About one hundred and twenty years ago, I had some pets. Little rodents, mostly, eventually some birds. People brought me their sick pets, their inconvenient pets, pets in need of babysitting, and wild things one-step-above roadkill. I was an animal magnet. How did I become a non-profit?
When I retired, suddenly everything became impossibly expensive to maintain. It was my “once in a lifetime” chance to do what I love, but how could I afford it? When I added Dobby the capybara to the mix, people noticed all of the other animals in my care. Dobby’s visitors began to casually drop off donations to help me care for the other pets. My other pet rescue friends had incorporated as non-profit organizations and before long, the lightbulb went on over my head.
Non-profit status means that our donors can claim their donations as exemptions on their federal taxes. It’s our government’s way of making it easier for people to provide a community service. We’re just like a regular business, except we don’t make any profit, so everything goes back to the community. Small organizations like ours don’t have any paid employees, and we don’t even have to rent space. We have no trucks, no inventory, and the food we buy gets eaten.
We have about 45
freeloaders animals here, so let’s not let that food comment slide by without comment. In one year, the guinea pigs, rabbit, and sheep eat their way through six bales of timothy hay and twelve bales of orchard grass. The sheep also devour three hundred pounds of grain and all the grass, shrubs, and tree bark they can get at. The poultry work their way through over a thousand pounds of so called “chicken feed” which, by the way, isn’t cheap. The ducks also have their special fancy floating duck food, about four hundred pounds of it a year. Let’s not forget five hundred pounds of dove and pigeon food. Or the cat food, parakeet and cockatiel food, turtle food, and guinea pig and rabbit pellets. I almost forgot the romaine: eighteen boxes a year, twenty-four heads each, add up to well over four hundred heads a year!
I won’t bore you with the mountains of shavings and Carefresh, the heat lamps, high-fashion footwear, fencing, and of course, veterinary bills. We cover it all with tax-deductible donations. By now I’m sure you are thinking how nice this is, but how does it benefit the community? What are you guys getting out of it?
First, these animals are not taking up space in animal shelters. I take care of them, so your tax dollars are not involved. I could mention the tax deductible donations, again, but those are the opposite. They are tax deductions to my donors. See how this works? Second, my volunteers get Community Service credits toward high school graduation. My volunteers tend to stick around for a few years, so I know it’s a win-win for us.
None of us expected to endure a year like this one. Our Little Free Library has been popular for several years. It’s roughly nine times the size of most and I am continually surprised at the volume and quality of donations that accumulate. This year I have seen people drive up and unload boxes of nearly new books into it! Our bench was old and didn’t survive the increased use, so we upgraded. Check it out- it has bottle openers! I’ve seen people waiting in line for it!
The most successful change we made this year because of the pandemic was Sheep Viewing. I take the sheep out front to graze every afternoon, anyway, so it was only a matter of time before the neighbors noticed. I can’t have volunteers or visitors any more for a little while, but anybody can walk up to the fence and look at the sheep. An amazing number of families walk their dogs, and the bench and library make the experience very inviting. We have been averaging about forty visitors a month, socially distanced, and the sheep are delighted! Folks bring saltines to feed Charlie & Hamish. Our sheep are very charming and very popular with brave toddlers. Lately I have seen small groups of kids (no parents!) walk up with crackers. It’s nice to be known as a family-friendly destination for all ages. Maybe this summer I will be able to set up an arts and crafts table. If summer ever comes.
There comes a time in your life when you realize that if you want to make a difference in the world before you check out, you need to start today. I already had the animals. My only problem was funding it. I can’t believe I’m thanking the IRS for making it all possible!
Because nobody does it better than Kermit:
Editorial note: It’s hard to complain about WordPress because it’s free. It’s also set up so that bloggers don’t need to know code. On the other hand, they have made recent improvements, and we all know what that means, in general. Specifically, I am waiting for tech support to tell me how to add captions to the photos, something I have been doing for years. “New and Improved!” So that’s why there are no captions.