How to Start Your Own Animal Rescue with No Money

Updated: Dec 30, 2020

Animal rescues can have high operational costs, but that doesn’t mean that they have to.

Money alone can’t really do much for you, it’s all about how you use it.

Think about it.

If you were handed $50,000 today and asked to start your own animal rescue, what would you do?

You would probably start looking for professionals who could help you start your animal rescue.

Here’s a list of what you’d want to get started on right away:

  • Create a business plan

  • Create a digital marketing plan

  • Create a website to connect with your community

  • Create a social media marketing plan to engage with your communities.

  • Set aside a budget for veterinary care

Can’t you do all of these things without money?

After all, you’d be using the money to pay professionals for their expertise to complete each of the tasks listed above.

What if you didn’t have to pay each professional at all?

Then there would be no real need for you to have any money… right?

If you’re new to the field of animal rescue, you might be wondering why these professionals would work for free.

The truth is most people in the field of animal rescue work for free.

The author, editor, graphic designer and SEO specialist working on this blog are all working for free. Why? Because we want to make sure that animal lovers like you, have access to the expertise you need to start your animal rescue.

Some of you, that are reading this post, may have already started your animal rescues. If so, guess what?

We’re still here working for free hoping that giving your free access to our experts will help you save more animals.

We don’t always work for free! Let’s Save Animals (LSA) has many paid services, but our blog Rescue Corner is a great example of a project that needs professionals from many different fields, working together, to help other people save more animals.

Be hopeful! People like us do exist. You don’t have to go into this project thinking you have to have loads of money to get started!

Will you have to spend some money? Definitely. Will it be a lot?


At least not if you approach this project the way we’re teaching you too.

However, we must warn you, doing it our way is hard work.

It’s going to take time, patience and persistence.

You may need to work hard at developing skills that you may not have.

You will have to spend time recruiting a team of people with talents, skills and areas of expertise that you don’t have.

Every organization starts this way.

This amazing team of people will be your Board of Directors.

Here’s How to Recruit Your Animal Rescue’s Board of Directors

You’ll need to search for passion-driven professionals to serve on your animal rescue’s Board of Directors.

Since you won’t be paying your Board of Directors, you’re going to have to rely on their passion to fuel their desire to make sure your organization is successful.

You can rely on your Board of Directors to use their professional expertise to steer your organization in the right direction.

That’s why it’s important to make sure that each member has the right expertise to help your animal rescue achieve your goals.

We can tell you from experience that your animal rescue is going to need to access expertise in each of the following areas:

  • Legal Knowledge or Expertise

  • Policy Development Skills

  • Accounting and Financial Planning

  • Marketing Skills

  • Fundraising Skills

  • Community Outreach

  • Animal Care Experience

  • Medical Experience

We know the list is long and that some of you might feel overwhelmed just reading it.

But we ask you to trust that we know what we’re talking about.

We’ve worked with dozens of animal rescues. We study animal rescues for a living.

Each of the skills we mentioned is necessary if you’re planning to start a successful animal rescue.

You Can Start an Animal Rescue with No Money if You Can Access The Right Expertise

Your Animal Rescue Will Need Legal Knowledge or Expertise.

Your animal rescue will need to have access to legal knowledge or expertise that ensures you are aware of any government legislation that applies to your organization.

If you think no legislation applies to your animal rescue, chances are… you’re wrong.

No matter where you are in the world, there will always be legislation that will apply to your animal rescue in one way or another.

For example, when you start your animal rescue, one of the first things you’re going to do is register the organization.

Most animal rescues are registered as non-profit organizations.

Non-profit organizations have responsibilities that are usually outlined by provincial, state or federal legislation.

There will be labour laws that will apply to your employees if you have any.

There will likely be safety laws that apply to your animal rescue’s workers or volunteers.

Your animal rescue will need to comply with each legislation that applies to your organization – even if you’re unaware of it.

Failure to do so can result in your animal rescue being sued!

See how important it is for your animal rescue to access legal expertise?!

There are many things a good legal representative can do other than limiting your animal rescue’s liability.

Here are some of the other tasks your organization will need your legal counsel to do:

  • Register your animal rescue with your local province, state or federal government

  • Creating your animal rescue’s governing bylaws

  • Create your animal rescue’s volunteer agreements

  • Review your animal rescues insurance policy

As you can see, legal expertise comes in handy when operating an animal rescue.

Don’t make the mistake of starting your animal rescue without it!

Your Animal Rescue Will Need Policy Development Skills.

Policy development is crucial to your animal rescue.

Understanding why involves first understanding what policy development is.

A policy, used in this context, refers to a system or course of action that will be implemented by a governing body to achieve the organization’s goals and objectives.

In your case, this governing body will be your animal rescue’s Board of Directors.

In most instances, an animal rescue’s Board of Directors will assist in the development of the organization’s internal policies.

The problem is that most animal rescues don’t have Board Members who specialize in policy development.

Policy development is not an easy skill to acquire.

Policy Development Officers tend to go to University for many years to learn how to develop policies.

They commonly major in areas like public policy or political science and spend a minimum of 4 years studying how to research, analyze and find effective solutions for community problems.

Once a policy development officer has developed a thorough understanding of your community’s problems, they will begin to design policies to help your organization solve these problems.

These policies will include information on:

  • Your community’s problems

  • Information on similar community problems

  • Case studies

  • Research

  • Proposed solutions

  • The policies goals and objectives

  • The workers and volunteers needed to achieve these goals

  • The tasks that will need to be completed to achieve these goals

  • The procedures needed to complete each task

  • The training programs that will be needed to train your animal rescue’s workers and volunteers

Your animal rescue will need to develop more than one policy.

Each department in your animal rescue will need to have their own policy.

Your animal rescue will at the very least have:

  • A fundraising policy

  • An intake policy

  • An adoption policy

  • A foster policy

  • An animal care policy

There will be many policies because although each of the departments in your animal rescue will be working together, they will still all have different goals or objectives.

For example, your intake department may be hoping to:

  • Provide humane education to pet owners in your community

  • Keep animals who have homes in their homes

  • Increase the number of stray animals who receive assistance in your community

  • Return lost pets to their owners

Your adoption department will be trying to:

  • Improve the quality of your adoption interviews

  • Increase your adoption rate

  • Lower your failed adoption rate

  • Shorten your average length of stay

Your foster department may be trying to:

  • Recruit new foster parents

  • Retain existing foster parents

  • Develop training programs for foster parents

  • Develop behavioural modification plans for foster pets

  • Develop a system to get foster animals to and from medical appointments

Do you see why policy development is so important?

How would these departments achieve each of their goals if they weren’t being guided by their policy documents on how to do so?

Your policy documents will communicate information from your Board of Directors directly to each department’s staff or volunteers.

The unfortunate part is that policy development is the area most animal rescues neglect and that leads to their departments achieving their goals.

You can avoid this mistake by accessing this expertise from the very beginning.

Your Animal Rescue Will Need Both Accounting and Financial Expertise.

Your animal rescue will need to make sure at least one person within the organization has some financial or accounting expertise.

Donors feel more comfortable donating to organizations that they know are responsible for how they spend their money.

Making annual financial reports available to the general public is one way to make prospective donors trust you more.

To do this, your organization will need to track any funds coming into your organization, as well as any funds going out.

In most instances, this will be one of your rescue’s statutory obligations.

A bookkeeper or accountant can do more than just track your organization’s finances and prepare your annual reports.

A good bookkeeper or accountant can also help your animal rescue prepare your annual income tax returns and can make sure you’re compliant with any local, provincial, state or federal tax requirements.

Your Animal Rescue Will Need Marketing Skills.

Marketing plays an important role in any organization’s success.

Without a good marketing plan, it will be very difficult for your animal rescue’s to be effective at solving your community’s problems.

Think about it...

Without a good marketing plan, how will your organization attract donors to help raise the funds needed to pay for veterinary care?

Without a good marketing plan, how will your organization attract adopters and find homes for all your animals in need?

Without a good marketing plan, how will your organization attract foster parents that are needed to care for animals?

It’s safe to say, without a good marketing plan, none of your animal rescue’s departments will be able to achieve their goals.

This will have serious consequences for your animal rescue’s ability to reach your organizational goals and if your animal rescue is unable to reach your goals, then animals in your community will continue to suffer.

This may sound harsh, but it’s true.

Finding a marketing professional from the very beginning will make it easier for your animal rescue to make sure your organization can achieve its goals.

Your Animal Rescue Will Need Fundraising Skills.

Your animal rescue is going to require some funding at some point.

That’s the reality.

We can teach you how to avoid spending in the early stages of building your animal rescue, but we can’t teach you how to run an entire animal rescue without ever having to pay anyone.

It’s impossible.

Your animal rescue is going to need to develop an operating budget at some point.

Fundraising is going to be a crucial part of developing that budget.

It is very rare for governments to offer to fund animal rescues.

In most instances, fundraising is the only income stream that most animal rescues have.

Even in instances where fundraising is not a rescue’s sole source of income – it’s still usually the main one.

A lot of people underestimate how difficult fundraising is.

It’s not until after they’ve tried and failed that they begin to realize how important it is to have expertise in this area.

Unfortunately, most people are so frustrated after failing at a few fundraising attempts that they give up.

Some animal rescues have strong convictions against using external fundraising services.

These animal rescues argue that fundraising companies take too much of the donor’s money.

Other animal rescues are open to the idea of using an external fundraising service but don’t meet the requirements.

In both instances, this results in their organization having very limited funds available to help animals.

In these instances, it’s the animals who suffer.

Your animal rescue can avoid this misfortune by finding a qualified fundraising professional to help you.

Even if the fundraising professional does not actively take part in your fundraising, their expertise can still be used to build a plan to attract and satisfy donor requirements.

A fundraising professional knows how to manage your animal rescue’s fundraising team effectively.

They may be able to recommend fundraising programs or software that can help you!

Never underestimate the power of a good fundraising professional!

Your Animal Rescue Will Need Community Outreach Skills.

Community Outreach is an important part of keeping your community engaged in your rescue’s work.

Some of your animal rescue’s strongest supporters will be right in your backyard.

Strong community support will help your animal rescue in a lot of different ways. Community supporters can easily become:

  • Donors

  • Volunteers

  • Foster Parents

The second aspect of community outreach involves reaching out to local businesses or non-profit organizations to develop strong partnership programs.

Partnership programs will help your rescue help more animals.

For example, your rescue may not have the financial resources to spend $10,000 to save one animal’s life, but your local humane society or a local veterinary clinic might be able to assist you for free.

This happens more often than you think. Another example of a strong partnership your rescue could benefit from is a partnership with a local pet store.

A local pet store might be willing to act as an adoption centre for your rescue and use it as a place to facilitate meetings between your rescue’s animals and their prospective adopters.

If you have any pet food manufacturers in your community, they may be willing to donate some of the food they manufacture to your animal rescue.

Never underestimate the power of community support.

However, engaging these supporters is not an easy job.

Your animal rescue is going to need a community engagement plan.

Developing a community engagement plan is not easy. It requires a lot of expertise.

People go to college for years to develop the skills needed to do this job.

Your animal rescue will need to acquire access to their expertise to move forward.

Your Animal Rescue Will Need Animal Care Experience.

Your animal rescue will care for dozens, hundreds, thousands, and hopefully, one day millions of animals, each year.

To ensure these animals are properly cared for, your animal rescue will need to have extensive information on how to care for these animals.

Often, the type of care an animal needs may be specific due to factors like the animal’s species, breed, sex, age, health, mental health challenges, behavioural disorders or physical impairments.

The type of care each animal will need, needs to be something you can train volunteers to assess.

Providing individualized care for thousands of animals may sound like a difficult task but it is something that can be systematic.

You will need to have people who are knowledgeable enough about animal care, to not only guide you through this process but to also help you create: policies, procedures, systems and training tools.

This will ensure that a high standard of animal care is maintained throughout your rescue.

A lot of animal rescues rely on veterinary care professionals to assist them with this task.

Your Animal Rescue Will Need Human Resources.

Your animal rescue is going to require a lot of manpower.

Recruiting, training, supporting and retaining that manpower will not be an easy task.

It’s definitely going to be a full-time job.

This will arguably be one of the most important jobs in your organization.

That means you’ll want the position to be filled by a volunteer who has expertise in the human resources department.

Your organization’s human resource volunteers can help your animal rescue:

  • Recruit the right talent to help your organization achieve your goals

  • Develop training programs for your organization’s volunteers.

  • Support volunteers by ensuring they have the tools needed to do their jobs.

  • Retain volunteers through internal programs and initiatives

Without Human Resource expertise, your animal rescue is going to struggle to find the talent needed to keep your organization alive.

Your Animal Rescue Will Need Veterinary Expertise.

Your animal rescue will come across a lot of sick, abandoned and abused animals.

That means you’ll need access to some sort of veterinary expertise.

Most animal rescues use veterinary clinics to assist them in this area.

Every animal rescue should have at least one veterinary clinic who they work very closely with.

Arguably, you should have two.

For more information on how to find local veterinary clinics to work with click here.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that animals require more than just veterinary care to be healthy.

An important part of caring for animals also involves caring for the animal’s behavioural needs.

If an animal suffers from anxiety, then the animal will need to receive behavioural modification training on how to be less anxious.

Your veterinary provider may be able to help you with this, but a trained behaviourist is also a great resource to make use of for this purpose!

You’ll want to make sure your rescue does a sufficient job of looking after both the mental and physical health of animals in your care.

Concluding Thoughts.

You landed on this article because you wanted to know how to start an animal rescue with no money and we taught you how to substitute money with expertise.

It may not be easy to attract this expertise initially.

It’s not as easy as simply walking up to people with these skills and asking them to dedicate their life to your animal rescue’s cause.

Some people will care about your cause, but not care enough to make it an active part of their life.

These people are more likely to become donors then Board Members.

Attracting the right Board Members is going to take a bit of work but we can show you how.

We’ll publish an article where we’ll teach you how to recruit local professionals with passion and expertise needed to become Board Members on your animal rescue’s Board of Directors.

You can make sure you don’t miss out on this important advice by subscribing to Rescue Corner.

Your Animal Rescue TODAY!

Are you an animal lover living in a place where animals in need are offered little to no help?

Are you a volunteer at a local animal rescue or animal shelter who would like to start your own animal rescue?

Then it's time to get started! We'll be here to guide you every step of the way...


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