Since the start of Copper’s Dream 5+ years ago, our team of dedicated volunteers have saved over 2,000 dogs. It hasn’t always been a smooth process, but the reward of giving our four legged friends a second shot at a happy life has been worth it. I’d like to share some of what we’ve learned along the way, so here are the 5 steps you can follow to build a successful nonprofit.
1. Take time to prepare
We jumped in headfirst, eager to start saving as many dogs as possible. In hindsight, we should have had our manuals and contracts all written up, and even done some fundraising for our emergency veterinary fund. Process and preparation isn't always the fun part, but it sure makes the day-to-day easier once your mission is well under way. Take time to consider what areas of your organization will flow better with some extra pre-launch planning.
2. Outline goals and keep perspective
It's easy to get swamped by the daily details and learning curve of starting a fledgling organization, but it's key to think about the long term. By setting goals for growth and fiscal health, and evaluating if those goals are being met, you can help prioritize your efforts and make sure you're around to do your good work for the long run. Hold yourself accountable by checking in with regularly scheduled roadmap meetings, and be sure to include your team in the process -- you never know who might have the next big idea!
3. Build a great team
It's really hard work starting a nonprofit or any venture, but it's so much easier if you have people that will get in the trenches with you. Bringing people on with different strengths and backgrounds has really helped us divide and conquer. Plus, it's really comforting to know you've got a team of people who care about the mission as much as you do. Try to go out and network at liked-minded events, you could find some really passionate and dedicated new team members for your organization.
4. Have a professional web presence
We get tons of unsolicited compliments on our website (which always feel so good!), with people kindly telling us how it really sets us apart from other dog rescues. This all ties into building a presence on social media and generally building a brand -- making sure each interaction with us on the web (and in person) is a positive one.
5. Recruit, and appreciate, your volunteers
We couldn't do what we do without volunteers. As a foster-based rescue, wonderful dog lovers open up their homes to our rescue pups until they get adopted. We also have great folks driving dogs, working events, posting to social media, designing materials, updating our website, and more. We give small volunteer appreciation gifts each year (donated by our board, not coming from rescue funds), but you can't say thank you enough -- in person, written notes, and emails all go a long way towards letting your team know you don't take them for granted.
Photo Credit: Gleb Brichko