We already covered this topic superficially, but as I was editing the first draft of the manual, I realized we needed more information. I turned to Sharon Sleighter of Legacy Boxer Rescue, as she runs a large, reputable rescue in Texas, and I figured she must be a master of time management. Here are her thoughts:
Debt is the number one downfall of startup rescues. Debt is not your friend. Managing the costs involved in running a rescue is a daily task, and regular fundraising activities are at the center of your success because adoption fees are not going to cover the expenses of preparing dogs for forever homes (see Chapter 7 for fundraising ideas). It is impossible to exist on adoption fees and donations alone. Some rescues do use credit cards when they feel they are absolutely at the end of their bank account, this is NOT recommended, raising money through fundraising activities is a much better choice because credit use can be a slippery slope from which it is difficult, if not impossible, to recover.
Financial planning is an important part of a rescue’s survival. Running a rescue is no different than running a business: it requires financial projections at the very least, so you know how much fundraising you need to do. This is where developing relationships with other, similar rescues around the country can be especially valuable, as they can help guide your financial projections.
The flipside to fundraising is reducing costs. Can you negotiate better prices with local vets? Is there an emergency vet that will extend discounted pricing to you? Can you buy food, toys, and other supplies in bulk (ex. Costco) or online at a discount? Can you reuse identification tags?
Before start up, or in the first weeks, you must find at least one local vet to provide discounted services. Our rescue currently has 7 vets in the area that we work with, but some offer better pricing than others. Your group may not need that many clinics to work with, depending on your geographic area, but in the area we cover we have foster homes spread over an 80-90 mile radius, so it’s imperative to our foster program that we provide vets that are geographically located near our foster homes. Ask your vet if they’re willing to provide you with prescription items such as heartworm prevention and commonly used medications like Cephalexin at cost or just above cost. Most will be willing to do so after you have a relationship established.
In regards to the veterinary care, only do what is necessary for adoption. All dogs should be vaccinated, spayed/neutered, and treated for any known health issue while in the rescues care. Initial vaccines should include Rabies, Distemper/Parvo combo and Bordatella. Leave “elective” vaccines such as Leptosporosis, K9 Flu and Corona Virus up to the adopters to discuss with their veterinarians. Some areas may be at higher risk for leptosporosis, so it may be included in your initial vetting if that is the case. There hasn’t been a reported case of Corona Virus in the U.S. in over 25 years, so don’t pay for what isn’t necessary. On spays and neuters, unless there is an underlying health reason to do so, you can forego pre-surgical bloodwork prior to surgeries to save costs. Your veterinarian needs to understand that you’re a rescue group and that running pre-surgical diagnostics is not financially feasible for every dog that comes into your program. If your rescue takes in 300 dogs per year, not doing pre-surgical diagnostics can save you approximately $15,000 per year. That’s HUGE for a start-up rescue. In addition, many groups that see a high incidence of intestinal parasites in their rescues have found it more cost effective to forego a fecal examination at the vet and simply worm every dog that comes into the program. Wormer is expensive, but if you see a high incidence of parasites, why pay for a fecal that’s likely to just result in giving wormer anyway?
Regarding vets, services must be paid in full at the time of service or on a monthly billing cycle. Preferably, have your vet keep a DEBIT card on file to charge services as rendered is the best way to accomplish this goal. Regularly paying your vets on their terms strengthens your relationship and provides you with a great reference for working with new vets in your area.
Buy as much online as you possibly can.
Buy vaccines online at JeffersPet.com and administer them yourself, this will save you a lot of money. Rescues in some states can even buy Rabies vaccines online, though that is not the case in Texas as that vaccine has to be administered by a vet. JeffersPet.com lists the states it is not available for sale to. Create a form for vaccines with your rescue information and a place to put the stickers from the vials after vaccinating the rescue pet to send home with the animal after adoption.
Supply your foster homes with the necessities for fostering. If you supply the necessities, most will not have an issue with supplying the luxuries like treats, toys and beds. Necessities should include:
Crate (shop online, JeffersPet.com and Dog.com historically have great prices on crates).
Leash/Collar (shop online or hit the bargain bins at retailers, again JeffersPet.com has some awesome deals on these items).
Tag/Rescue ID (Ketchum Manufacturing, link at the end of this chapter).
Bowls (Do you have an Ikea nearby? They sell dog bowls for .75 cents, though you can’t order them through their online site).
Food (Costco’s Kirkland brand food is highly rated and bargain priced at approximately $25 for a 40 lb bag. Ask your local pet food retailers if they will donate bags of food that may be torn in shipping. Many stores like Wal-Mart and Costco will donate the food that arrives in damaged packaging to their local rescues, you just have to ask).
Rescue administrators must become masters of time management, especially those who maintain regular jobs (almost everyone) and have families in addition to their rescue activities. You must allocate time for the activities you can handle and delegate those you cannot. Do not let important activities such as fundraising slide by the wayside because you’d prefer to interact with dogs instead of people. Your rescue will not survive without a focus on these important tasks. Having said that, your mental health is also an important ingredient to success, and you must also allocate time for yourself, your family, and your animals.
More simply put, there is a never ending list of work to do in rescue and you need to be willing and able to delegate tasks to other volunteers if you hope to survive the first year. Know up front how much time you can commit on a daily basis. I try to set aside 4 hours of my day for rescue ONLY. One hour each morning and at least 2-5 hours every evening. Now keep in mind, I am also on the phone making vet appointments or consulting with vets quite frequently during business hours. This leaves precious little time for my personal dogs and family (I do not have children), but I have done things over the years to facilitate a better balance between personal and rescue life. I moved my desk/office into the den so I am no longer sequestered away in a different room while working. I got a netbook so I could take that a step further and work from the couch if I so desire to. I have a mobile device that allows me to stay in touch during business hours at lunch and on breaks. Depending where you designate your role to be in the rescue, that will give you an idea of the hours you need to be available.
One time saving tip that has helped me a lot is Dropbox. Someone in the rescue is always needing vet records or files that I had in my possession only (on my PC or portable flash drive), so I spent copious amounts of time sending files out to people when I got home in the evenings. Dropbox has allowed me to upload all of those files to a web based storage facility and I can share folders with other volunteers or I can access it directly from my mobile device (Android phone) and send files from there if needed. This is a free service for up to 5 GB of storage space. Visit www.dropbox.com for more information.
Voicemail is another time consuming chore that can be delegated out if you use a company like RescueGroups.org. This organizations voicemail package allows for the setup of multiple mailboxes on a single number. When you call our organization, you have 7 menu options and each of those options is a separate “inbox”. Messages from each inbox is then distributed, via email, to the email addresses your organization designates. IE calls about boxers in need go to our Shelter Committee, calls about applications or adopting go to our Application Committee. This helps distribute the load of calls throughout the organization and also helps us respond to calls more promptly and accurately. We have a vanity toll free number, with voicemail service for $200.00 per year. Visit www.rescuegroups.org for more information on their services.