Updated: Aug 3
"Rescue isn't even a marathon. A marathon ends. Rescue is a never-ending march where everything in your path tries to stop or deter you, or slow you down. It's like trying to do a marathon except instead of people handing you water, they are throwing oil and thumbtacks on your path, lighting fireworks on the road, and telling you that you need to run faster or slower or backwards because whatever you're doing, it's not right or not good enough. But my reply is simple, "fuck off and get out of my way." If the path isn't clear, then i'll clear it because I am on an unstoppable mission to save lives and ease suffering."
The journey, or should I say the mission, started over two years ago. It really started way before that. It started when I was a little girl. The kids on the bus would talk and laugh with each other while I preferred to sit by myself and read books about how to help injured wildlife. And I got made fun of for doing that because I'd rather have my nose in a book then socialize with my peers, but that's another story.
I knew I wanted to start a rescue for a long time. When my Dad died of cancer in February of 2018 is when I really started to put my heart and soul into doing it. I needed an outlet for my grief. I needed to fill the hole in my heart with something that made sense for me. The words of one of my mentors kept echoing in my mind and still does, everyday, every time I feel like I want to give up and I can't do it. "Stay on purpose, doll." She said it to me so many times and most of the time I just pushed it to the back of my mind but she said it to me all the time. Now it made sense, "stay on purpose." I went down so many wrong paths in my life and got lost so many times but I always knew what my purpose in life was. I don't know why my higher power gave "this" to me, to help the voiceless and the abused and the neglected animals of the world. I always knew in my heart that was my path.
So, I began. I reached out to some people in the rescue world that I had volunteered for, no response. Ok, I'm going to figure this out for myself but where do I even begin? I started reading every book I could find on animal rescue and nonprofits. I started doing research on the internet, and one thing led to another, led to another, led to another. This is going to be a tall order.
My first task was to search for people to help me. I started posting on social media and got some responses, some interest. Some of the people stuck around, a month, a day , a week, but they always backed out for different reasons. I needed a board of directors to start filing paperwork with the state. I put up flyers around the city. Still nothing. All the awhile, I kept learning, I kept reading. I kept reaching out to rescues for help and advice and finally I found some that would talk to me.
I asked the universe to send me people and then finally, they came. Two people that actually really cared, that would help me sort through the mountains of work ahead, the planning, the brainstorming, the meeting, the talking. There was so much to figure out we brought on consultants to help. We needed a strategic plan, business plan, fundraising plan, marketing plan, a budget, a website and that was just the beginning.
Now that we had a board (the minimum is three in Illinois), we had to submit Articles of Incorporation to the secretary of state. Then you wait for them to be approved. Make sure they are correct, make sure they are written to IRS standards, make sure you use the right wording. While your waiting write your bylaws, over twenty pages of governing documents. The state returns the Articles, there is a slight error with the way the paperwork was submitted. Rewrite them and send them in again and wait again. Make sure the website looks good, try to keep it updated. Make sure your posting on social media and that you are gaining supporters, because we're going to need them. We're going to need donors, foster homes, adopters. Learn how to interpret your analytics for all your social media platforms.
So much to do, so much to consider.
Articles come back approved. Now submit your articles and bylaws to the attorney general for another license you need. Three weeks go by, no response. I call them to see what the hold up is. "Our computers have been done for months and it may be months before we get them back up, call next week to check in."
Another set back.
In the meantime, email animal hospitals, "will you work with a rescue?" Email other rescues and shelters, schedule meetings with them. Schedule meetings for the board, every week we meet to talk and plan and brainstorm. Schedule meetings with the consultants. They are on pacific time and we all have different schedules. They send us more forms: conflict of interest, whistleblower policy, document retention policy..... the list goes on and on. Draft a business plan and a marketing plan and then plan to execute it. Plan social media posts. We have no animals yet, how can we keep them engaged? We need money for start up costs. Get creative, make bracelets, blankets, bandanas, t-shirts..... what else???????
Now it's time to apply for our 501(c)(3). The application is fifteen pages and then almost every answer requires a further answer with an attachment. Twenty pages of attachments. Then there is the checklist for the IRS: the articles, the bylaws, the minutes, the marketing materials. Make a projected budget for three years if you've been in operation less than one year and...... the IRS doesn't like to see large chunk amounts, so break all that down into specific categories. O yeah, open a bank account, make sure you have an EIN number.
Everything is ready for the 1023 application, the big dog, the IRS. Everything is in the hands of the government. I'm prepared to file. I go online to file with all my attachment pages, everything labeled with our organizations name and EIN number. The application is completely different, all my attachments pages are now wrong. I have to rewrite everything and relabel the numbers so everything matches. Make sure you have $600 to give them when you file.
It's filed. now we wait. Could it be three months, could it be nine months, who knows? It's on government time. But wait, there's another license. The Department of Agriculture will grant us our license to run an animals rescue. But wait, another stop sign. You can't get a license unless the government grants your nonprofit status.
I'm exhausted just writing this. I'm exhausted mentally. I work a full time job and then come home to work on the rescue. I keep the bigger picture in mind. Ask anyone in rescue for advice and they say, "Don't do it."
In the meantime there is more. We have to consider all the documents needed for the animals. Foster homes? Foster application, foster agreement, foster manual, adoption application, adoption contract, owner surrender form. O wait, we're taking in dogs that need hospice care. That's a whole different program. We need to set all that up. Add it to the website.
Don't forget social media. Try to keep up with all the animal holidays, try to educate people.
Write the blog, write the newsletter. Try to get people to sign up for it.
I'm tired. I'm overwhelmed but I will never stop I will never give up. Questions constantly linger.
Will we raise enough money? How do we document all the income and expenses correctly? (note, learn how to use excel)
Get a big marker board so you don't miss meetings and deadlines. We need more help. Create volunteer posts, each one needs a description. People apply but then disappear into thin air. That's fine, I'm used to it by now.
Insurance, we need insurance. How much will that cost? We need supplies, we need foster families. Need, need, need. Have I covered everything? Not even close. The real work hasn't even begun. The real work will begin when we get animals to care for. This is just all the work leading up to it.
I'm tired just writing this. I kept this blog as a draft for a couple months. Do I publish it? Do I show people what's going into this rescue? THE BLOOD, SWEAT AND TEARS. I can keep going because the work will never end. There will always be animals in need. I once heard that animal rescue is like trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon. That's how it feels and it's only the beginning, but WE WILL NOT STOP.
Mix together women (and men) hell bent on saving lives
Pour in one dash of unstoppable faith and hope
Watch miracles happen