If you dream of a career spent helping animals, consider starting a nonprofit organization dedicated to an animal welfare issue. With enough planning, funding and help from other animal lovers, you can make a real difference in their lives. Get started with the following tips:
If you’ve no experience running a nonprofit, research the fundamentals. Volunteer at a local animal shelter. Take out books on nonprofit management from your local library. Network with nonprofit leaders and animal welfare advocates. Visit the National Council of Nonprofits for additional resources.
Establish a Mission Statement
Decide your organization’s main objective. Is it connecting pet owners with no-cost spay and neuter services? Finding homes for homeless pets? Rescuing abused animals from terrible situations? Don’t attempt to tackle too many problems at once. Focus on one goal, and your nonprofit will be able to make a more significant difference.
When writing a mission statement, consider the community’s needs, your own personal goals and your supporters’ opinions. Your statement should be brief, positive, clear, action-oriented and motivating. The Best Friends Animal Society’s mission statement is a great example: “To bring about a time when there are no more homeless pets.”
Create a Board of Directors
A nonprofit organization shouldn’t be a one-man operation. You need help from others who share your vision. A board of directors includes experts in the field who can help guide your nonprofit toward success. This group is imperative, especially if you don’t have a business background—they can help with funding and budgeting decisions. Before you choose who to ask to sit on your board, create a list of the individual board member responsibilities and schedule a year’s worth of meetings. Make sure potential board members’ interests, experience and skills match your organization’s mission statement.
Know Your Funding Options
You’ll need start-up capital, just as if you were launching a small business. The Small Business Administration has a comprehensive section on grants and financial assistance. In addition, you may be able to raise a significant amount of money through fundraising events, loans and donations. If you receive regular payments from an annuity or structured settlement, you may be able to sell your future payments to a company like J.G. Wentworthfor a lump sum of cash now. Combining these funding options may be your best bet to get your nonprofit on its feet.
Reach out to potential supporters in your area. Hold a public meeting that addresses your organization’s mission and how others can contribute to the cause. Going public increases your chances of gaining volunteers or sponsorship from those who share your mission. You want to stay fresh in the community’s mind, so choose a solid public relations strategy for your budget. Whether you choose the lower-cost option of placing posters around town or invest in a statewide commercial, make sure your material positively represents your organization. Avoid using guilt or negative images to gain exposure and contributions.