Doing your due diligence

In an industry as precarious nonprofits, particularly horse related nonprofits, one bad organization can ruin the reputation of a whole industry of organizations. Recently some major grant contributors decided to stop funding organizations because of too many cases of fraud.

Whitney Wright, Director of Hope for Horses, had such an experience several years ago, “there was a terrible woman, here a few years ago, that was going around telling people that her for profit stable was a non-profit, down to the point of having tractor supply have donation jars for her until we tipped off the management, they were mortified and stopped supporting her!”

So with the last blog post we ended by looking at what makes a quality organization, as shared by leaders in NC’s horse nonprofit community. This post will expand on how we take an understand of what a good organization should look like and examine the organizations we are interested in.

The first step should always be to check an organization’s Tax ID number. This is a number assigned one time by the IRS upon the completion of paperwork to become a 501(c)3. You can also ask to see an organization’s Letter of Declaration from the IRS. These documents prove to your donors and supporters that they can make charitable donations to your organization.

A nonprofit’s funding information is public information, and quality organizations will be filing 990 forms each year. These documents should be readily available upon request, and are often also available through quality control organizations such as Guidestar.

Jan Clifford, Executive Director of Horsepower notes, “I like questions. We are very proud of how we operate and how our funds are used. I believe if you hide that information people are more likely to question your intentions.” While this information does not necessarily need to be available to everyone who walks through the door, the answers should be clear, consistent and concise for everyone.

“As a non-profit, our financials are open to the public but I can honestly say that no one has ever asked much more than what is our annual budget and how many paid employees we have. I think the point is that people want to know that their donations are going directly to feed or vet. We have people that donate directly to our feed account at Valley Ag and to Appalachian Animal Hospital for that reason but most people trust that we are careful with our spending. I am extremely frugal!” – Whitney Wright, Hope for Horses

 

“When I decided to start a non-profit, I dove in head first, did a copious amount of research online, and got some awesome mentorship from a guy that started a burn foundation out in TX (sonsoftheflag.org). He broke it down in steps on how to start it the right way and schooled me on all his road blocks and helped me navigate around those in the beginning. I learned a LOT about starting a business AND about non-profits, and putting everything together. The most important thing I learned that I think is lost on a lot of people is that it’s a business first, non-profit second.” -Rachel Medley, Old Glory Legacy Foundation

Asking the right questions:

  • What is your Tax ID number (don’t forget to look it up to verify it is real!)
  • Can I look at your most recent 990?
  • What is your annual operating budget?
  • How many paid employees do you have?

Rescue specific

  • How many horses do you have? (on how many acres?)
  • How many horses do you adopt out per year?
  • What is your policy for keeping track of them?
  • How many horses are under contract with you currently?

Therapeutic riding

  • Are you PATH certified?
  • If no: why not?

Equine Assisted Therapy services

  • Are you EAGALA certified?
  • If no, why not?

 

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