September 12, 2018Blog

Starting a Nonprofit That Helps the Homeless & Their Pets

By Devin Morrissey

Starting a nonprofit is a commendable journey that requires plenty of hard work, dedication, and passion, and it can be extremely rewarding. Starting a nonprofit that works to help homeless people and their pets can provide many ways for you and others to help. While starting a nonprofit might seem like an overwhelming venture to start, taking those first steps can be exactly what many unhoused families and pets need.

Earning a Nonprofit Leadership Degree
As Arizona State University aptly puts it, “There’s something special about aligning professional aspirations with your passions … An excitement in a job championed by individuals we admire
… An integrity in solving problems that make people’s lives a little healthier, safer or more accessible.” While it may not seem like the easiest first step, earning a nonprofit leadership degree is a great place to get started. Whether you decide to earn your bachelor’s or go back to earn your master’s, earning this particular degree will provide you with plenty of resources and aid to help you start and maintain your nonprofit.

Furthermore, the skills and training you can achieve through your nonprofit degree will lend themselves greatly to your efforts, giving you the right tools to help with:
● Critical thinking and listening
● Time management
● Public speaking
● Leadership
● Budgeting

It’s important to be the beacon not only for the homeless and their pets but your nonprofit itself. While it can take some time, equipping yourself with the right kind of resources and knowledge can help ensure your nonprofit is successful, which means you’re better able to serve your community and those in need.

Your Nonprofit: Who? What? How?
These are some very important questions to ask yourself when getting started.

Having a clear idea — and in turn goal — of your nonprofit for the homeless and their pets can help narrow your focus and efforts. Consider what the nonprofit market is currently lacking and how you can fill in those missing gaps. From medical needs to supplies, researching what the homeless and their pets really need can be essential to creating a helpful (and even lifesaving) nonprofit.

A great and very important first step towards starting a nonprofit is going to the IRS website and investigating the form to apply for 501(c)(3) status. Unfortunately, it can get pretty complicated and a lot of decisions must be made before even applying, such as: creating a mission statement, who will be the officers on the board of directors, liability insurance for officers and board members, who will be the CPA, acquiring an attorney, getting in-house accounting software, creating a website, bylaws, etc. All of these need consideration and action before you can begin accepting donations. Moreover, the IRS can often be slow to respond and can take months to decide on your (potential) nonprofit’s status.

Another important question to ask of yourself and your nonprofit goals is: Where?

According to Ohio University, suburban poverty is growing at an alarming rate. In the past, cities tended to see the biggest growth of homeless populations, suburban area are now also seeing a significant increase. Ohio University further explains, saying, “During the U.S. recession … jobs were lost, foreclosure rates increased and a large number of suburban residents lost their homes after the housing bubble burst. Programs designed to help those living in poverty are usually concentrated in metropolitan areas, making these programs less accessible for suburban populations … While more jobs are located in the suburbs, incomes have not increased with the cost of living.”

With all of that, this means that homeless in suburban areas are often underserved and thus in need of help from nonprofits. Thinking on a smaller scale, rather than the closest big city, might be the key to success. Of course, everyone needs help regardless of location, but by working to fill in those missing gaps, you can gain better ground and eventually reach bigger cities as well.

At the end of the day, what you feel passionate about is going to be the driving force behind your nonprofit. The homeless and their pets face a number of daily obstacles and challenges. Working to ensure these owners and their pets stay together as healthy and happy as possible, whether in big cities or small towns may not always be easy, but it will be worth it. If you are impatient to start or if starting, a nonprofit is too intimidating right now, you can always volunteer with Feeding Pets of the Homeless and work within your community.

Good luck.