Giving to charities that help pets and other animals is a great way to show you care, but for some this might not be enough. There may not be an organization that helps animals in your community. Or the one that’s there may not possess the mission and values you hold dear. Whatever the reason, starting your own charity potentially puts you in a position to help more animals and focus on issues you believe in. But it’s not easy, and you should never throw one together without a viable mission, clear focus and reliable support system. Many animal lovers have created a “charity” for the right reasons but with the wrong structure. Do it the wrong way, and you could end up hurting the very animals you intend to help.
The tips below are by no means a comprehensive list of what you need to do to launch a charity. But they can help you hone in on what needs to be done to get started.
Establish Your Focus
Every animal charity has a mission, be it advocacy, rescue, providing shelter and care or helping adoptable animals find homes. Decide where you would like to focus your energy and use that as the foundation on which to build your organization.
Choose a Name
The name of a charity should reflect its activities so that people can immediately recognize its purpose. Use words that clearly convey what you wish to do and that will draw others to want to help your cause. Research your chosen name to make sure it isn’t already taken before moving on to officially establish your charity.
Understand How Nonprofits Work
Charities that accept donations must register as non-profit organizations. There are specific rules that govern the establishment and management of nonprofits, all of which can be researched on the Internet or by reading some of the many books available on the subject. The Society for Nonprofits has an informative website where you can go to learn more about what’s required to establish your charity. You’ll need to know about tax laws, how to choose a board of directors, how to draft bylaws and more.
Think back to the focus you created for your charity and use it to write a mission statement. This should be a brief overview of what motivates you and how you’re looking to help the animals you want to serve. Use the mission statement for guidance as your organization grows.
Think Of It As a Business
Though the financial planning involved in a charity focuses on donations rather than profits, you still need a good head for business. In addition to money, you’ll have to manage time and resources, delegate tasks and run fundraising campaigns. This requires a solid team of volunteers and at least one person who knows how to market your cause in a way that brings in donations.
Budget and Plan
Another similarity between charities and businesses is the need for advanced budget planning. As you start the process of establishing your nonprofit, you’ll gain an understanding of how much money you’ll need to operate in the long term. After making the initial investment for any necessary fees, supplies and equipment, the goal is to run on donations as much as possible. Research the continuing costs of running your charity and create projections of future expenses to guide you in both fundraising and spending over time.
Starting an animal charity clearly takes time and dedication, but if animals in your community need help, then it’s worth the effort.