Finding money for rescued dogs and cats requires a great deal of hard work and determination, but persistence pays off. Many are grants are available, it's just a matter of finding the right fit for your particular situation. Some good folks are out there if you look hard enough.
Nonprofit Corporation Status
Form your own corporation to start. Don't worry, this is not as difficult as it sounds. It is, however, vital. Foundations, corporations and individuals are not likely to donate to your cause, no matter how good it is, if you don't have a nonprofit designation, which you can't get without a corporation. Check the Internet for sites that help you apply for corporate status, or find a lawyer willing to donate services to help you.
Visit the IRS official website (IRS.gov) and download Form 123, the paperwork needed to apply for a nonprofit, 501-c3 designation. Anyone who donates to you will require you to have a nonprofit certificate, because when an individual donates to a nonprofit organization, they get a tax break for their charitable donation. While you may be able to get some people to donate without that perk, you will find it much easier to get donations if you can tell donors what's in it for them. Virtually all foundation and corporate grants are dependent upon your having this important designation. Once the application is downloaded, gather your corporate papers and get to work.
Apply for the nonprofit status by filling out the application. It is a lengthy application, and you will need your corporation's information, such as your mission statement, articles of incorporation, list of directors and agents, treasury report and other relevant information. Once you have filled out the application, mail it in with the fee, and await the return of your Letter of Determination from the IRS. Meanwhile, begin your hunt for financial aid.
Applying for Financial Aid
Search for like-minded individuals and foundations to find out where the grant opportunities are. A vast amount of money is available in the form of wills, foundations and corporate grants. Start by looking for local foundations by checking with your Community Foundation. Expand your search by looking statewide, and then nationally. Look for "animal-related foundations" or "grant opportunities for rescue agencies" and make a list of all the foundations that seem to be a good fit. Check their requirements carefully to be sure you are not wasting your time.
Write a grant application by stating first what the problem is, and then giving information on how you plan to address the problem. You will need some statistics about your community and your rescue. For example, you can start out with "Brown County has 450,000 residents and 50 percent of the households have dogs. Animal Control reports they euthanize an estimated 400 dogs and cats per quarter." You can find this information on your county's website. Then write about your plan to stop the euthanasia of so many animals and detail how you will go about doing so. Be very specific. Many grantors have applications you will have to fill out, but there is plenty of opportunity for narrative about you and your organization.
Check with your local government -- town, city, county or state -- to find out if they would be willing to underwrite part of your expenses if you are filling a need in the community that usually falls under the responsibility of the commission. For example, if your town does not have an animal control office, they may be willing to sub-contract your services. It's less expensive for them than having an entire department, and you will be performing a legitimate public service for which you are entitled to be paid. Apply directly through your city or county commissioner, as this person is your greatest ally.
- Get a "Nonprofit for Dummies" book, which provides a lot of great information in simple terms. Check the websites of major pet retailers and pet food companies. Applying for financial aid for rescued dogs and cats is easy once you understand exactly what the application is asking for and are able to fulfill the requirements. Hire a grant writer who works on a percentage for best results.
- Do not get discouraged. It can take years to get enough money to start a rescue, but once you obtain the first grant, the rest are easier to come by.
Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.