Cyber crime is on the rise with more than 1,000 companies reporting breaches in 2016, a 40% increase from the prior year. As hackers successfully target big-named companies, they are also starting to look at small businesses and nonprofits. Why? These smaller organizations typically have little security in place, making it easy for them to “step in,” take what they want, and move on without being noticed. Nonprofit animal shelters and rescues are not safe from these criminals.

As a nonprofit animal shelter or rescue, you need funds and resources to carry out your mission. The best source of revenue you have is receiving donations from supporters. Sometimes that money is hand-delivered, but in most cases, donors provide you with credit card information to make a donation. Electronic financial transactions make you an ideal target for cyber criminals. There are steps you can take to protect your donor’s information and your animal shelter or rescue.

Steps to Keep Donor Information Safe

  1. Use encryption.

Securing donor information starts with how you receive it. Whether you use third-party software on your website or take the information by phone, you need to secure it. Encryption scrambles the information while it’s being processed so an outsider cannot intercept it. Check with your software to make sure encryption is enabled.

  1. Create a password policy.

Many nonprofit animal shelters and rescues store their donor’s information on site. A hacker can break into your server, e-mail, or computers with little effort. You can create a password policy that establishes a set number and type of characters needed. Fourteen characters are recommended by the experts.

  1. Install data security features.

Firewalls and antivirus software help prevent hackers from accessing sensitive donor information. In addition to installing these features, you also need to update them regularly. Put a volunteer with a strong IT background in charge of this task so it doesn’t get overlooked.

  1. Backup data.

Backup your data daily if possible. While this doesn’t prevent hackers from accessing it, it does help you if there is a breach. Some hackers hold information for ransom or block you from being able to access your data. By having a current backup file, you have a complete list of the individuals who need to be notified their information was compromised.

  1. Educate volunteers.

Today’s hackers stop at nothing to gain access to data – often disguising themselves as popup ads or vendors you use. Educating volunteers on phishing schemes, malware, and other unsafe internet activities keeps your information safe from unwanted downloads.

Cyber Liability Insurance

Each of the steps will help keep your donor information safe but doesn’t guarantee a cyber breach won’t occur. Cyber liability insurance protects nonprofit animal shelters and rescues in the event of a cyber attack or data breach by paying costs associated with the crime. Costs include the following:

  • Notifying compromised individuals.
  • Investigation.
  • Legal counsel.
  • Business interruption.
  • Public relations.
  • Defense.
  • Settlement.
  • Bank costs for reissuing credit cards.
  • Regulatory fines and penalties.

Cyber crime isn’t going to disappear overnight, so it’s critical your animal shelter or rescue takes steps to minimize potential breaches and keep your financial resources safe in the event of a breach.

Like many nonprofits, your animal shelter or rescue may rely on volunteers using their personal vehicles to run errands or transport animals in your care. In the insurance community, these vehicles are referred to as non-owned autos. Even though non-owned autos are not the property of your animal shelter or rescue, you can still be held accountable when a volunteer is involved in a car accident. In some cases, animal shelters and rescues are sued for the damage caused in an accident.

The good news is you can protect your nonprofit animal shelter or rescue by purchasing non-owned auto liability insurance.

What is non-owned auto liability insurance?

Non-owned auto liability insurance provides coverage in excess of the volunteer’s personal auto insurance. It pays for liability claims that your animal shelter or rescue is found liable for and the volunteer’s personal auto insurance doesn’t cover.

Since the coverage is in excess of the personal auto insurance carried by the volunteer, most insurance companies require volunteers to carry a minimum of $100,000/300,000 in limits.

What does it exclude?

There is no coverage on the non-owned auto liability insurance for damage to the vehicle, injury to the volunteer, or lawsuits filed against the individual driver (volunteer).

What types of scenarios does it cover?

Any time a volunteer drives their personal vehicle on behalf of your animal shelter or rescue opens the door to potential risks and claims. Do your volunteers use their vehicles in any of the following scenarios?

  • Running errands: Post office, bank, pick up supplies at Wal-Mart or other stores?
  • Transport animals to events, foster homes, or the vet?
  • Take supplies to an adoption event?

Accidents are unpredictable and can occur during any drive.

What you need to know about minimizing your risks

Investing in non-owned auto liability insurance is the best way to protect your animal shelter or rescue in the event of an accident or lawsuit. There are steps you can take now to help minimize potential risks.

  • Create a cell-phone use policy.

Twenty-six percent (more than 1.1 million) of crashes reported are due to cell phone use, according to the National Safety Council. Having a cell-phone use policy sets the expectation that it is not acceptable for volunteers to use their cellphones  while driving on behalf of your animal shelter or rescue.

  • Request proof of insurance.

Ask volunteers for proof of auto insurance before they drive on behalf of your animal shelter or rescue. If they don’t have the minimums mandated by the insurance company, don’t let them drive on your behalf. Why? If there is an accident, your non-owned auto liability insurance policy won’t pay any costs associated with it.

  • Ask volunteers to sign waivers.

Waivers are one way to help prevent your volunteer from filing a lawsuit after a car accident. While they aren’t always iron-clad, they do minimize the number of claims filed and can help protect you if the volunteer was not abiding by the law.

  • Define the right way to transport animals.

Do you have a clear procedure for transporting animals? Or do your volunteers decide how to transport animals on their own? Animals can be a significant distraction to a driver if they are not properly placed in a moving vehicle. Make sure your volunteers understand the process and review their first few times to be sure they get it right.

  • Request motor vehicle records (MVRs).

Motor vehicle records show you an individual’s driving history so you can see if they are a high-risk driver. If a volunteer has a long list of vehicle incidents including crashes and speeding tickets, it might be better to find a lower-risk volunteer.

Most animal shelters and rescues think they don’t need to worry about insurance for volunteer vehicles. But the truth is, buying non-owned auto liability insurance and implementing these steps are the best ways to protect your animal shelter or rescue.

Animal sanctuaries and animal shelters are often considered the same in the eyes of the general public. While they both have a common theme in their mission – to look out for the well-being of animals in their care – they also have some considerable differences. As an animal sanctuary, animals rely on you to provide a permanent home and care. Since your services are unique, you face unique risks each day. It is important to create a customized risk management or best practices plan to minimize those risks and continue to care for your animals.

Risk Management for Animal Sanctuaries

Risk management or best practices are guidelines animal sanctuaries can create to minimize potential dangers during their daily activities. These risks include, but are not limited to, animal bites, scratches, animal sickness, volunteer injury, volunteer death, slip and falls, and animal escapes.

  1. Volunteers

Volunteers are arguably your greatest asset – donating their time and hearts to maintain your sanctuary’s mission. They are also one of the biggest risks. Establishing a volunteer vetting process and handbook is critical to your continued success.

As valuable as volunteers are, it is important to recruit the right individuals for the job. Interview potential volunteers, conduct background checks, and request references before accepting a new applicant. Look for red flags (volunteering at numerous organizations in a short time) and address them upfront.

A handbook sets expectations for volunteers right away. Include attendance policies, job descriptions, safety information, and animal handling procedures. Reinforce the handbook with structured training and education that gives volunteers the ability to show they understand these policies and procedures.

  1. Animal Injury/Sickness

Every animal that comes into your care has a back story. It’s important to have an animal intake policy that digs into their needs, personality traits, and health. Use this information to understand if you can properly care for their needs or not. If you can, identify what special needs each animal has. If they are aggressive towards other animals, create a space where they can roam on their own and plan to socialize them over time.

  1. Animal Bites/Scratches

Animal bites and scratches can occur between animals or between animals and volunteers. The key to minimizing these incidents is educating volunteers on how to handle animals properly. Volunteers should have a clear understanding of the animal’s personality before they work with them. And they should know what steps to take when an animal bites or scratches them.

  1. Animal Escapes

From time to time, we see scenarios on the news where animals escape from sanctuaries. Create a procedure that mandates volunteers work in at least pairs when entering the animal area and describes how to latch gates and contain animals properly.

If an animal escape does occur, it is also valuable to have a set procedure on how you will notify the public, recapture the animal, and keep the community and volunteers safe.

  1. Visitors

Some animal sanctuaries allow visitors on their property. Make sure you have signs labeling what areas are okay and not okay for them to navigate. Make sure all visitors are escorted by a trained volunteer at all times. And keep visitors away from potentially dangerous animals.

  1. Emergency Preparedness

Depending on where you live, there is a chance for natural disasters to occur. During Hurricane Katrina, many animal-related organizations learned first-hand the importance of an emergency-preparedness plan. Identify now how you will transport animals, where you will transport them, and what volunteers are capable of traveling with the animals to a safe location.

Creating a risk management is important for your continued success as a nonprofit animal sanctuary and helps minimize injuries, claims, and stress.

How can you be a great animal shelter volunteer?  Follow these five steps and you will become one.

1) You must be dedicated to the health and welfare of the animals you take care of in the shelter by giving them your love and kindness, showing them you care by taking care of them when they are sick and feeling left out, being their friend when they have lost their friend.

2) Make sure that they are fed and watered as per the instruction for the animal.  If an animal requires a special diet make sure that they only get the food that is recommended for that animal.

3) Take the time to play and walk with the animals.  Some animals require more vigorous work outs to keep them happy, others only require some petting and attention.  Take the time to know the animals you work with.

4) Once you know the animals read what other volunteers have said about the animals in their write-ups.  Keep track of what you notice about the animals and add your own information about each and every one.  Some of the items you can keep track of are:

  • How well they respond to voice command while playing
  • How well they walk around people and other animals
  • How well they play with other animals
  • Weather or not they adapt to having animals of other species around them (cat and dogs)
  • Weather or not they are approachable by other people

5) You must always be there at your appointed time because the animals depend upon you to be there.  An exceptional volunteer will also make time in their holidays to make sure that the animals are well taken care of.

So if you are thinking of becoming an animal shelter volunteer then the five items above will give you a clear idea of what is needed.  This is really what any animal needs weather or not it is at a shelter, in the home, or a stray.  They all need love and attention.

 

Social media can literally save lives at your animal shelter, especially if your shelter is a kill shelter. Using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest can help:

  • Reunite lost pets with owners
  • Save pets scheduled to be euthanized
  • Bring in much needed supplies when they are most needed
  • Raise money for needed health care for specific animals
  • Help raise money and get volunteers during natural disasters
  • Bring in funds to help save more animals

The best thing about these social media websites is that they are free to join and free to use. Your shelter can purchase ads to help promote adoption events or spay-neuter clinics, but these are not entirely necessary to effectively use social media.
Take Good Pictures
Social media is a visual medium. Just sending out a tweet that a Beagle has been found wandering down Main Street isn’t enough to grab Twitter users’ attentions and heartstrings. You need to take one or more photos of this lost beagle and post them on Instagram and Facebook, which support pictures. You can then link Twitter to these posts.
You do not need fancy camera equipment to take good pictures. It’s best to take a photo of a pet with a background that contrasts to the pet’s color. For example, black pets stand out best against pale colors. Digital cameras and smartphones take excellent pictures. You may need to get an animal’s attention with a squeaky toy or food in order to get the pet to stay still for a good shot.

Update Regularly
Social media is not a one-time only thing. You need to update your sites regularly in order to reach the maximum amount of eyeballs reading your important messages. You do not need to post every day, but once a week is the minimum you should do. Make sure you spend time not only posting requests or pictures of animals for adoption, but also answer questions sent to you from others.
If emergencies happen and no one at your shelter can post on any social media sites for at least a week, please note that on your social media sites. Apologize when you can for not doing the weekly or regular update as soon as you can. By following these netiquette tips, you will keep your followers from disliking you or stop following your shelter.

Nonprofit animal shelters need donations to survive. Without funds you have no means to educate or help animals in your community. Every year, new animal rescue organizations pop-up competing for donors’ time and recognition. These new organizations make it difficult to retain your existing donors. Since your donors don’t have bottomless pockets, it may be time to put your traditional fundraising efforts aside and try something new.

 

Here are four new ways to raise more money in 2017.

 

  1. Go Mobile.

More than 90% of US adults own a Smartphone today. The majority of people take them everywhere they go. It’s no surprise that mobile is a trend to follow in 2017. Text to give is a way for donors to send a text to a unique number to start the donation process. The initial text triggers a return message that links to a secure form to finalize payment information. Since it’s something they can do anywhere, more donors will use this path.

 

  1. Invest in remarketing ads.

Remarketing is a paid advertising technique you can use to follow website visitors around the Internet. Your ad pops up on websites they visit. It acts as a subtle reminder that they were interested in you and drives them back to your website.

 

  1. E-mail flash fundraising drives.

One third of all online donations come from e-mail marketing. One day flash email fundraising drives are a great way to generate revenue for special needs like an injured animal intake.

 

Send out a series of e-mails to your contact list. Highlight the animal’s history, includes pictures, and explains what they need and how much it will cost. Divide your overall goal by half of your donor list and suggest this as a donation amount to increase the chances of meeting your goal.

 

  1. Sign up for Amazon Smile.

A simple way to raise more money is register online with Amazon Smile. Amazon donates a portion of sales linked to your nonprofit organization. It’s an easy way to generate passive income to support your mission.

 

Try a few of these options to generate more revenue for your nonprofit animal shelter this year.

Animal shelters and rescues are important to the communities they serve. Animals come to you for care and shelter until they find a forever home. Some come from other shelters, caregivers abandon some, and others show up with little or no history of their life to date. Every animal is a priority in your daily activities. But, sometimes caring for animals is risky. In those moments, what type of insurance you purchased is critical to you shelter or rescue’s well-being.

Insurance

Few people that enjoy shopping for insurance. It can be a long and tedious task if you don’t have an agent that fully understands what you do every day. Finding the right insurance is the first step to being able to properly care for animals in need. Most animal shelters or rescues know they need general liability insurance and directors and officers insurance. There are other insurance coverages that help protect you too. Animal care custody and control liability is often overlooked and excluded from most policies.

What is animal care custody and control liability insurance?

Animal care custody and control liability protects your animal shelter or rescue if somebody sues you for an injury or death to an animal. It is a critical coverage that you can add on through an endorsement to your liability insurance policy.

Why do I need animal care custody and control?

Some animal shelters and rescues think they don’t need this coverage because they don’t knowingly take in someone’s animal. But, animal shelters and rescues have been the victim of lawsuits and needed animal care custody and control to protect them. Here are two common scenarios where this coverage can help.

Owners change their minds.

We’ve all seen it happen. Previous owners abandon their four-legged family member and make the right decision by leaving him/her in your care. A few days pass by before they return wanting to reclaim their pet. What happens if the cat, dog, or horse get sick or run away in that short period of time. Who is responsible? If the family sues your organization, are you protected?

It depends on who the court declares as the rightful owner. In some cases, signed releases are not recognized as valid in a court of law.

Lost pets.

What happens when somebody finds a roaming animal and brings it to you? It’s not theirs and they are looking for a place they know will care for the animal until the owners can be contacted. Plenty of shelters and rescues accept these animals into their care and hope to reunite them with their family.

 

What happens if they run away or passes away in your care before the family comes to pick the animal up and return home? The family may decide to file a lawsuit and say the death or disappearance of their animal is your fault.

In both cases, general liability insurance won’t cover defense or settlement expenses unless you purchased animal care custody and control coverage. Contact your insurance agent today to add this valuable coverage to your policy. If they don’t offer it, contact an insurance agent that specializes in animal shelter and rescue insurance.

Horse and animal advocates celebrate National Help a Horse Day annually on April 26th. It’s a national celebration founded by the ASPCA to raise awareness for abused and neglected horses across the United States. The ASPCA encourages equine rescues and sanctuaries to join their efforts by hosting an event highlighting horses and the work you do.

Equine Sanctuaries just like yours host Help a Horse Day events each year. Organizing an event is a great way to connect with your local community, increase awareness, and generate more money to aid in your daily mission. We’ve put together a list of necessary tasks to assure your event goes off without a hitch.

  1. Recruit an event planning committee.

Planning an event requires time and as a Director, your time is limited. Recruit volunteers to be part of the Help a Horse Day planning committee. These individuals will be responsible for planning, researching, and keeping you up to date on the event progress. The committee also becomes the go-to group for questions from other volunteers, sponsors, and attendees.

 

Assign each member an important role like sponsors, marketing, contract negotiations, and public relations.

 

  1. Decide on your goal.

Meet with the event planning committee to determine what your goals are for the Help a Horse Day event. Do you want to recruit more volunteers? Do you want to raise money? Do you want to educate community members on certain horses in your care?

 

Each goal requires different types of events and audience members. It is important your committee sets these first to make the rest of the event planning process seamless.

 

  1. Brainstorm event ideas.

What type of event do you want to host? Possible events include tours, mini-education sessions, picnics, or an outdoor dinner and auction. If you’re looking to increase awareness of your mission, hosting mini-classes on what you do paired with tours of the sanctuary will be more valuable than a dinner/auction.

 

  1. Research costs.

Have each committee member contact caterers, rental companies, speakers, and other businesses like DJ’s and photographers for event proposals. It’s a good goal to request two to three proposals from each category so you can compare and make the best choice.

 

  1. Put together a budget.

After you know how much your plan costs, it’s time to put together a budget. Include expenses in the budget as well as sponsorship and fundraising goals associated with the event.

  1. Create a call for sponsors.

A call for sponsors is similar to a donation drive but focused on businesses in your local community. Design three to five options including costs and benefits so businesses can pick one that best matches their budget.

 

  1. Contact your insurance agent.

Call your insurance agent to make sure you have the right insurance coverage in place. Some general liability policies include event coverage while others don’t. If your insurance doesn’t, you can purchase special event insurance to protect your equine sanctuary.

 

  1. Connect with the media.

Create a press release and send to local media channels including news and radio stations. The more press you get, the greater the turnout will be.

 

  1. Advertise on social media.

Get your community excited about the event on social media. Generating a buzz online is the least expensive way to gain awareness and attendees at the event.

 

  1. Show your gratitude.

Share your success and gratitude publicly at the event and after it is complete. Publish how much you raised, how many attendees, and what good will happen at your sanctuary with the support you received.

Organizing and maintaining your animal shelter is vital to your continued success as a nonprofit organization. An organized and clean organization attracts more volunteers, donors, and adopting families. Each of these adds your continued success by increasing your mission awareness in the community you serve.

Animal Shelter

Directors and volunteers at animal shelters have a long list of responsibilities to actively carry out the day to day operations. Properly organizing and cleaning often get pushed to the backburner to tackle other high-priority tasks like recruiting volunteers, adopting families, and spreading the word about your work. Creating structure for organization and cleaning helps minimize the stress and makes the process more manageable for your volunteer team.

Best Practices

Here are six best practices to implement and guide you to reestablish order in your animal shelter.

  1. Observe your area. The first step to getting clutter and disorganization under control is to look at your shelter. Find a clipboard and pen and conduct a thorough walkthrough of your entire shelter both inside and outside. Are there areas filled with boxes and forgotten about items? What does the entrance way look like? How does your office look to visitors? Take notes about every room to create a central to-do list.
  1. Request third-party help. As an active volunteer in the shelter, things may appear normal to you that are out of place to visitors. Find a third-party to visit and conduct a walkthrough of the shelter too. Ask them to take detailed notes as they move through the building and find unappealing areas. In addition, ask them to make suggestions what will make your shelter more attractive to outsiders.
  1. Create an organization committee. Recruit members of your volunteer team to be part of an organization committee. The committee is crucial to making sure the responsibilities are planned and carried out by all volunteers. Review the information from both walkthroughs and actively brainstorm ways to make improvements. In addition the brainstorming, these individuals are responsible for researching costs or techniques, leading, implementing the new tasks and protocols. Assign each committee member a designated area of the shelter to oversee during the transition.
  1. Establish a schedule. Create a cleaning schedule that breaks down tasks into detailed time slots. Start by making a list of everything that needs to be accomplished to maintain cleanliness. Break these tasks into groups of how often they need to be completed. Establish groups for daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly. Dedicate one Saturday per month to monthly tasks, and one Saturday per month to yearly and quarterly tasks. This type of structure eliminates the guess work for your volunteer team.
  1. Host spring cleaning days. Schedule two “Spring-cleaning” days per year. One is the spring and one in the fall. Dedicate the day to de-cluttering and getting rid of items you no longer need to carry out the mission of your organization. A good rule to follow is if you haven’t used in the past twelve months, toss or recycle it.
  1. Review yearly. In the beginning, it is important to review every quarter until you have a grasp on the amount of volunteer time required to make consistent organization and cleanliness possible. After that, make sure you review your continued progress every year with walkthroughs from a third-party. Actively review the feedback and implement changes that will help improve your overall operations.

Maintaining an organized and clean appearance makes help your animal shelter look more appealing to outside visitors and guests. Use these steps to establish structure and make implementation a breeze for your volunteers.

Winter is quickly approaching. It’s a time of the year that creates stress for both humans and animals. Animal shelter and rescue directors know and understand how vulnerable the animals in their care are during the cold weather months. They need to make sure all of their volunteers understand the harsh realities of winter and how it impacts the animals.

Winter safety tips

Implement these six tips to improve winter safety for your animals and shelter.

  1. Education. Schedule a volunteer training that covers winter safety tips for your shelter and animals. Educated volunteers increase the quality of care your volunteers receive. Make the training mandatory for all volunteers to attend. This gives your long-term volunteers an opportunity to increase and share their past experiences with other volunteers.
  2. Limit outside time. Fur on animals doesn’t mean they are protected from the cold temperatures. Take them outside for their daily walks and breaks, but bring them back inside to stay warm the remainder of their day.
  1. Create an emergency plan. Depending on your location, an emergency winter weather plan is valuable. Meet with your volunteer team to review what measures you need to take in the event of severe winter weather. If there is a foot of snow, how will the animal get walked, fed, and taken care of? Who is responsible for making the trip in the snow to check on them? Does it make sense to have stand-by foster parents that can care for them during a storm? Planning this in advance alleviates a great deal of stress later.
  1. Purchase a generator. A generator is extremely valuable.  It keeps the building heated and the animals warm during unexpected power outages. Prepare before a winter storm arrives by purchasing one now.
  1. Prepare for storms. Winter weather is normally predicted days in advance. Make plans when snow is predicted; especially if it can delay daily commutes. Make sure the animals have plenty of food and water along with a comfy place to keep warm.
  1. Pay attention to the animals. Check animals’ paws for signs of frostbite. Monitor them after outside time for signs of hypothermia- whining, shivering, or weakness. Consistent monitoring is the key to keeping animals healthy during the cold-weather season.

Educate your volunteers to give them a better understanding of winter expectations and the animals care needs. Making your shelter a safe place during the cold months improves the well-being of the animals in your care.