So you want to start a sanctuary
Many of the visitors, and volunteers that frequent sanctuaries have dreams to one day have a sanctuary of their own to create a safe space for those that need them. Many people, us included, had no idea where to start. Thankfully we were able to come up with some resources to help guide us, and we have learned a lot on our own. Today we will discuss some of the things to take in to consideration when planning a non-profit sanctuary. We will also do a separate post about microsanctuaries in the future.
First things first, lets talk about the space. When considering whether or not a space would be ideal for a potential sanctuary, you want to be wary of quite a bit of things:
-Is the fencing secure for tricksy residents?
-Are there city or county zoning restrictions on the types of individuals you can take in?
-Are there city or county restrictions on building structures on the property?
-If the space is quite large, how will the terrain be maintained (sprinklers/irrigation)
-Is the flora and fauna on the property poisonous or toxic to potential species?
-Are there potential predators in the area that can get into the property?
These are all very important things that must be considered when picking your sanctuary space. You also want to make note of resources near the space. Locate the feed stores, home improvement stores, produce resources, and veterinarians that are near the space since you will become a frequent flyer.
Once your space is selected, you can start the arduous process of turning the space into your dream sanctuary! We have had work parties with friends to help us set up fencing, build pens, and dig trenches for plumbing lines. Having friends help out not only makes it more fun, and easier, but it really helps with a sense of community. Here at Lamuella, our space has been updated as we go, and with dedicated support from the community through work parties, our space truly feels like a place for everyone to come together to help the residents live their best lives.
Once you are ready to start the sanctuary high life, there are some formalities to consider as well. Registering as a business in your state, registering that business as a state non profit, and then applying to the IRS for 501(c) designation. In order to do these, first we needed a business bank account. We got ourselves one of those, and headed back to forms and files. For us, registering with the state took about 3 months. We decided to use a 3rd party preparation service and filing. Once we established ourselves with the state, we had a small celebration, then we applied to the IRS.
IRS filing for non profit status requires quite a bit of time & dedication. There is a lot of information that must be provided; and once provided, can take several months for approval. Keep in mind, once your 501 status is confirmed, any donations received since founding the business are considered tax deductible. Celebrate again once you get approval, and then get back to work!
A crucial step in working the sanctuary life is species care. Always make sure you know who your veterinarians are, what there hours are, and if they accept same day appointments. A good rule of thumb is to have a list of two or three vets that you regularly can work with for your residents. We are lucky enough to share the same vet that Better Piggies uses since they already know Solange & Coppuchino, and know how to best help them. We have another vet for bird related needs for the chickens and turkey close by as well. Don't forget to mention your non profit status to your vets, they may offer discounts!
The next step for us was to showcase ourselves now that we are official with a capital O. We created social media accounts, and created this website. Whether you do the same, or just keep it off the web, is up to you. We wanted to be as accessible to our community as possible, so we are pretty visible. Once the pandemic is over, we plan to do even more to get ourselves out there.
If you have questions about the process, feel free to use the resources below, or contact us with your questions!
Resources we used: