Best Practices: Managing Costs

Today’s topic is about managing costs when running a rescue organization. It is written by Linda Isbell of Northern Chesapeake Sheltie Rescue, Inc. in Maryland.

More rescues fail from lack of funds than any other cause, even shortages of foster homes.  When I started our rescue I sent an email out to other sheltie rescues asking if their biggest issue was money or space; money won hands down.

Managing the costs involved in running a rescue is a daily task.  Many rescues that fold would not or could not do any fundraising.  It is impossible to exist on adoption fees and donations alone.  NCSR does not have a “budget”, but we do understand what the limitations are, and we have ways to fundraise to raise money in a hurry if we need to.

Our first source of course is adoption fees and donations from owner turn-ins.  All our dogs are fully vetted at intake.  We have negotiated a reduced price for spay/neuter from our vets; we use the same two vets except for emergencies.  Our foster home contract specifies who these vets are, and that they must be used for all vet care except emergency situations. Our supplies are bought in bulk from suppliers who discount for rescues.  NCSR networks with other sheltie rescues and we pass along information on good deals when we find them.

We also do periodic fundraisers; we sell candy, flowers, and pizzas from well known fundraising companies.  We try to do 3 -4 a year.  We also have begun doing Quarter Auction fundraisers.  We do raffles of donated items at our larger events, and also sell NCSR and breed related items.  We sell candy bars in our offices where permitted.   Donation jars are out at every event. Even a few hundred dollars is enough to offset one dog’s vet care. We are always on the lookout for new ideas to raise money; it is a high priority.

In times of extreme need, as when we took in an older female sheltie with a condition that could only be confirmed with exploratory surgery, we turn to our base of volunteers and adopters.  We have begun sending out a quarterly newsletter updating the dogs we have taken in, and include a request for donations.  We have a PayPal account to accept donations, and also make sure our address is on all our correspondence. Our adopters are our greatest supporters.  We try very hard to foster a “family” relationship with them; they are very special people and have come through for us in emergencies.

Last, we have a credit card.  We unfortunately have had to use it more than we ever intended, but it has helped us make it through some difficult times.  Part of our founding philosophy is that we never turn a sheltie away due to medical issues or age, and we have been able to keep that promise.

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4 Responses to Best Practices: Managing Costs

  1. I would warn against credit of any kind, especially at start up. I only say this because I know how hard the first years were and we only succeeded by staying out of debt. When we came across a situation that required more money than we had available, we created a fundraiser for that dog. We did have a dog come into our care that a volunteer at the shelter had paid for her emergency services before we agreed to take her, we agreed to pay the volunteer back for the $2,600 she had paid to save this boxers life. It took us weeks to recoup that money and that was the one and only time LBR used any form of credit or loan. We simply stop pulling dogs if the bank account gets to an unacceptable level, and that motivates our volunteers and supporters to solicit funds whatever ways we have available. These “pull freezes” for finances last less than 3-4 days typically, as we are typically able to raise the money needed in that time.

  2. Credit card debt is scary for any rescue, although, at times a necessity. What we’ve done in 2 absolute emergencies is pay vet care on the cc but hold a fundraiser for those dogs to recoup. Like right now, we took in a 5 mos old Weim/Lab mix who has bow legs – we’re looking at expensive xrays in addition to regular vetting(shots, neuter, etc). By working with one vet and bundling the care we’ve been offered a large discount. I’m also getting ready to host a fundraiser for him. Who can resist a cute little bow-legged pup?? Other ways to manage costs can be to order food & supplies in bulk. My doggy daycare lady includes my dog food needs(for my fosters) along with her retail order so I can buy it at wholesale. We’ve also found that Costco offers high quality, grain-free(good for Weimie’s who are prone to food allergies) at about 1/2 the cost of buying at a feed store. We often order supplies(like collars, leashes, miscellaneous first aid supplies, etc) online at huge discounts. Since we don’t always have enough available foster homes(many of us are regularly doubled-up) we have negotiated free or discounted short-term boarding for Weim’s until a foster has an opening. While we try to get them into foster homes immediately, boarding has been wonderful for several of our incoming dogs, especially those needing socialization with other dogs. We also keep down our cost of microchipping by having vet techs do them at drop in visits, and we even have 2 volunteers that have vet tech training and do it for us. If you use rescue ID tags, order them online as well and we reuse each of them. When a Weim is adopted the MHWR tag stays on until we verify the owner has replaced that with a new tag. Since each dog is microchipped we’re able to reuse those tags, saving $100’s each year. MHWR does not have the budget to buy embroidered leashes & collars but we partner with several pet stores that donate leashes & collars to us. We dispurse those to the foster homes. While a fancy leash with MHWR logo would be nice, in reality, most adopters are excited to take their new pal shopping & get them new bangles anyway. If anyone has other ideas on how to manage costs please share! We’re all in the same predicament of constantly trying to raise and manage our dollars for the dogs.

  3. LBR also utilizes Costco and their Kirkland’s brand dog food, as well as the new Nature’s Domain for our allergy boxers. It’s a GREAT buy! Wish we could negotiate a discount still though.

    We buy our tags through Ketchum manufacturing, and they remain with the dog, and our contract requires it stay on the dog (though, yeah, I am sure some remove them), which is why we had to find an inexpensive solution. 1,000 tags, with s-hooks, that have our name, and distinct number for each tag, and our toll free number and city/state costs $201.57 with shipping. This is for stainless steel dog bone tags (which last much longer than the painted aluminum). You can order online, but I find it much easier to call them. LOL!

  4. Sorry that was the link to the Canadian site. This is the right link.

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