Preventing the Pipeline: Fundraising and Resource Development in Equine Rescue Nonprofits

December 14, 2016 § Leave a comment

Preventing the Pipeline: A Series.

My graduate studies in nonprofit management and leadership at Arizona State University have led to some pretty enlightening research with regards to my niche within the nonprofit sector: the horse rescue and sanctuary community. As I explore the world of the horse rescue and sanctuary sector through the lens of nonprofit management, I would like to begin sharing my findings to spark discussion, continued education, and the desire to create positive change.

Below is the first installment in my blog’s newest series which I have called Preventing the Pipeline. This research paper was written for my fundraising and resource development class in the fall of 2016 and takes a look at the challenges horse rescues and sanctuaries face when it comes to fundraising.

Fundraising and Resource Development in Equine Rescue Nonprofits

Introduction: The Animal Rescue Sector

Most television viewers have seen the commercials of shelter animals staring tragically and hopefully at the camera while a sad song (one of Sarah McLaughlin’s, more often than not) plays in the background. The text at the end of the ads begs viewers to end animal cruelty and homelessness by financially supporting or adopting. Because dogs, cats, and other pets are so immensely popular, or perhaps because those commercials are played so often, one might think that the issues of animal cruelty and homelessness are considerably handled. Thanks to the well-known status of organizations such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (the ASPCA) and the Humane Society, animals seemingly receive a great deal of attention, care, and donations.

The Giving USA 2016 report says otherwise. 3% of all charitable giving in 2015 – a total that amounts to over $373 billion – went to a lump category called “environment/animals” (Giving, 2016). This category includes natural resources, conservation and protection; environmental education; environmental beautification; pollution control; botanic/horticulture activities; zoos and aquariums; wildlife preservation and protection; humane societies; veterinary services; and many more important functions. In sum, we can assume three different sections exist within this category: environmental efforts; wildlife conservation; and the issues of homeless and abused domestic animals.

Unfortunately, we cannot be sure of precisely how much of that 3% of charitable giving goes to each of these three subcategories. Wildlife and environmental nonprofits so often go hand in hand, it can be challenging to differentiate what efforts receive how much funding, and tallying the financials of thousands of domestic animal rescues and sanctuaries that crop up across the United States is a daunting task. For the sake of analyzing the domestic animal rescue sector’s fundraising and resource development, we will assume that all three of these subcategories each receive an equal portion of that 3%, or in other words, only 1% is allocated to the domestic animal rescue sector.

That small 3% portion of charitable giving is a trend the environment/animal category has seen for years. This trend has stayed relatively consistent starting from 1987, with the amount increasing as overall charitable contributions increased over time (according to the Giving USA 2016 report, the contributions to environmental and animal organizations rose roughly 6.2% between 2014 and 2015 to $10.68 billion). From 1976 to 1985, no data was collected with regards to charitable giving to the domestic animal rescue sector, although whether this is from lack of donations or because the donations were too minimal is unclear.

As we break through the categories of the lump environment/animals section, we must additionally note that the animal rescue sector within the nonprofit world has its layers, too. According to the ASPCA, 7.6 million animals enter shelters every year (Pet, n.d.). Of that 7.6 million, 51% (3.9 million) are dogs, while another 45% (3.4 million) are cats. The 4% remainder consists of 300,000 shelter animals that fall under “other.” In other words, if we are looking only at the ASPCA statistics, we can assume that well over 90% of the entire domestic animal rescue sector consists of dogs and cats while everything else – rodents, reptiles, birds, even farm animals – are lumped into a miniscule sliver of the pie. Within this small fraction is a category of animals that receives so little attention, it is a miracle they are still being rescued: horses.

When we discuss fundraising and resource development of the animal sector, it is first and foremost important to understand that the sector already has precious little resources with which to work. Based on the amount of funding that individuals; corporations; and foundations chose to allocate during the year 2015 alone, domestic animals are seemingly overlooked by those who give to charity. Furthermore, cats and dogs receive the lion’s share of the small amount of donations, leaving very little to the equine world. This paper focuses on the plight equine recue and sanctuary organizations face to bring in enough funding to continue work that desperately needs to occur.

A History of the Equine Rescue Sector

The closure of U.S. equine slaughterhouses in 2007 plus the recession that began in 2008 launched an unprecedented epidemic in this country of unwanted horses (Holcomb, Stull & Kass, 2010). Far from ending the cruel and inhumane tactic of horse slaughter, the closing of slaughterhouses dispersed the problem. Thousands of horses in the U.S. – perhaps as many as 100,000 – are abandoned by their owners each year due to financial hardship; lack of time to devote to the animal; physical inability; or overall loss of interest. While rescues and sanctuaries take in a large chunk of this number each year, “funding and capacity are limiting factors…in continuing to care for the current population of unwanted and neglected horses in the United States” (Holcomb et al., 2010). Many of the horses face the unlucky obstacle of being “useless” to humans due to old age or injury, and those who do not find a permanent home with a sanctuary or are rehabilitated by a rescue end up at livestock auctions, where – nine times out of ten – they fall in the hands of a kill buyer. A kill buyer is an individual who rounds up the unwanted horses and sells them to slaughterhouses, which still operate with regularity in Canada and Mexico (Holcomb et al., 2010). And if the horses survive the trip across the border after being crammed together in the slaughter trucks without food or water for days, they are killed in the most brutal, agonizing methods possible: puntilla knives to the spine and neck or captive bolts to the skull, neither of which result in a quick, painless death and usually involve the horse dying slowly and in utter agony.

The existence of equine rescues and sanctuaries in the nonprofit sector prevents hundreds – if not thousands – of horses from coming face to face with these unspeakable and unimaginable horrors. This urgency to continue keeping horses out of what is called the slaughter pipeline drives these nonprofits to brace themselves year after year and continue working despite the lack of funds and resources. When we look at the annual budgets of horse rescues and sanctuaries across the country through Guidestar, it is clear that most of these organizations operate on a shoe-string budget, with annual expenditures that range anywhere to $5,000 to a few hundred thousand at most. A good number of equine rescues do manage to take in a reasonable amount of funding and, thus, they are able to rescue a large amount of horses annually as well as provide programs to the community such as basic equine education; equine-assisted therapy programs; and riding/training seminars.

To analyze the fundraising tactics and resource development of the equine rescue sector, we will examine three 501(c)(3) nonprofit equine rescues that bring in enough financial resources to qualify for the IRS 990 Form as opposed to the 990 EZ Form (reserved for small organizations with miniscule annual expenditures): Dreamchaser PMU Rescue and Rehabilitation; Redwing Horse Rescue and Sanctuary; and Habitat for Horses.

Organization Overviews

Dreamchaser PMU Rescue and Rehabilitation

At first glance, Dreamchaser PMU (Pregnant Mare Urine) Rescue and Rehabilitation in Falcon, Missouri barely qualifies for the long IRS 990 Form. With annual expenses of $204,869 and total revenue of just under $300,00, this organization was originally founded in 2002 with the purpose of saving mares and foals from the Premarin industry. Premarin is a drug manufactured in the United States and requires the ingredient of equine estrogens, a chemical found in the urine of pregnant mares, and many ranches exist to keep pregnant mares confined so that their urine can be collected for the drug. Once their foals are born, they – more often than not – are fattened up at feedlots before being shipped to slaughter, a fate that the mares face once they have outlived their breeding usefulness. Since beginning its mission to save and rehome Premarin mares and their foals, Dreamchaser has also targeted abused or neglected horses.

Dreamchaser Revenue Breakdown (from the 2014 IRS 990 Form)
Contributions and grants Program service revenue Investment income Other revenue Total
$278,167 $19,731 $20 $1,452 $299, 370


Dreamchaser Expenditures Breakdown (from the 2014 IRS 990 Form)
Grants paid Benefits paid Salaries Fundraising Other expenses Total
$0 $0 $12,460 $0 $192,409 $204,869

Upon reviewing the specifics of other expenses in Part IX, column A of the 990 Form, we can break that category down into subcategories such as accounting; information technology; office expenses; occupancy; and most importantly, animal feed; supplies; and care. In total, the total expenditures amount of $204,869 are broken down as follows:

$ %
Program Expenses $189,819 92.65%
Management (Overhead) $15,050 7.35%
Fundraising $0 0%
Total $204,869 100%

Redwings Horse Rescue and Sanctuary

Next we turn our focus to Horsepower Sanctuaries, doing business as (DBA) Redwings Horse Rescue and Sanctuary. Redwings Horse Rescue and Sanctuary began in 1991 as an organization dedicated to rescuing horses; ponies; donkeys; mules; and burros from abusive or neglectful homes and rehabilitating them. Originally founded with a herd of 15 in southern California, today the ranch currently homes 86 equines, some of whom will live at the ranch for the rest of their lives due to old age or injury.

Redwings Revenue Breakdown (from the 2014 IRS 990 Form)
Contributions and grants Program service revenue Investment income Other revenue Total
$3,255,799 $100 $15,796 $12,405 $3,284,100 


Redwings Expenditures Breakdown (from the 2014 IRS 990 Form)
Grants paid Benefits paid Salaries Fundraising Other expenses Total
$0 $0 $283,117 $47,416 $688,573 $1,019,106

 Under Part IX: Statement of Functional Expenses, we see that Redwings had similar expenditures to Dreamchaser in that their “other expenses” consist of office expenses; occupancy; accounting; information technology; and rescued equine care and ranch supplies. Also within the other expenses category is travel; depreciation; and insurance. Overall, the total expenditures of $1,019,106 is broken down as follows:

$ %
Program Expenses $675,195 66.25%
Management (Overhead) $153,378 15.05%
Fundraising $190,533 18.70%
Total $1,019,106 100%

 Habitat For Horses

Lastly, Habitat For Horses is an organization dedicated to rehabilitating disabled or special-needs horses while additionally providing community education about proper equine care. Founded in in Hitchcock, Texas in 1999, Habitat For Horses additionally works with law enforcement to assist in animal seizures and investigations.

Habitat For Horses Revenue Breakdown (from the 2015 IRS 990 Form)
Contributions and grants Program service revenue Investment income Other revenue Total
$1,680,094 $16,400 $308 $78,903 $1,775,705


Habitat For Horses Expenditures Breakdown (from the 2015 IRS 990 Form)
Grants paid Benefits paid Salaries Fundraising Other expenses Total
$0 $0 $434,388 $0 $1,761,767 $2,196,155

The “Other expenses” section contradicts the straightforward Part I section in that it lists a number of costs (compensation; information technology; insurance; bank charges; and computer expenses) under fundraising expenses, when on the first page of the IRS 990 Form none were listed at all. Additionally, management costs only add up to $73,852 in Part IX when in Part I salaries were listed as over $400,000. Altogether, the breakdown of expenditures for Habitat For Horses’ $2 million total is as follows:

$ %
Program Expenses $1,803,210 82.11%
Management (Overhead) $73,852 3.36%
Fundraising $319,093 14.53%
Total $2,196,155 100%

Grants and Contributions: The Lifeline

The three equine rescues under examination are similar in that the vast majority of their contributions come from contributions and grants. In fact, based off quick searches through the IRS 990 EZ Forms of other relatively prominent equine rescue-related nonprofits such as The Equine Assistance Project (San Rafael, CA); Horse Feathers Equine Center (Guthrie, OK); The Horse Projection League (Arvada, CO); Equine Aid (Monroe, WA); and Montana Horse Sanctuary (Simms, MT), the large majority of the equine rescue community receives most of its support from individual contributions. Some organizations are fortunate enough to receive grants, which typically come from either the ASPCA or community foundations in the amount of anywhere from few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

Our three organizations – Dreamchaser, Redwings, and Habitat for Horses – are prime examples of what is becoming more clear about grants for nonprofit equine rescues and sanctuaries: many grant makers like to see that the horses are useful to humans in some way before they will award a grant to an organization that rescues them. Thus, nurturing an equine-assisted therapy program; educational riding classes; or some other form of human-related activity within the organizational structure will help ensure the successful cultivation of grants. Another factor that comes into play is the urgency of emergencies: more likely than not, equine nonprofits facing severe financial hardship with medical or feeding costs; natural disaster damages; or else must immediately act to save severely abused horses will successfully be awarded a grant from foundations or the ASPCA.

Upon searching for all three organizations on the Foundation Directory Online through the Foundation Center, we can see what grants each nonprofit has received over the years. Dreamchaser has received a number or grants from the ASPCA in its lifetime: $4,000 in 2014 for an equine trainers program; $7,500 in 2012 for emergency hay; $4,000 in 2012 for shade structures for turnouts; $4,000 in 2011 for emergency hay; $5,000 in 2010 for a seizure of twelve horses; $2,000 in 2009 for – again – emergency hay; and $5,000 in 2008 for shade structures. Redwings has been on the receiving end of only two ASPCA grants: one for $350 in 2014 for a workshop scholarship and another for $1,000 in 2009 for emergency hay support. The ASPCA gave significantly larger amounts to Habitat For Horses over several years: for example, in 2016 they received $10,000 in matching funding for fencing and in 2015 they received $14,000 for the care of 28 seized equines.

The rest of the grant makers from whom each of these three organizations has received grants are either community or family foundations. Dreamchaser PMU Rescue and Rehabilitation – the smallest organization of the three by means of revenue and expenditures – has worked with the Arizona Community Foundation (since the organization was once located in New River), and their Guidestar account additionally lists Ahimsa (Agency for Human Interconnectedness Through Manifestation of Spiritual Awareness) as a large contributor. Redwings Horse Rescue and Sanctuary and Habitat For Horses, on the other hand, have received grants from countless family and community foundations. In 2015, Redwings received $1,000 from the Philadelphia Foundation for general operating support and a handful of small grants for a few hundred from family foundations in 2014 as well as a $9,000 from the Whitney Charitable Foundation for program development for wildlife rehabilitation (wild horses). Habitat For Horses received its grants from the ASPCA in 2015 but in 2014, they also received a large number of small grants from foundations such as The Stein Family Fund; The Gerald A. Doering Foundation Inc., The Mary and Bruce Goodman Fund; and The Atwell Foundation.

Not all grant requests, however, result in success. As established earlier, the equine rescue sector only has so many resources with which to work, thus the completion is greater. Considering that the three organizations I selected to analyze were financially lucrative enough to qualify for the IRS 990 Form and these organizations seem to be doing well on the receiving end of grants, a hypothesis is that these two factors cycle together; more financially stable organizations receive more grants. Further research into the three organizations’ respective qualifications shows a number of accreditations through well-known ‘watchdog’ organizations that undoubtedly give the nonprofits a stamp of approval. For example, all three organizations are either accredited or verified through the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, an organization that certifies the standards of care for animals living in sanctuaries. Other organizations that have seemingly given one or all of these nonprofits the thumbs up are the American Sanctuary Association; the California Retirement Management Account (a nonprofit that raises money for California ex-racehorses); and Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. It is highly likely that grant makers – true to the ever present reality of donors wanting to know that their money will be put to good use within a reliable, trustworthy organization – would rather donate to an accredited, official-looking nonprofit.

So what of the small, barely-functioning equine rescues and sanctuaries that do not have the structure in place to go after large grants, or even small grants, for that matter? Receiving a grant is an enormous and often underwhelming accomplishment for an equine nonprofit due to the fact that earning one requires time; effort; organization; and expertise that the nonprofit often does not have.

Regardless of size, regardless of the amount of grant money an equine nonprofit does receive, it appears that most of their revenue still comes from individual contributions. This is strongly evidenced by our three example organizations whose contributions and grants range from 93% to 99% of the total annual revenue. Dreamchaser and Redwings both list only “gifts, grants, contributions, and member fees received” as the category for public support for its most recent years. Habitat For Horses does the same thing but with one difference: under program service revenue, it breaks its revenue down further to include adoption fees ($0 for 2015), which opens up the possibility for other program-related income in other equine rescues (details of which will be discussed later).

In sum, the backbone of the contributions and grants section of revenue is – unsurprisingly – the individual contributions. And when less than 1% of all charitable giving is going to equine rescues and sanctuaries, we confront an unfortunate truth: the individual donors are too few in number, and the number of rescues and sanctuaries that need them are too great. Finding and retaining donors thus becomes a challenging and daunting task, for without the generosity of individuals, it is clear that the equine rescue sector would cease to exist.

Mechanisms for Fundraising

Professional, for-profit businesses quite often employ marketing teams to advertise their products and promote their services. Nonprofits will occasionally attempt this strategy as well in the form of fundraising, but only if they have the funds to obtain a decent return on investment.

Dreamchaser, though it qualified for the long IRS 990 Form (as opposed to the 990 EZ form) best represents our sample organizations in that its revenues and expenditures ranged in the few hundred thousand range, which, even then, is significant among equine rescues. Furthermore, Dreamchaser had no fundraising expenses. Habitat for Horses and Redwings, however, both spent a significant amount on professional fundraising expenses: 14.53% of Habitat For Horses’ annual expenditures went to professional fundraising (a total of close to $320k) while Redwings spent over $190k on fundraising, or 18.7% of its annual budget.

The IRS 990 Forms only take us so far when it comes to breaking down precisely what these fundraising costs are. For example, “office expenses” receives over $81k in the “fundraising expenses” category under Part IX: Statement of Functional Expenses for Habitat For Horses. Compensation is over $13k under the same fundraising expenses category while Line 11e, professional fundraising expenses, shares nothing. In comparison, Redwings states under Line 11e of Part IX that over $47k went to professional fundraising fees. Despite the breakdown, it is clear that two of our three organizations – unsurprisingly, the more financially stable ones – need to spend money to make money.

Through analyzing what the organization spent in order to raise enough money to operate, we can draw a conclusion about the effectiveness of its fundraising. Personally, I consider 14% and 18% of annual budgets spent on professional fundraising staff in order to remain afloat in an industry that is already short on resources to be admirable, although it should be noted that oftentimes, grant makers; donors; volunteers; and the general public want to see the vast majority of funding go to program expenses. (In other words, people have an unrealistic expectation that nonprofits will spend very little in order to bank a large return on investment – an expectation that is not had of for-profit entities.)

What is not mentioned on the IRS 990 Forms in explicit detail is if any finances are spent on development staff, nor can any information on this matter be located on the nonprofits’ websites. Development employees are responsible for the cultivation of donor relationships. For the sake of analyzing the resource development of these three sample organizations from the equine rescue sector, we will group development in with fundraising so we can better discuss the tactics the organizations use to bring in funding.

Noted in my observations is the wide and slightly unclear range of strategies involved in fundraising and developing resources used by not only these three particular equine rescues, but by the equine rescue sector as a whole. I suspect the reason for the variance in strategy is because the targeted demographic is different for each individual equine rescue or sanctuary. While donors born prior to 1965 (known as Baby Boomers) make up 70% of individual contributions, the good news about horses is that they have the potential to appeal to all ages and generations (Giving, 2016, pg. 73). And each generation has its own set of tactics for soliciting funds, all of which seem to be utilized by the equine rescue sector.

Social Media

Dreamchaser, Redwings, and Habitat For Horses utilize the power of social media to show pictures of their horses; share updates and news about individual herd members; post links about proper equine care; and upload videos that range from educational content for the public to horses running; playing; eating; or doing something endearing. Dreamchaser recently posted a call to action with regards to the Havasupai horses, allegedly being abused up by the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, by urging individuals to stand up for them. By generating ‘likes’ and engaging people in conversation over often brilliantly marketed pictures of horses, these organizations not only generate interest in their nonprofits, they keep their donors informed about the happenings of their respective ranches. Other sites such as Instagram and Twitter are additionally utilized by Habitat For Horses, and only Dreamchaser is currently on LinkedIn. Facebook, as it seems, is the way to go with social media.

Social media has the advantage of appealing to multiple generations. It has recently been utilized by not just the millennial generation (individuals born from 1981 to 1995, also known as Generation Y), but by older generations (Baby Boomers, born from 1946-1964; and Matures, born in 1945 and earlier). In an article that depicted the myth that online fundraising was only for the younger generation, author Sean Chisholm wrote:

The fact is, email and social media users are getting older. The first social networks began appearing in the early 2000s, and modern email began gaining popularity in 1993…. [P]arents and grandparents are also rapidly adopting email and social media as effective ways to communicate with friends and family members, and connect and reconnect with long-lost friends they made when they were children. (Chisholm, 2013).

Not only has social media become a platform for keeping their followers up to speed, equine rescue nonprofits can solicit donations through online campaigns. “Donate Now” buttons on Facebook encourage giving, as do online “crowd funding” campaigns on websites such as GoFundMe and Kickstarter.

Transparency and Donor Trust

Another mentionable tactic in fundraising that all three of these organizations utilize is simply the art of being incredibly transparent with the public. The nonprofits had either a Guidestar Gold or Guidestar Platinum rating and each Guidestar account offered extensive details about their programs; board members (although whether or not board members are required to contribute financially to the organization remains unclear); financials; and educational information about the problem of horse slaughter as well as details as to how individuals can help combat it. Their websites additionally boasted financials and a great deal of information about the care of each of their horses.

None of our three example equine rescue nonprofits appear to have a direct mail strategy; however, this is not to say the tactic does not exist in the sector. Many animal rescue nonprofits utilize direct mail such as the ASPCA; the Humane Society; and Best Friends Animal Society. A horse rescue to whom I personally donate (HiCaliber Horse Rescue in Valley Center, California) occasionally sends me a handwritten postcard as a thank you, a very genuine and heartfelt aspect of donor cultivation that I have found to be successful. After all, building trust with donors is not only an enormous advantage in a field where they are hard find and retain, it is also a necessity.

Big Events

Worth mentioning is that while large nonprofit organizations often hold large fundraiser events with several thousand dollar upfront costs (such as Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure), the equine horse rescue community seems to be divided on the importance and effectiveness of big events. Some pull off magnificent and financially successful barn bashes; galas; winter balls; and silent auctions, and others – recognizing that large fundraisers usually do not account for a large portion of a nonprofit’s annual revenue – do not hold big events at all. For example, on its Guidestar account, Habitat For Horses lists a $100k profit from its annual The Horse At Home special event, while Dreamchaser and Redwings have no mention of any special events on their websites.

Adoption Fees and Merchandise

Further development of resources for the equine rescue sector is built on the idea that it is unwise to rely purely on individual contributions as sources of income. Thus, program service revenue – which largely consist of adoption fees – and merchandise sales were all noted as small factors in at least one of the organizations’ strategies. The nonprofits that adopt their horses out (rescues) have the advantage of being able to collect fees for adoption. Additionally, Habitat For Horses and Dreamchaser’ websites have online stores while Redwings currently has a 2017 calendar for sale. While these sources of income are drops in the bucket, merchandise promotion helps branding and – as those in the equine rescue sector so correctly say – every bit helps.


Through my analysis of what fundraising tactics Dreamchaser, Redwings, and Habitat For Horses use, I found no pattern or structure to the tactics based off each nonprofit’s alleged fundraising costs or financial status, nor did I make a clear analysis of what the targeted demographic might be for each organization based off each researched fundraising technique. Each nonprofit appears to utilize a little bit of everything, though generalizing this statement and applying it to the entire sector would be incorrect. These three organizations, if we recall, were financially lucrative enough to qualify for the long IRS 990 Form, whereas most of the nonprofits in the equine rescue sector are so small financially, they only qualify for the 990 EZ Form.

To gain knowledge about donor cultivation from the perspective of an actual donor, I took the liberty of donating $5 to each of these organizations and analyzing the responses I got from each of them.

Dreamchaser PMU Rescue and Rehabilitation sent me a tax receipt for my donation, and then a few days later, they sent me a link that took me to a sweet thank you video that involved happy dogs running around, which was very fun to watch. They were very meaningful in their wording in both emails, even telling me that I “helped lift the world today.” I was not expecting too much considering I donated $5, so I was pleasantly surprised to feel that my donation had meant something to them.

At Redwings Horse Rescue and Sanctuary, I wasn’t allowed to donate anything under $10. This was slightly surprising; as a donor, I felt as though I should have had the opportunity to give the amount that I choose. In the end, I decided to give $15, which would buy a 2017 calendar. This was ordered going on three weeks ago and while I still have not received my calendar yet, I did get a thank you email on the day of my donation.

Following my donation to Habitat For Horses, I immediately received a personalized, heartfelt thank you email from the executive director. Since I had entered my email in with my personal information as I donated, I continue to receive emails from the organization each week, including a very sweet email that went out on Thanksgiving that included statistics of horses saved that year. On top of the email was a picture of a horse with the caption: “You helped save me.”

The winner among all three of these organizations was the genuine thank you. Perhaps because I am of a younger generation, I did not need to receive anything via snail mail to feel validated. And also perhaps I personally work in the equine rescue sector, I understand just how busy one gets around a ranch, particularly when limited staff is involved in the running of the organization, so I did not feel as though any of the organizations were personally turning their noses up at me.

Overall, based off my findings, the combination of grants and individual contributions with a dollop of program service fee revenue thrown in for good measure is what keeps the sector afloat in what might be considered intensely choppy seas. And heartfelt, genuine donor-nonprofit relationships are the fuel that keeps the ship chugging.


The most obvious of challenges for Dreamchaser; Redwings; Habitat For Horses; and other equine nonprofits is the lack of resources. When 3% of all annual charitable giving goes to a category in which the environment, wildlife, and domesticated animals are grouped together, we do not need to know just how much of that 3% is allocated to each subcategory to determine that domestic animal rescue receives very little donations. To top it off, that majority of that miniscule portion of the pie goes to the rescue and rehabilitation of dogs and cats. Very little – in fact, next to nothing – goes to horses.

Horses are unique animals in that nobody is quite sure how to classify them. Not only do they serve as “pets” and companion animals to humans, they are working animals that perform in show rings and have jobs on ranches and farms. In some ranches and businesses, they are considered to be livestock. Not having a clear label for the animal makes it that much easier to get rid of them when individuals decide they do not want to own their horses anymore. And the reason for their abandonment comes down to a lack of education – another huge problem the equine rescue sector faces. Individuals are often romanticized by the idea of owning a horse, but they do not understand the physical, financial, and mental requirements involved in properly feeding; exercising; training; and homing one. Thus, after a few years out of the horse’s 30-year lifespan, their would-be horse owners pawn them off from one home to the next until the horse falls into an auction ring, where the kill-buyers await.

The scope of the problem rescues and sanctuaries seek to solve – that of unwanted horses having nowhere to go – is unreal. 100,000 horses face slaughter every year, and rescues and sanctuaries can only take in so many of them on their shoestring budgets. Overbreeding of horses remains at the heart of the issue, and as long as individuals continue to regularly breed their animals in order to preserve bloodlines; try for the next Kentucky Derby champion; or else encourage backyard breeding while retaining a negative conception of rescue horses, thousands of horses will continue to be herded into slaughter trucks and hauled over the border year after year.

Conclusion: Resource Development is Preventing the Pipeline

The nonprofit sector combats societal problems that range from world hunger to disease to lack of literacy to refuge crises. In the grand scheme of national and global challenges, we can perhaps draw the conclusion that animals simply get overlooked in the desperation to find solutions to considerably more relevant problems. While the environment and animal category received among the lowest portion of donations in the United States, Giving USA emphasizes that religion; education; and human services were the top recipients of donations (Giving, 2016).

What many people have forgotten in our modernized society is that horses helped build this country. They pulled the plows that grew our crops and the wagons that families used for transportation. They marched us into battle and helped win wars that shaped our democracy. They carried us for thousands of miles across this country as we settled the wild land and make it into the United States of America. They shaped the idea of Manifest Destiny, and without them, we have no history. Without horses, we have no country.

The ethics and moral of every human on this earth can be judged by how he treats those that are largely considered to be “beneath” him. If we lose sight of the happiness of all living things that call Earth home, we become self-serving creatures, and that contradicts the entire nature of the nonprofit sector. We are here to serve and to heal and to help – especially those that cannot speak for themselves. Overall, the equine rescue sector gets by on the goodwill of individuals who believe in this message, and while it can be concluded that the sector has some work to do to increase their financial sustainability, perhaps the nonprofits have also been doing the best they can with what they have. Scraping by on next to nothing; finding creative ways to obtain funding; and managing to make things work while overcoming all obstacles are songs the equine rescue community has been singing for decades, long before slaughterhouses closed down and long after the rest of the world thought the problem of horse slaughter had been solved.


Works Cited

Chisholm, S. (2013). MYTH: Online Fundraising is Only for the Young. Retrieved November,

2016, from


Giving USA 2016 Highlights (Rep.). (n.d.).


Holcomb, K. E., Stull, C. L., & Kass, P. H. (2010). Unwanted horses: The role of nonprofit

equine rescue and sanctuary organizations. Journal of Animal Science, 88(12), 4142-4150. doi:10.2527/jas.2010-3250


Pet Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved December, 2016, from



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