Becoming a nonprofit changes focus
“Why don’t you incorporate the Dundee Fund as a nonprofit?” This is a frequently asked question during the monthly dog washes we hold to raise money for families who need some help with big vet bills. People see how well we’ve done and think we could raise more money if we could tell folks their donations would be tax deductible. It’s a good question, but the answer is both simple and complex.
Basically, becoming a nonprofit would change our focus from doing to being. People organize nonprofit corporations to enable them, through it, to do what they embrace as their mission. But the process of obtaining the IRS status is expensive, and ongoing. It inevitably changes the first priority to institutional survival. And institutions are beset with challenges from all directions. Before you have a single dollar for your mission, you’ve paid out many more to lawyers, accountants, government agencies and insurance companies. You find you need a professional manager, written policies… on and on.
The Dundee Fund began in the most ad hoc way imaginable. Dundee was Jenna’s beloved dog, wasting away from a mysterious ailment. Jenna was an assistant trainer at High Tails, which is how we knew about his situation. When Jenna ran out of savings and ability to borrow for more diagnostics, we considered our other resources. None of us had much money, but High Tails has a great 3-tub dog washing room that is seldom full to capacity. We know a lot of folks who know and love dogs. We decided to hold a benefit dog wash one Sunday afternoon and raised $1,700. Sadly, Dundee died soon after. But we learned how much could be accomplished with the resources we already had, and decided to pay it forward.
It’s simple: the folks who need funds volunteer to do the work, washing dogs, distributing flyers, baking goodies, doing laundry and clean up — whatever they are able to do. We dedicate the space one day a month. Our checking account costs $1 per month. I make deposits and write checks. Jenna handles our website and Facebook. We have no formal structure at all, just a core group of ordinary working folks determined to do what we can so that our friends and neighbors don’t have to make life or death decisions for their animal companions based solely on money. When we need help — to repair a water heater or collect donations of towels, for instance — we ask, and it comes. Veterinarians work with us, companies like Starbucks and Coloradough provide refreshments, the Post Independent discounts our ads. In our 2 years, we have raised almost $21,000 and helped over 45 dogs and cats get needed care, but we see our efforts less as charity than as solidarity. All of us need help sometimes, and it’s good to give when we can. We can do this without creating an institution.
I love nonprofits and have served many of them in various capacities over the years. For some purposes, institutions are absolutely indispensable and worth all the frustration and effort it takes to maintain them. For conditions to improve for animals, we need local animal shelters and the Humane Society of the U.S., the Animal Legal Defense Fund, PETA and other advocacy groups, and law enforcement. The issues that divide them are less important than the unifying ethic. Here, it is easier to see and value the contributions of each Dundee volunteer, whether they are members of the Roaring Fork Kennel Club or shelter workers who fervently support animal rights, for-profit business owners or retirees on disability, giving and taking in the same way our animal companions do, in the practical communism of family and community life. From each according to her ability, to each according to her need.
The divisive questions are important, and they make us think. I can write checks to PETA and yet question some of their positions. But washing dogs on Dundee Sundays is purely celebratory. This holiday season, I wish all of you the comfort and joy of healthy, happy pets and a place in this caring community.
Laurie Raymond owns High Tails Dog & Cat Outfitters in Glenwood Springs.
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