Monday, May 20, 2013

Why do we say we are non-profit?

This post written by Darci Hortness, Founder of Horse Help Providers, Inc. (DoubleHP)

Why do we get to say we are a non-profit? This question comes up every once in a while. And we always see it as an opportunity to further promote our mission: To assist law enforcement in starvation/neglect cases involving horses; to encourage responsible horse ownership; and to develop safe, educational, and fun opportunities for all levels of horse lovers -- so that we all may experience the magic of horses." That is the mission statement our organization embraced 12 years ago. And we are so proud to say we have remained true to that mission statement through all of these years.

With our busy busy month here right now, many new people checking us out, visiting, participating in our programs, we have been asked many questions related to this topic. Questions like these:

"Why is it ok for you to say you are a nonprofit when you really aren't?"
Well, we really ARE! About 10 years ago we completed an extensive application with the IRS and were approved as a 501c3 nonprofit organization. This requires a great deal of accountability on our part, including accounting for every single penny of every single donation or grant or dollar that comes through our organization. This is one of the main reasons why many "rescues" choose to not become 501c3. It does require a lot more paperwork and accountability. You have to open your organization up to explain how your money is spent. Just because we have a very small income does not mean we are a for-profit. (Ironically, this is why so many horse owners get into financial trouble when they try to make horse breeding or training a business. They think income means the same as profit, and they forget to figure in the expenses.) Many people are surprised to learn that we hardly get any donations at all. I mean flatout charitable donations to pay for hay, vaccinations, hoof trims, etc. Many people are also surprised to learn that we do not pay any administrative salaries. ZERO. We would like to, but we cannot afford it. 
We are non-profit because we are non-profit. We follow the state and federal laws for 501c3 nonprofits.

"Then how do you make ends meet?"
This is the one I don't like to talk about because it often sounds a little bit like I'm complaining but I'm not. My husband and I started this organization about 12 years ago. We knew what would be involved, and this is what we chose to do. We had a plan and we have always known our limits. We provide most of the hay, grain, stall bedding, facilities, etc. for the rescued horses -- the many horses we have rescued and adopted out over the past 12 years. And for the 14 rescued horses who now have a forever home at our GFAS approved horse sanctuary (another designation that requires extensive paperwork, accountability, and site visits/evaluations by our peers in the horse rescue/sanctuary world).
We do get some donations, some help, and we are ever grateful for those people who have helped us help the horses over the years. Thank you so much to those of you who have helped through the years. As foster homes, adopters, financial supporters, transporters, etc. Nobody forces us to do this; we choose to do this. Because at the time we started, nobody else in our state was doing it. Now, fortunately, there are a few other rescue groups around. That is what we have always hoped would happen. So that we could focus on another area that is greatly needed. And that is equine education. At the non-profit level.
Oh, don't you worry. We have done our time in the rescue arena. We have been involved in some of the most extreme, severe starvation cases in our area.  Invested thousands of dollars, invested months and years, invested the strongest kind of emotions, without seeing any improvement in the way these cases are handled in our county. And so, until our laws are enforced, we can do a lot more good in the education arena.

"But why do you get money from the government, and the other barns don't?"
We do not get money from the government. Not a penny. There are some equine related grants available, and we have applied for and received some. This is another topic that I don't like to talk about, but because of our 501c3 status I must. Some of our grants have come from HSUS. Yes I know it is known as the "kiss of death" in our state to admit that you think the HSUS does anything good. I want you all to know that our state is not alone in this. In any state where the government is ruled by Farm Bureau type organizations, HSUS has a bad name. I think most South Dakotans are smart enough to find the truth, so I would suggest you do that. HSUS helps out on the South Dakota reservations a lot!!! They helped out in Hot Springs when the animal shelter there burned down. Every year they have a worldwide photo contest that 501c3 animal welfare groups are invited to participate in to raise money for spay/neuter. When we found out that our local humane societies were not participating in this (because our ag. community does not want them to), we asked if we could, even though we are a horse rescue. HSUS said "sure!" For the past 3 years our organization has raised more than $1,000 each of those years to be used specifically for spay/neuter of dogs and cats, and castration of colts/stallions. Many South Dakotans, including other rescue groups, have gladly taken this money from us, even though the money comes from HSUS. One thing that comes up over and over again in our state is HSUS involvement in the "Turner County dog breeder raid" a few years ago. I think you need to quit saying this is an HSUS thing and remember the local organization that started the whole thing. My experience is that HSUS will NOT get involved in these cases unless they have the support of the officials in that city, county, state, or whatever region is involved. They do not just barge in and do it. They cannot. They do not have the legal authority. I asked for their assistance several times and was told they could not help because the county authorities turned down their help. So instead, horses suffered and died. This is the truth. Like it or not. Another year, we were contacted by HSUS. They had a group of supporters who wanted to donate money to horse rescue groups in certain regions that had been hit hard by drought. This was quite a few years ago. In South Dakota, our organization was the only one that qualified. There were other 501c3s, but we were the only horse rescue that was not allowing horses to reproduce. You would be surprised to learn how many horse rescue groups allow the horses they rescue to reproduce. Kind of defeats the purpose, yes? So anyway, we received a very generous donation from the HSUS that year, for the specific purpose of hay purchase.
We have also, after extensive paperwork, received a couple of grants from ASPCA. One was for hay purchase a few years ago. The other is our Equine Training Grant that we are using this month. The grant money is for our rescued horses, to further develop them as willing partners to some very lucky humans who are partnering up with them. But the way we set up the program, the whole wide world is invited to participate or observe and learn. We had considered just keeping it private and using all of the money for just 2 of our rescued horses and 2 of our volunteers. Instead, we opened it up and allowed the community to learn along with our rescued horses and our volunteers.
So no, we do not receive any government funding. Not from the county, not from the state, not from the nation. It is only the large animal welfare orgs like HSUS and ASPCA (and there are others) who make grants available to us. They realize that people still continue to breed way too many horses, and they understand that we are trying to give some of these horses a home and purpose. And to say that these groups do not help animals is one of the stupidest things to come out of anyone's mouth.
Another thing you may not know is that we are set up as a humane society in the state of South Dakota. So, we COULD compete for county contracts if we wanted to. And then we WOULD be receiving government money. Tax payer money.

"But how are you different from all the other barns? Why don't they get these grants?"
Maybe they could if they applied! Are they 501c3? are they an approved rescue/sanctuary with Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries? Are they there primarily for the people, or primarily for the horses? Are they allowing reproduction of low-value or no-value horses? Do they provide shelter for the horses in their care? Do they even WANT these grants? They would have to show their association with the granting organization, and they may not be brave enough to do that if the granting org is HSUS, for example.
I would say that yes we probably are different from all of the other barns around here. I didn't say better. I said different. We do not board horses for income. We do not breed horses for income. We do not give riding lessons for income. We are not here for the main purpose of helping people, though we certainly do that every single day. Well, the horses do it I guess. We are here to provide care for the animals and to educate others on proper care and handling, etc., of horses. The horses come first here. If we can help people in addition to that, that's great! We try very hard to not compete or interfere with the other equine nonprofit programs that are around us. We do not offer therapeutic riding or kid camps, etc. We are here for the benefit of the horses first. So yes we are different. Our original purpose with the IRS for 501c3 status is "prevention of cruelty to animals." And we remain true to that.
Another way we are different from other area barns and other area "rescues" is that no one has put in more volunteer hours, etc., than our organization, in trying to improve horse welfare in our county, and trying to get our laws enforced. With very little success, I am sad to say. It was our organization that coordinated the meetings in our county of our State Vet, area Sheriff Depts, States Attorneys's offices, humane societies, county commissioners, etc. Do you know what our county decided? Including the humane society? that the best thing for starving horses is to let the state government handle it. Which means feedlot, salebarns and yes slaughter. They do not know yet that horses are not cows. They have not yet experienced the magic of horses. Some day they will. Or their children will. But in our state many people have not yet experienced the magic of horses. And that is what we offer in our barn. Horses are not cows, are not sheep, are not pigs. And they are not dogs and cats either. Horses are horses. They are special, unique, and deserve their own classification. And as soon as our state government acknowledges that fact, they can quit spending so much time and our taxpayer money on this topic during legislative session. Every. Single. Year.

"Who gets the money from your horse sponsorship program?"
Well, the rescue horses of course! Again, I don't like talking about this, because it always sounds like I'm complaining. But I'm not; I'm just telling how it is. But every time we apply for a grant and every time someone asks us these questions, we must answer. Because of our 501c3 status, we must account for what we do. Even though many of the people asking have never donated a penny or cleaned a stall. We still answer. Do I get paid? Are you crazy? Where would this money come from? We do not get many donations at all! I am a full-time (actually full-time times two) volunteer.  People can make a  $160 per month sponsor contribution, and we will volunteer to help those sponsors learn about horses. Even if they don't even know how to put a halter on, we will help them learn. The money goes to care for the 14 rescued horses that live here, though it really only covers a few of them so far.  Checks are written to Horse Help Providers, Inc. (or DoubleHP). This month, some of that money goes to our Licensed Instructor. But it does not go to me or my family or any of our Directors or Officers. We are and have always been the true meaning of non-profit and volunteerism. Don't get me wrong, I would love to be paid for my work. But that's not the way horse rescue/sanctuary goes around here.

I hope that clears up some confusion and some of the rumors that are once again flying about. Thank you very much for asking. Because it forces me to talk about it. And that's a good thing, because more people should know about all of the good our organization has done and is doing for the horses. And, indirectly, for the people who are lucky enough to meet our horses. AND EXPERIENCE THEIR MAGIC.