How to Start a Pet Food Bank

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Pet food banks help pet owners keep their animals when they fall on hard times, and this extra assistance can prevent owners from having to surrender their pets to shelters or rescue groups due to financial hardships. The number of pet food banks is steadily growing, and such an operation can be a great way to give back to the community. Here are some tips on how to start a pet food bank in your area:

Create a Business Plan

The first step to starting a pet food bank is to map out a business plan. The business plan should outline the estimated start-up costs, the long-term costs, the specific services that will be offered, and the names of the individuals that will be on the board of directors.

File for Nonprofit Status

It is important to consult a lawyer and draw up the paperwork for nonprofit status, which is also referred to as 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. The 501(c)(3) status allows donors to write off their gifts of products and financial contributions, and it also makes an organization eligible for a number of grant programs and corporate donations. It may also qualify the food bank for tax-exempt postage rates and exemptions from property, sales, or income taxes.

After filling out the proper paperwork with the Internal Revenue Service, an organization will be considered for 501(c)(3) status.

It can take three to six months (or more) to receive notification of approval, so this should be one of the first tasks handled when setting up the pet food bank.

Establish Collection Sites

It is important to contact animal businesses in the area to see if they would be willing to serve as drop-off locations for donations.

Be sure to check with all local veterinary clinics, doggie daycares, grooming salons, pet shops, and other related facilities. Any location that has a bit of spare storage space could potentially help you out, and they may also be willing to place a small notice in their waiting room so their clients will be aware of the convenient drop-off point for donations. It is also possible that non-animal related businesses would also be willing to assist with collections, so consider all possibilities when looking for drop off locations.

Establish a Storage and Distribution Site

You will need to secure some sort of warehouse or storage space to allow the pet food bank to operate unless you are able to coordinate with a human food bank to offer services through their location. Some animal shelters may also be able to serve as distribution sites if space permits. A parking lot of other open space may also serve as a distribution site if needed, provided that the food bank is able to transport the products to that location.

Secure Donations

Be sure to contact major pet food companies and large corporate entities in your region, as these organizations can make donations to get the pet food back up and running (whether through donations of pet food products or financial contributions).

Ask pet stores, grocery stores, and warehouse clubs to donate any damaged or torn pet food packages to the cause.

An initial food drive or fundraiser is a great way to get the food bank up and running.  There are many pet service providers that could be recruited to make donations or help spread the word to their clients.  Don’t forget about social media, email newsletters, low-cost websites, blogs, local newspapers, and local television news organizations—these can all be valuable sources of publicity.  If you can provide them with a basic press release it will help speed things along.

Seek Volunteers

Contact schools, youth groups, churches, animal rescues, humane societies, and other organizations that might be able to provide assistance with recruiting volunteers. Volunteers are critical to maintain the operations of a pet food bank through their assistance with collections, distributions, pet food drives, and repackaging large bags of food into smaller portions.

Set a Schedule

Many pet food banks are open on one or two select days each month. Weekend days are preferred, as volunteers and those seeking assistance tend to have more available time to visit the food bank on those days.

Advertise the Service

One of the best places to advertise a pet food bank is at a human food bank, where families experiencing financial hardships are likely to go for assistance. Churches, community groups, animal shelters, humane societies, and rescue groups should also be made aware of the available resources.