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wildhearts
Oct. 19, 2009, 01:24 PM
Hello Everyone! I'm in the process of starting a therapeutic riding program and I'm hoping you can help...

Wild Hearts Therapeutic Equestrian Program is in the process of incorporating as a non-profit in Massachusetts and obtaining its 501(c)(3) status. Since obtaining non-profit status is quite a long and involved process, we aren't able to embark on any fundraising or apply for grants at this time. But - we're very eager to get started... even on a very small scale!

Does anyone know of a facility with an indoor arena - on the South Shore of Massachusetts within a reasonable distance from West Bridgewater - that might be willing to allow Wild Hearts Therapeutic to use its facility and horses to give therapeutic riding lessons and possibly hippotherapy sessions?

I know this sounds like a lot to ask - but we can get creative as to "payment" - perhaps a portion of the lesson fee, barn chores, etc... We'll ensure proper insurance coverage, work out a formal agreement, etc...

I'd love to talk with anyone who might be interested to explore how we might make this work! Most therapeutic programs have waiting lists, and I'd love to get Wild Hearts Therapeutic up and running while we're filing all the non-profit paperwork.

If you or someone you know of might be interested, send me an e-mail at jlovely@wildheartstherapeutic.org.

Thanks so much!!

equineartworks
Oct. 19, 2009, 06:05 PM
With the risk of sounding like a wet blanket the first thing you should do is actually find your location and start your program before worrying about incorporation and Non-profit status.

Most donors like to see a record of performance...meaning you have been doing this for some time and have established clients and a track record of safety and success.

The second issue is finding an indoor and suitable horses. Have you trained therapy mounts before? Most lesson facilities will NOT have the proper mounts for a program.

You can absolutely collect fees while you are operating and you can ask for donations regardless of Non-profit status. In fact, most programs start out this way because they are footing the bills for their programs out of pocket. The going rate for a TR lesson is $20-50 depending upon the program, length of lesson etc.

Some other things...

Do you have a business plan?
Do you have an interested and active Board of Directors lined up?
What is your area demographic?
Are you closely aligned to the area schools, hospitals, therapists?
What is your background? Do you have any certifications? In riding? Teaching? Licensed in PT, OT or ST?
Your insurance will depend a good deal on your location so start shopping now.
Are you planning on becoming NARHA certified?
What experience do you have working with the special needs community? And how many years have you been doing TR?

That's just a small list of things to answer. I think your enthusiasm is wonderful and gosh only knows there needs to be more programs but the single number one reason why the programs fail is that people don't give them as much though as needed.

This is a fabulous group, feel free to share your thoughts so we can help you :):)

ETA: I didn't see the web link to your site. It seems like you have many of the bases covered but still much to do. I would still seriously recommend waiting to do your 501c3 until you have been actively doing lessons in a location for at least a year. It gives donors a connection to you :)

wildhearts
Oct. 19, 2009, 06:35 PM
Thank you for your thoughtful response equineartworks!

Long story short - I have thought of all of the questions you've raised - and then some! I do have to disagree with you on waiting on the 501(c)(3) - it takes many months to achieve federal tax exempt status, and there are various grants available to help with start up costs - but all require that 501(c)(3). From my experience with other therapeutic programs, as well as input from NARHA, I have to respectfully disagree that the program should run for at least a year before applying for 501(c)(3) status or soliciting donations.

My approach to this program is well thought out (I do have a business plan and am working with a pro-bono attorney through the Lawyers Clearinghouse), so I didn't mean to come across in my post as someone who is just looking for any facility and any horse to give a few TR lessons.

While there are obviously different ways to approach a start-up non-profit, my approach is to start small, even just one horse, a handful of volunteers, and a few students, then obtain 501(c)(3) status in order to raise funds and grow the program. I've thoroughly researched this approach, and many other very successful programs started out this way.

If you know of anyone in the South Shore area of MA that might be willing to help - please let me know!

Thanks again!

equineartworks
Oct. 19, 2009, 07:21 PM
Thank you for your thoughtful response equineartworks!

Long story short - I have thought of all of the questions you've raised - and then some! I do have to disagree with you on waiting on the 501(c)(3) - it takes many months to achieve federal tax exempt status, and there are various grants available to help with start up costs - but all require that 501(c)(3). From my experience with other therapeutic programs, as well as input from NARHA, I have to respectfully disagree that the program should run for at least a year before applying for 501(c)(3) status or soliciting donations.

My approach to this program is well thought out (I do have a business plan and am working with a pro-bono attorney through the Lawyers Clearinghouse), so I didn't mean to come across in my post as someone who is just looking for any facility and any horse to give a few TR lessons.

While there are obviously different ways to approach a start-up non-profit, my approach is to start small, even just one horse, a handful of volunteers, and a few students, then obtain 501(c)(3) status in order to raise funds and grow the program. I've thoroughly researched this approach, and many other very successful programs started out this way.

If you know of anyone in the South Shore area of MA that might be willing to help - please let me know!

Thanks again!

I think you misunderstood what I meant WildHearts...I am not saying to NOT pursue the 501c3, but rather get yourself going and then do it. Don't wait...there is no reason to. The clients that will come to your program need the service, and their payment for the service is not tax deductible. These payments are what are going to bring in your revenues...they are the constant to rely on and they are what people will look at as a measure of success when thinking of donating.

To rely on grants and donations is to really set yourself up for failure while you are starting out. You certainly want to work to obtain as much funding as you can, but the truth is...you cannot depend on it. Most grant giving organizations like to see a proven level of success as well.

People give to those who have a record of success. It's hard for them to "visualize" where their money is going otherwise...do you see what I mean? If they can see what you are doing they will give...regardless of tax deductibility! That's why I say get going in whatever capacity you can...don't wait. Then worry about the paperwork. :)

Bluey
Oct. 19, 2009, 08:50 PM
Our local program is a 501 and the classes are given once a week all day and a few other times, by a physical therapist that works at a local hospital, on her days off.

The horses they use is one of her own, one of mine, that she trades for another every so often and one or two belonging to the owner of the barn with indoor where the classes are held
The horse's use is donated to the therapy non profit group and the group pays for their boarding if they stay at the barn in town.

You could do that, ask around for some suitable horses people would let you use.

wildhearts
Oct. 19, 2009, 10:17 PM
Thanks Bluey - a situation like that might work - I'm just hoping to make some connections in the South Shore area of MA... talk to people, who know other people, who might be able to help!

Equineartworks - exactly, I agree totally - I'm not waiting for the 501(c)(3) to get started... which is why I'm hoping to find a place where I can get the program off the ground, even on a very small scale. Concurrently, I'll be working with a pro-bono attorney to help me prepare and file the paperwork for the 501(c)(3).

I do have to disagree that relying on donations and grants is to set yourself up for failure - even if the beginning. Rarely can therapeutic riding programs support themselves on fees from activities - fundraising (donations from private individuals, corporations, and grants from foundations) is usually the major source of support. Check out the annual reports of most of the major therapeutic riding programs (or major non-profits for that matter) - fees from activities usually make up a small portion of revenue - sometimes as little as 15-20%.

So back to my original post - if you know of anyone that might be able to donate facility space and appropriate therapeutic horses to get the program up and running, please let me know!

wildhearts
Oct. 20, 2009, 03:41 PM
I just want to thank those that responded to me privately! It looks like Wild Hearts is going to find a home (or two!). :)