In 2009, I looked around West Virginia, and I wanted to help our horses. It seemed there was almost no where to turn, and within a year or so, the few places left had collapsed under fraud and abuse charges.
It was only then, after making the effort as a single family to help horses, I believed I needed to do something. And after 2 more years of working as a mostly self funded effort, I saw that I had built a following that made me feel taking steps toward an organization and a 501(c)3 rescue made sense. I had made contacts with others doing the same, I had proven our small work had value, integrity and sincerity. I had learned financial lessons and paid the price from my own pocket and given many hours from my life.
Had there been any reasonable rescue working in our state, I would have first looked to work with and offer my time to that group, though. That is key. I didn’t want to start anything new.
I grew up in the Christian Community of rural West Virginia. In this area, churches splinter off often. It is always counter productive and never based on in concern for the mission the folks believe is at hand. Churches split, new congregations start and fractions divide all day, each day. Of course, what we should understand is when an effort collapses or when individuals decide to work independently, the purpose or the goal is watered down, sadly. The success rate hampered.
I often think of how everyone wishes to be the innovator, the boss, the spear-head, the unique voice, the “one” in rescue, and how nothing has harmed rescue as greatly as those things. Those things are really just one in the same. . .the inability to unify and work for the greater good in spite of differences. Pride. Ego.
Rescues come and go constantly. The reputation of “rescue,” in general, is poor, because so many end up in disaster.
I was reminded today of these facts and more as I entered the property of a person who stated several months ago they had founded a new non profit for horses and livestock. I was worried. Rightfully so. I entered as an established rescue to clean up what appears(ed) to be quite a mess. Animals found there were in various stages of what I consider neglect, without vet care all over the place, and as I walk around, I kept in my mind how rescue works against its self so often.
I cannot be sure of the goals of the person in this situation. They may never have been decent, but I have walked into or heard of situations where I know the desire to help was there. But the fact is, rescue isn’t easy. Most fail. Too many fail in an epic way.
Rescue works best not in fractions but as a whole, unified voice. Consistently.
You are serving animals far better when you work with an established group than when you decide to spearhead something new.
There is nothing new under the sun, anyway.
Sometimes the “new” thing works. Sure. Most times, it will not. Regardless, a new thing will never work as well as having used the time and effort to build something already working successfully, when it is there.
Human ego gets in the way, though. As usual, Animals pay the price over and over.
So to answer the hundreds of emails or messages we get yearly about how to start a rescue, I will tell you this:
I suggest you find a solid rescue in your area and give that established group all you have. You will serve animals in no better way.
If you must, at the end of the day, work on your own organization, for whatever reason, then remember, you usually will do this out of pocket for a very long time if it will work well, and it will take a very long time before you can effectively solicit donations or build a broad volunteer base in a broad sense. That is how it should be, too. There is no sudden funding when you file for a 501(C)3 and no government money coming your way. You will have to build a donor base that comes from your personally funded work over years of time.
Most days, I still wish a good organization had existed all those years ago for me to help. I do. It is hard work. Harder than anything I could have fathomed, if you do it right. It is still volunteer only work for me, except I cannot and would not walk away. I cannot. It takes up most of my life. I wish I could have been a helper, but because nothing was here, I had to go ground up. If you do not have to do that, reach out and help what is around you. You will be your most effective in combating animal issue when you do this, I believe.