Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Discussion: Rescues and Money

Here's my question of the day. It's something I think about a LOT.

When a rescue expands to the point where the salaries of the principals of the rescue can no longer support it, and it is to some degree (or entirely) dependent upon donations/volunteers, is that irresponsible/short-sighted in of itself? I tend to think it is.

Let's face it: You can't MAKE people give money. Charitable donations vary greatly depending on many factors: the economy, your rescue's reputation, changes in tax law, etc. Donations of labor/volunteering depend on the same factors. When the economy is poor, a part-time job becomes more appealing than volunteering.

Now obviously we all know of organizations that have well-developed fundraising departments and really have it down to a science, where the ups and downs of giving are never in danger of totally shutting down operations. I.E. HSUS. But in between the small, privately financed rescue, and the huge, national organization,there seem to be a lot of rescues a little too big for the principals to support, teetering on the brink of disaster and constantly begging for money. I'm sure they think they can build things into the next HSUS...but just like new, small businesses, most of them crash and burn. Unlike Suzy's Coffee Shop and Tattoo Parlor, though, personal bankruptcy doesn't solve everything when a rescue fails. Instead we are left with, typically, dozens or hundreds of animals on whom vet care, nutrition, etc. has been neglected - a massive mess for someone else to clean up.
I have nine right now - two personal horses that just got old and are retired, one baby coming up to be a show horse, one senior aged mare who is supposed to be my riding horse but has had hoof issues all summer, and five old retirees with various degrees of disability. One is a gelding with mild arthritis out on lease to a good home with a 4-H'er that I pray, pray, pray does not get given back. One I placed where it turned out her special needs were a bit too much for them to keep up with, so she's back. I work hard to come up with the cash on a monthy basis, and I've decided you kind of have to assume everything you ever place is still yours, because they can and do boomerang. Right now, my horse care expenses are the biggest expense I have on a yearly basis. If I had kids or a mortgage, I couldn't do it. That's why when I see anyone with 50 horses - whether it's a rescue or a breeder, I start mentally calculating 50 x $35 hoof trim 6 times a year, 50 x $10 dewormer 6 times a year, 50 x 2.50 of hay per day x 365 or at least 200 with good pasture...and I say "how are they affording that?" And in many cases, the answer is, they're not. They're not keeping up. They have too many. Look at our most recent "rescue" - 35 horses? They're coming up with $7,350 in hoof care yearly? No, they're not. They're just not doing it. I don't ever want to be that person and that realization helps me go to the sale and walk away from all of the horses who need help, and say no to the begging e-mails I get on a daily basis.

So I'm interested in input from everybody...how does a rescue expand responsibly? Those of you who've done it successfully, how did you do it without ever endangering the animals' care? What are your tips for other rescues and would-be rescuers? Like I say, my main tip is: Everything you rescue is YOURS. They CAN and WILL boomerang. Don't ever assume it's placed and you don't have to budget for it. (They're kind of like adult children, except those you can ethically boot back out the door!)

Our happy note of the day: As I've said, I loooove great before and after pictures.

This is a 27 year old Thoroughbred mare. The first pic is in February 2007 - the second pic just seven months later. HOORAY for Steve and Tracy for this fabulous rehab job. The mare needed no special care and had no health issues...she just needed food. More proof that old does not inevitably equal skinny!

This is so cool. What a gorgeous, gorgeous mare! No one would guess her for 27. Look at her topline. This is a heck of a nice mare, and I'm so VERY glad she met the right people last winter.