By Timothy Howard
One of the most difficult tasks for any animal shelter is to raise the funds it needs to function. This means that your typical non-profit animal shelter just can’t afford to depend only on donations and adoption fees. There are a lot of different grants out there and I think you’ll find that there are many that were specifically designed to help you get the funds you need for your project.
What to Look for
Knowing that there are hundreds if not thousands of grants out there designed specifically to support animal shelters, how do you find the grant that will ultimately pay up? First let me address Government/Federal grants. The truth is that they are usually not intended for the typical non-profit business animal shelter. This means that unless if you are a shelter run by a municipality, local, state, or regional authority; actually acquiring one of these grants can be a time consuming and mind boggling challenge. However, they do usually have high yields that will take care of an entire project. If you want to pursue one of the many, sometimes elusive, federal grants I recommend hiring a professional to do the leg work.
For everyone else, I say it is best to focus on grants from local, state, and regional foundations. These grants are designed specifically to help you. When you are targeting these kinds of grants it ultimately just comes down to being disciplined enough to actually search for the right foundation and grant. For starters SAWA has compiled a very good list of foundations that focus on providing grants for various kinds of animal care organizations. Beyond this, finding these foundations is relatively easy by doing specific online searches for the kind of grant you are looking for.
Presentation Is Everything
Once you find the right foundation and a grant that is appropriate for your project or focus, how do you actually land the check? The trick is to persuade the person at the other end, that your organization is their most ideal applicant. But, before you ever make contact with the foundation you are seeking a grant from, make sure you implement these things first:
File a 501(c)(3) with the IRS
- allows non-profits to offer tax exemptions to those who do provide you with funds
Network with other agencies
- Social Media: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter
- Industry Relevant Publications
- Cooperative events with other agencies
Often times, these foundations will require a proposal letter. In it, make sure you present your organization’s overall goals and achievements. Then present a specific purpose or project that these funds will go to. Maybe it is new equipment such as an AnimalSafe Mobile Unit to transport animals, perform spay & neuter and even prepare for disasters. Whatever it is, let them know your excitement about the project, but do this while still being clear and concise in your letter. After they have received the letter, follow up with a call, this lets them know that you specifically care about their grant, and that they will get the most benefit from awarding it to you. Finally, after you know you have been awarded the grant, invite them for a visit, whether to your new building site, or to see your new equipment in action. If they come, make it an event and take plenty of pictures, you will want the publicity.