Start a Nonprofit Animal Rescue

Start a Nonprofit Animal Rescue

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Animals deserve every chance to have a loving home.  If you are a person who loves them and has solid business experience, you could start a nonprofit animal rescue.  

Starting a nonprofit is not extremely difficult.  But it pays to do a lot of homework before you do it.  You need to run your organization like a busines, not a “pet project” (pardon the pun!).  

Before you start

Before you even start this process, there is something extremely important you need to do:  

Find out who is already running an animal rescue in your area.

It is not hard to do this.  You can google and you can contact your state’s nonprofit association.

After you have collected information on the organizations running nonprofit animal rescues in your area, figure out what your niche may be in this field by delving into the services they provide and don’t provide.  For example, the organizations you found may be temporary animal shelters that actually find other organizations to take the animals in to find homes for them.  If so, you have a great resource for getting animals.  Maybe the organizations you found only focus on one breed or maybe you want to focus on one breed because none exist already.

The most important thing for you to have a successful animal rescue is to not be duplicating services much.  Next is to do it better than everyone else.  

Five essentials for starting a nonprofit

There are five essentials for starting a nonprofit organization:

  1. A board of directors which should be more than your friends and family
  2. Officers of the Corporation
  3. Articles of Incorporation and bylaws drawn up by an attorney
  4. 501 (c) status from the IRS
  5. A solid fundraising plan

Do More Homework

There are excellent resources as well as books about how to start a nonprofit and specifically a rescue. 


Again, your state’s nonprofit association is a great place to get information and referrals that can help you to get started. You will most likely find an attorney through the nonprofit association as well because members of nonprofit associations include consultants, attorneys and others working with nonprofits.   You can also find foundations in your area that fund animal organizations and talk to a program manager about the funding potential for your specific idea and any tips they might like to share with you.

We recommend that you read Covered in Pet Fur: How to start an animal rescue, by Stacey Ritz (paid link) and a host of books about how to start a nonprofit such as, How to Form a Nonprofit Corporation (National Edition): A Step-by-Step Guide to Forming a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit in Any State (How to Form Your Own Nonprofit Corporation), by Anthony Mancuso Attorney.  (paid link).  We have listed several books that could be helpful to you on the products page of this site.

Your organization will need a name, domain and website

As you can see, we have developed all of that for you to claim as your own.  Paw Lover will give you a head start on the business end of your organization where you can get started really fast.  We are consultants to nonprofit organizations, and have put a lot of thought into this site for you already.  Exact match domain names are extremely important for your marketing efforts.  In other words, don’t buy a domain where you add “extensions” like the name of your state or several words.  

We commend you for thinking about helping more animals.  Clearly there is more room for animal rescue organizations in our world. As the parents of three rescued chihuahuas, we truly appreciate those who do this work.