that we would like to help but this is an expensive helping business we are in and have been doing such for several years now just out of the love of the equine. Long story short, could you assist me in how to start a rescue?
thank you for reading this and any help is greatly appreciated.
Starting a rescue is one of the hardest and most rewarding thing anyone can do, but it isn't for everyone. Even if you have been rescuing horses yourself for a while, rescuing full time is much different. It can be emotionally devastating, time consuming and financially draining.
We have an article on our website that talks about starting a rescue that I think is well written and informative. We also have information on the site that will help guide you through incorporation and filing for non-profit status as well.
Some people think that the articles are discouraging towards opening a rescue, but those are the folks that are just starting out. Those who have been in the rescue business say that it doesn't begin to tell how hard operating a rescue is. So, I think it is a good balance. If you are discouraged by reading the article then you definately should NOT open a rescue. We have had far too many rescues fail because they shouldn't have opened their doors to begin with. That leave the established rescues to clean up the mess and deal with the fall out with donors who are now jaded and horses that have suffered yet again, even if the intentions were great.
The second most asked question is how can I find funding for my rescue. Basically, there is no correct answer to this one. EVERY non-profit in the world stuggle with this one and if anyone finds the answer there are thousands of non-profits that would like to know the answer. There is NEVER enough funding for everything. There are some things that work better than others though and I don't have a problem with sharing those tips.
The best way to raise funds are to hold fund raising events. These can be done if you are private or if you hold your non-profit status. Open houses (especially if you invite the media), pancake breakfasts, taco or spaghetti dinners, golf tournaments... are all great ways to raise funds with little upfront expenses. Raffles work, but only if done locally, those run on the internet usually lose money (even if you have GREAT prizes). As a matter of fact, raising money online rarely if ever works because you are competing with every other rescue out there. You can also solicit your members and supporters for annual support, for living trusts and bequests. These tend to come easier after you have your non-profit, but it is possible to get them without your status or on a pending application. You can also lay out an initial investment on items to sell on your website or at local events. Some work out really well, while others never make back their money. If you are doing this you may want to have items that are not specific to horses as you would reach a wider buying market. You can also make your website work for you with a Goggle Ad-words account, or advertising on your site.
Once you receive your 501(c)3 there are a few more options. You can then begin to apply for grants. Remember that you will be competing with all the other rescues for theses, so you will have to have great grant writing skills. There are VERY few foundations that offer grants to equine rescues, so most rescues don't share information about who they get their grant funds from. You will need to do your own searches and research to find these. Your best bet is with local foundations and you can find these at the library. Most states and local communities publish a pamphlet annually that includes information about local foundations and what they fund. Don't limit yourself to your small local areas, also look at those in the nearest big cities.
A recent trend is to add a therapy program. If a group does add the therapy program your options open up a great deal. There are a large number of grants out there to support those doing therapy. Often organizations that provide dogs for the blind, or other handicap helpers have the information on where they get their funding on their websites because there is so much funding. You can also approach your local United Way, hospitals and other places where these children receive their treatment to see if they will support you. You will need to develop a relationship with them anyway to make your program a success and they may have funding to support programs started to assist their clients. Again, don't limit yourself to your small communities, check with nearby large cities. One thing they may require is that you become certified because of the liability and need for qualified programs. You may want to check out this page http://www.cha-ahse.org/railarticles/therapyprograms.htm, they have some good information. It may also be a good idea to join some of these groups for support and because they tend to share with their members new funding sources and they also have lower costs for insurance.
At the end of the day though funding is tight for everyone. Do NOT expect that your rescue will be able to support itself for years, if ever. There are some well established rescues out there that don't require their founders or officers to dig in their own pockets. Fewer still are the rescues that can actually pay their staff for their more than full time dedication.
I do know there are some folks out there that are working on these questions and programs that will help people who are dedicated to helping our horses. Hopefully one of those programs will be available soon. Trust that when they are launched I will post about them as soon as I know something for sure. Until then I hope that my answers help others on their personal and organizational journey to help these animals who so desperately need our support.