How to Start & Run an Animal Rescue Nonprofit

How to start an animal rescue nonprofit by

In it for the Animals

Why start an animal rescue Nonprofit? When you launch an animal rescue and shelter, you establish an essential community resource to help, protect and advocate for the animals within your community.

Often those looking to create an animal rescue need help to understand the business aspect of running such an organization. If you start understanding what will be required to make your efforts successful, you’ll already be ahead and increase your odds of success and making an impact.

While the purpose of your new organization is to help animals, all the principles that apply to running a successful business apply equally to this venture. Ultimately your organization will succeed or fail as a business.

You must invest sufficient time and resources into planning, management, and fundraising to achieve your goals. Most people understand the importance of providing quality care to animals but need help running the organization’s administrative aspects.

There’s no shortage of cats, dogs, and other furry friends that need our help everyday in this country. Animal rescues give shelter to stray pets, free pets from abuse, care for the sick and wounded, and place pets into forever homes. If you have a passion to help animals in need, then starting and running an animal rescue nonprofit organization may be a satisfying way to give back to the community, and even provide yourself with income. We’re going to give you the rundown of what’s involved in operating a 501(c)(3) animal rescue nonprofit, and what it takes to make it successful.

Write a Business Plan and Mission Statement

Starting an animal rescue is similar to starting a business. It will be run like a business, and it will succeed or fail as a business. All businesses need a written strategic business plan and a mission statement. Your plan will map out things like startup costs, ongoing costs, details about your physical facility, who your target market is, how you plan to make money, your business name, and other important details that will help you fulfill your mission statement.

Create a Board of Directors

When researching how to start an animal rescue nonprofit, you’ll see that a board of directors, not an owner, is responsible for running any nonprofit organization. A board of directors steers the functions of the organization, and oversees the ongoing financials and ethical well-being of the nonprofit. They can also have other roles within the animal rescue and work alongside the executive director and staff members. When choosing your board members, look for people with different skills that will work well as a team. Some valuable skills to consider might be legal, accounting, veterinary, public relations, and business skills.

File Articles of Incorporation

The next step in starting an animal rescue is to file your Articles of Incorporation. The articles of incorporation can be viewed as the birth certificate of your animal rescue and are filed with your state of domicile (home state). Your Articles of Incorporation legally define the organization’s creation. The information in these documents provides general information about the corporation, such as the organization’s name, officers, and address. Additionally, through incorporation you help limit personal liability. 


Apply for 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Status

To qualify for tax-exempt donations as an animal rescue , you must obtain 501(c)(3) nonprofit status from the IRS to comply with state laws. People who donate money to your organization can also claim tax deductions, which encourages larger gifts.  To file the correct paperwork with the IRS, you will need your legal business name and set bylaws that govern your organization.

Volunteers and staffing

While many nonprofits will eventually have the funding necessary to hire paid staff members, all will rely on some form of volunteers. Volunteers are essential for the organization’s ongoing operations in nonprofits of all sizes. They provide the time, skills, and labor necessary for the organization to fulfill its mission.

Organizations that thrive have detailed plans for recruiting, training, encouraging, and maintaining volunteers. Volunteers who feel under-utilized or under-appreciated will never return or, worse, tell their friends and family about their bad experience with your nonprofit. On the other hand, volunteers who are motivated and excited about the organization will work hard and act as free marketing in the community for your purpose.

Veterinarian Partnerships

Veterinarian partnerships are crucial as they are a valuable resource to refer prospective adopters and donors. Additionally, relationships with veterinarians may help your organization obtain low-cost or pro bono animal health services, such as spay/neuter services for the animals in your care.

It’s essential to reach out to vets in your community through in-person introductions and by sending out introduction letters to all the local veterinarians and animal hospitals, describing your organization and its services and asking for their help.

Getting Help Along the Way

All that we’ve mentioned so far, like writing a business plan, incorporating, and filing for 501(c)(3) nonprofit tax status, can be daunting tasks. You know your heart is in the right place and you have the skills to care for animals in need, but starting and running an animal rescue nonprofit organization can be over any one person’s head. This is where getting help from an experienced team of professionals can mean the difference in realizing your dream. At BryteBridge Nonprofit Solutions, we can help you with all of the startup aspects of a nonprofit, including creating the digital face of your rescue — its website and logos.

Establish a Budget and Bookkeeping

Accounting and bookkeeping is essential when starting and running an animal rescue nonprofit organization. You need an efficient way to document all income, donations, expenses, and payroll for your organization. If you don’t have accounting skills, it’s best to hire an expert. BryteBridge Nonprofit Solutions can also provide you with bookkeeping services that will help you comply with state laws, and even give you guidance on how to set your budget for the upcoming year.

Gain Support in Your Community

There are fees associated with nonprofit startups, so you may be wondering how to start an animal rescue nonprofit with limited resources. Fundraising and corporate sponsorships are common ways that nonprofits gain money to run their organization. This means getting your name out there with advertising and public events. Gaining volunteer members will also help provide your organization with needed staff resources that will better equip you to take care of animals, and help spread the word in your community. 

Nonprofits also utilize grant writing to gain monetary support. BryteBridge Nonprofit can help you develop strategies for fundraise and find corporate sponsorships, as well as write grants, which can be a lengthy process on your own.  

How to start an animal rescue nonprofit by

Develop Other Ways to Earn Money

An animal rescue startup can also sell goods or services to earn money for the organization. For example, they may receive donations that can be sold to the public. Or, they might offer classes for a fee to the public that inform people about how to care for animals properly. Animal rescues also usually charge a fee for animals that are released to their care and adopted. Your board of directors can hold meetings to brainstorm ideas about how to raise money for your organization. A steady stream of income means you can provide quality care for the animals.

Make Changes to the Organization as Needed

Nonprofits and businesses that succeed are always looking for ways to improve how they run and their services. Your organization should hold regular meetings to assess how financials and organization processes have progressed and suggest changes for future improvement that will help you realize the mission statement. 

When learning how to start an animal rescue nonprofit, you will find that it is a lot of work but has gratifying results should your organization become successful. Many people have the compassion to care for animals in need, but few have the dedication to fulfill all the steps necessary to start an animal rescue. This is where BryteBridge Nonprofit Solutions comes in. 

We have an entire team of dedicated professionals who are experienced in starting a nonprofit, growing it, and maintaining it far into the future. We can help you with the nitty-gritty technical and financial details to fulfilling the big picture. Contact us today to learn more about all of the services we have to offer! Still not convinced? Check out our awesome reviews