As a nonprofit animal shelter or rescue, you often times rely on volunteers to utilize their personal vehicles for transporting animals or running errands.  What many organizations do not realize is that they can still be named in a lawsuit if that volunteer is involved in a vehicle incident while doing volunteer work for the animal shelter or rescue. Since this is the case, it is important for the shelter or rescue to have proper procedures and protocols in place for volunteers using their personal vehicles.

What is The Volunteer’s Driving Record?

To understand and paint a picture of the type of driver your volunteer is, it is best get a motor vehicle record (mvr) on the driver. MVR’s will show you if they have had any past wrecks or speeding tickets and will help you identify high risk drivers.

Policy & Procedures

Proper policies and procedures will identify the do’s and don’ts of driving for the animal shelter or rescue as well include a place for the volunteer to sign that they agree to these policies and procedures.

Do’s of Driving for the Animal Shelter

1.    Always wear a seatbelt.
2.    Always follow traffic laws.
3.    Obey all traffic signs and lights.

Don’ts of Driving for the Animal Shelter

1.    Never drive recklessly.
2.    Never use a cell phone while operating the vehicle.
3.    Never transport individuals not associated with the shelter at the same time.

Is There Insurance for That?

It is true that organizations can still be named in a lawsuit if the volunteer is an accident while running shelter errands. Why? If the volunteers is transporting an animal and hits another vehicle, causing injury to the other parties, they can come back and find the organization to be at fault for those injuries. The good news is that you can add non-owned and hired auto liability insurance to your policies.  This coverage provides protection in excess of the volunteer’s personal coverage and helps protect the finances and assets of the organization.

There are many factors to be considered when starting your own rescue. In fact the process can be long and pretty intense.  Here is a quick guide to help you lay out a plan and get the process moving.

1.    Determine a Mission & Vision Statement- developing a mission and vision statement will help you determine what types of equines you will accept, where they may come from, and how you will rehabilitate and adopt out.
2.    Do you have adequate land/space? Starting an Equine Rescue will require land and space. Do you own this land already? Do you need to purchase? Is it zoned appropriately?
3.    Apply for Organization Name. This filing can be completed on your department of state website.
4.    Apply for a 501c 3 Status. Filing for your nonprofit status can be completed online at irs.gov.
5.    Apply for an FEIN. This can also be completed online at irs.gov.
6.    Create a Business Plan. This plan should identify that path you plan to take to get your nonprofit developed, funded, and how you plan maintain that long term.

While this is not every step to starting your own Equine rescue, it should help with the launching of the idea and help to guide you on what questions need answered initially.

Animal welfare organizations do a great deal of good for their local communities and the animals they help.  Directors of the organizations have a lot on their schedules with volunteer recruitment, volunteer training, fundraising, and the day to day operations that they often forget to look at their insurance protection plans to verify there is adequate coverage. There are many different types of insurance coverage that are beneficial and necessary in running businesses, but what about non profit organizations, like animal shelters or rescues? Some types of insurance include directors & officers liability, general liability, accident and health, and special event insurance.

General liability insurance is one of the most common types of insurance carried by nonprofit animal shelters.  General liability insurance may provide protection for shelters and rescues in some of the following scenarios:

1.    A visitor to your shelter falls on uneven pavement and injures themselves which results in medical bills.  The medical bills would be paid for by your liability insurance.

2.    A family interested in adopting a dog or cat this is located at a foster home, visits the home and their child falls down the steps injuring themselves.  Coverage under the foster home’s homeowner policy is typically excluded because the visitor was there on business.  A general liability policy would provide coverage for the bills associated with it.

3.    Your organization sets up at local events promoting adoption of your animals. While you are there, one of the dogs jumps up and knocks an individual over causing injury.  A general liability policy would provide coverage for the medical bills as well as defense costs and settlement costs in the event a lawsuit is filed.

By choosing to not carry general liability insurance, your animal shelter is at risk for being sued for any one of the above type events. If you have no insurance in these instances, the shelter or rescue could be forced to close its doors and all of the hard work you and your volunteers have invested will be gone.

There are many different types of insurance that would benefit an animal shelter or rescue. It is most important that the individual shopping for insurance is honest with the insurance agent about all the daily happenings, services, and events being provided and attended by the organization.  Your agent will be able to help guide you in determining what your best insurance options are for complete coverage.

Nonprofit animal shelters and rescues rely on donations to “keep their doors open” and the majority of these donations stem from fundraisers and special events.  Each season brings its own benefits for fundraising options and spring time is one of the strongest times to conduct fundraisers because the summer humidity has not quite arrived and the lull in donations after overspending on the Holidays is gone.  It can be difficult to pinpoint the best fundraising ideas for your animal shelter or rescue.  The key is to make sure you are thinking outside of the box, you are delivering value in what you are offering while at the same time you are still achieving your mission.
Here are the top 8 spring time fundraising ideas we brainstormed:
1. Organize a yard sale.  One persons junk is another person’s treasure and yard sales are a great way to offer something of value to your community.  There are two ways to organize a yard sale: If you have a parking lot, you can rent spaces to vendors to set up and sell their goods or you can ask community members to drop off unwanted items to sell.  The money raised from the sales in the latter would go directly to your shelter or rescue.  (Any unsold items can then be donated to your local Good Will or Community Aid store.)
2. Organize a Community Fair or Open House. This is perfect for those animal welfare organizations that own/rent a building or property.  Invite the community in to see what services you provide to the animals you rescue by providing tours and meet and greets with the animals available for adoption. Having food vendors and games for the children is a nice touch to promote community involvement and raise funds.
3. Organize a Car Wash.  Set up at your shelter or in a local store’s parking lot and wash cars for a donation.  You can set the donation amount or ask that customers donate what they are able.
4. Host a Flower Sale. Partner with a local plant farm or greenery to sell flowers to your community.  Many greeneries offer a discount for bulk purchases and you can sell them at market price to raise money for your animal shelter or rescue.
5. Host a 5K Walk/Run.  5k runs are a great way to raise funds and promote healthy living in your community.  Most 5k registration fees range from $25 to $50 and can be arranged on scenic routes in your town.  Contact your Local Township or borough to see what paperwork or permits are necessary.
6. Homemade Wreathes or Garden Rocks. Do you have crafty volunteers?  Making homemade crafts like wreathes and garden rocks are typically inexpensive to buy supplies for and easy to sell. In early spring, you are likely to find community members looking for outside decorations to beautify their houses and flower beds.
7. Sell Easter egg Hunts.  It may sound like an off the wall idea but too often baby chicks and bunnies are purchased as Easter gifts and then animal shelters and rescues tend to see an increase in these animals shortly after the Holiday is over.  Promote animal welfare awareness by offering your community a different option.  To sell Easter egg hunts, you will need some volunteers who are free Easter Eve or early Easter morning and can hide 20 filled eggs at cost (set or donation) at houses in your community.
8. Organize A Garden Tour.  Do you have a local community that loves to garden? Garden tours are becoming more popular and require minimal work.  You can start by contacting those in your community that have beautiful gardens and see if they would be willing to allow visitors on a certain day and time frame.  Once you have gardens set, you can start to advertise to the community and charge a registration fee.  This type of fundraiser is best if the gardens are within walking distance of one another.
Spring time fundraising gives your animal shelter or rescue an opportunity to work closely with your local community.  Think outside of the box this year and organize fundraisers that give you an opportunity to reach more members of your community and educate them on the importance of your animal shelter or rescue.