Jan. 16, 2010, 01:17 PM
I want to start a Horse Rescue
I want to start a nonprofit horse rescue and have no idea where to start. I am 28 and have been riding/showing horses my entire life and have done pretty much everything around a horse farm. This is something I have wanted to do for a long time and I feel that now I am ready. I have an MBA from a really good school and can do everything as far as that part goes. I am currently a senior financial analyst in a business development area so writing/reviewing business plans and financials is what I do. I feel really compelled to do this but though I have a good amount of business knowledge, I have no idea where to start with a nonprofit.
Can anyone help me figure out where to start? I know I can make this work and like I said, this is something I have thought about for a really long time and I feel now with my education and experience I could really do it.
Thanks in advance. I am in the central Virginia area.
Jan. 16, 2010, 01:27 PM
Jan. 16, 2010, 01:38 PM
Jan. 16, 2010, 01:52 PM
Jan. 16, 2010, 01:56 PM
Wow, this is an amazing endeavor and I wish you all the best!
There is a book about starting and running a rescue, but I haven't read it so I can't comment on it:
You may want to contact founders of other (successful) rescues and pick their brains as well.
Jan. 16, 2010, 02:05 PM
Just do it. A lot of others are doing it, no reason why you shouldn't.
Starting a non-profit is pretty simple. Just go on legal zoom and they will do all the filings for you!
Then, you will either have to ask for grants and/or ask for donations for the funds you need. This is the hard part in this economy.
If you want to offer that people who donate money or goods to your rescue will be able to make their doantion tax deductible, you have to take the extra step to become a 501(c)3 organization.
After that, you have to be meticulous with your recordkeeping. There will be at least one filing and fee you need to submit to your state. And you need to have one meeting per year with your board that is documented. legal Zoom will provide you with a template for all this.
It's a little more complicated than this but not rocket science. Anyone that is of average intelligence and desire can do it.
Jan. 16, 2010, 02:27 PM
Do contact Equineartwork. She and a few others are working on a network. That is probably the most important thing.
Other than that, put together a business plan. While you consider it a not for profit, you still have to be in the black by the end of the day after all bills are paid.
And as I understand that actually taking possession of a horse is not as important as the foot and paperwork around rehoming and funding them.
Jan. 16, 2010, 03:33 PM
If you're in central Virginia, check out the UVA continuing education classes. They have offered a class on starting a nonprofit before, IIRC. Or else it was the Albemarle County employment office. One of them! But there are resources there to help you get started.
You could also try being a satellite site for an existing equine rescue. That might be a good way to get your feet wet and see if you really want to do this.
Jan. 16, 2010, 04:49 PM
I would highly recommend that you do as equineartworks suggests. Just like any business, apprenticing is the best way to save yourself from painful mistakes.
For any enterprise, sustainability is the key - and even more so in rescue, if you are planning to make a long-term commitment to the horses you re-home. Having a support network in place before you start - both personal and for the horses, is definitely the way to go, and you will want to know the characters in your local rescue community, as they can have both a positive and negative impact on what you are doing.
On the more inspiring note, you might also like to read Beyond the Homestretch, Lynn Reardon's book about how she started LOPE Texas. Note that she did apprentice with CANTER, even if she didn't realize that was what she was doing at the time!
FYI, I do not run a rescue, but have visited and written about several, and volunteered at one - it has been very rewarding but I suggest a slow immersion so you can learn the culture.
Jan. 16, 2010, 07:40 PM
Start small. It seems like a lot of people open rescues with grand plans and quickly get in over their heads. There is a lot of good information in this thread already. Starting out by volunteering and fostering for existing rescues may be the way to go. When you get out on your own then, I'd begin with one or two horses at a time and make sure the funding & help is there before expanding your numbers slowly.
Jan. 16, 2010, 07:58 PM
Best Friends in Utah has workshops for people interested in starting a rescue or sanctuary. You can also volunteer there.
They also have a page of articles for organizations:
Jan. 16, 2010, 08:08 PM
Please don't. I also live in central VA and we already have too many "rescues" that don't have enough resources. If you were starting a business, I would tell you that the market in this area is saturated.
Originally Posted by Katie0104
Please, PLEASE DO become involved with one of the more stable, well established rescues we already have. We have a couple of outstanding, professional, organized rescues that ALWAYS need skilled help, additional facilities and business savvy individuals.
Please don't reinvent the wheel when you can easily help much more efficiently!
The above post is an opinion, just an opinion. If it were a real live fact it would include supporting links to websites full of people who already agreed with me.
Jan. 16, 2010, 11:09 PM
You know the old saying: The best way to make a million dollars with horses is to start with two million. Same is true for horse rescues.
Caring for the horses and dealing with crazy neglectful people is easy, compared to the constant fundraising, PR, phone calls, planning, organizing, people managing, media promotion, and community outreach. Without money and volunteers you CANNOT make it fly. Get good at making friends and currying support.
Some points to ponder: Are you able to and prepared to work odd hours (probably unpaid for the first years)? Are you ok with giving up weekends to run a booth or event? Are you able to put your own money in when donations slow and several horses have vet emergencies? If you plan to really get into this, I will assume you'll be relying on your spouse/partner's support; you need to think about what happens if that person loses his job or there's a divorce. You need to plan for what happens if you get hurt and can't work on the farm. What happens if you pass away? What happens if you get sick and need to close the rescue for good? And even with the best planning, unexpected things come along to challenge you.
I strongly suggest you get heavily involved with another non-profit animal org in your area first. Be a key volunteer or even better serve on their Board. If after a year you don't have burnout, then I feel you'll be ready. If you want to get into horses, why don't you foster for a horse rescue in the region? Or for your local SPCA? Or if there is no horse org near you, do it for a good dog rescue or something similar. You can do a lot of good for animals today, even if you don't open a new organization.
When you're ready, I'd be willing to spend a few minutes sharing my experiences as a founder and currently Executive Director for a 501c3 horse rescue. I don't claim to be any sort of an expert (far from it!), but maybe I can help. I put in 20-40 hours/week for the rescue, which is in addition to my "normal" life of fulltime college, my own farm to care for, my family, and other obligations. I've never been able to take any sort of paycheck from the rescue, but this has been the most satisfying thing I've ever done. It's also been the hardest and most heartbreaking sometimes.
Jan. 16, 2010, 11:35 PM
There are groups which sponsor training of sorts for people lookign to do this. Definitly immerse yourself in any and every training program you can find, and in the tax liabliities for such an endeavor in your state. Your business set up plan is available fro your small business administration in your state. You actually should have known this, if it were me, I would have gotton all that information and read it cover to cover, found other groups doing this nearby me, and taken a class about it before even posting about it, saying I was interested. You need to do your research - your research is the kind of work you have to do to manage the business end of such a venture. Start practicing now. Its alot like posting here about your sick horse before calling the vet. At least send away for your state's small business infromation to get yourself started.
Airborne? Oh. Yes, he can take a joke. Once. After that, the joke's on you.
Jan. 16, 2010, 11:40 PM
Start with a good business plan, and a solid idea of what you want to do according to your personal passion and area of expertise (neglect cases, sanctuary, TBs, whatever.) Start small, and control growth. There may be a lot of rescues, some more reputable than others, but there are also a lot of horses that need help. We started with $2000 and bought 3 horses from kill in Sept 02. No one handed us big sums of money, we worked out butts off in all weather and at all hours, and pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps. We mentored another rescue who is now successful and still going strong. That rescue has tried to mentor a couple of others all which gave up. Don't underestimate the persistence and resilience needed. At the end of the day, you have to be able to pay your bills without begging for funds after the fact. I too have my MBA, but honesty, transparency, and professionalism mean more. As May said, there is nothing more rewarding and nothing more heartbreaking.......
Jan. 16, 2010, 11:43 PM
I'm going to add to the chorus that says DON'T. Find an established rescue and work there. I don't want to read about another failed rescue in the paper (I've read about 5 in the last 2 months alone).
Enjoying the scenery out on the trails with my 1993 American Quarter Horse mare, Mollys Baby Pearls.
Jan. 17, 2010, 01:58 AM
Times are especially tough right now. When people are struggling to pay bills, there is little to spare for donations. I agree - start by working with an established group. This may help you find your "rescue niche." They will gladly appreciate your efforts, you will learn from the inside out.
Jennifer Williams, of Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society, wrote the book on how to start and run a rescue. She, along with many others, like MayS from Equihab, will be a fount of information.
And be prepared: especially if you've read some of the recent threads! You are accountable to your public, but no matter what you do, there will always be someone who will disagree. Sometimes the decisions you make in the trenches are not the right ones in retrospect, but they were the best you could make at the time, with the information and resources you had. And even a group such as ours, Special Horses Inc., which helps to fundraise and assist 501(c)3 equine groups, you learn by doing, and then you learn how to do it better the next time.
Jan. 17, 2010, 03:01 AM
Start by volunteering with established, well-run rescues. See what the reality of it is, from the hands-on horse stuff to the *constant* fundraising.
Jan. 17, 2010, 10:48 AM
Touche GEEK and EAW. Proceed with caution.
Our horses are not seen as the old and disabled they may have become, but rather as the mighty steeds they once believed themselves to be.
Sunkissed Acres Rescue and Retirement
Jan. 17, 2010, 11:45 AM
At least you have "real world" training and experience to help you!
ellebeaux and LLDM make a good point. If established rescues in your area are going under, it suggests that the donators in the region are tapped out.
This is tough. Does that mean that part of your business plan needs to be researching the depth of interest and funding for a rescue in a different part of the country?
Or perhaps it means you need to ask how your rescue will differ from others?
I like the California group who supports low-cost euthanasia. It may be unpopular, but ultimately helpful. It keeps euthanasia from becoming "politically impossible" as in the "Why did you kill the yearling uncut mustang you adopted for your grandkids that didn't work out? You should have found a rescue!" sentiment. Chances are that such a horse would have been a tough case for anyone and spent a life being unable to fit into one program after another. I find their approach candid and refreshing-- especially since it reminds owners who *know* they must get out from under their horses that there is something other to do than wait, hope, put desperate ads on Craigslist, wait until the last bale of hay is gone and ship to an auction.
This may not be your cup of tea, but my point is to figure out a viable, specialized and limited approach that makes your rescue stand out among others vying for donations around you.
The armchair saddler
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