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    A Suggested Governance Curriculum For Your Animal Organization

    An image of eight hands reaching towards each other and clasping together at the center.
    Sanctuaries and rescues are heavily focused on the direct care of their residents. But good governance is also important! In this resource, we’ll offer you a general “quick reference” to our curriculum of governance resources so that you can easily access information to help you build and maintain your organization!  Photo by Rineshkumar Ghirao on Unsplash

    At The Open Sanctuary Project, we aim to provide anyone who wishes to provide compassionate care to animals with the information that they need. Many of our resources focus on subjects related to the direct care of animals, but we also offer resources on governance to give the humans of sanctuary access to organizational support! This resource is meant to offer you an index to our governance resources, which will take you from the most basic of questions you should consider when getting started, to some of the more tricky aspects of running an organization! Where relevant, we’ll include subheaders within each category linking you to downloads and media that you may find handy as well!

    We Aren’t Your Lawyer Or Accountant!
    The Open Sanctuary Project is not a law or accounting firm, and our resources are not substitutes for the services of licensed professionals. You should not construe any of the information in our resources as legal or accounting advice suitable for your particular situation or needs. We strongly recommend that you seek qualified professionals licensed in your jurisdiction when it comes to tackling legal or tax issues. Please review our disclaimer if you haven’t yet. 

    Understanding Sanctuary Philosophy

    If you’re looking for more information about what providing sanctuary to animal residents entails, we recommend beginning with the following resources. They will introduce you to some of the basic philosophies underlying the idea of sanctuary.

    Downloads And Media

    The Open Sanctuary Project’s ‘So You Want To Start A Sanctuary’ Brochure

    Developing Organizational Values And Choosing Your Structure

    If you have decided that you’d like to start an organization to rescue and provide sanctuary to animals, then you should start by developing mission and vision statements to guide your work. You should also decide what form your organization will take! Will you be a grassroots organization, or seek non-profit status? The following two resources can help you with that!

    Help With Siting Decisions

    If your work will involve owning property dedicated to providing animals with a forever sanctuary home, then you will have to choose your site carefully. The following resources can give you guidance on this.

    Nonprofit Fundamentals

    If you have chosen to structure your organization as a non-profit organization, there are legal and other guidelines that you must follow.  You will have to decide whether you will be a public or private non-profit, create bylaws, organize your board, and more. The following resources can help you with all these things! 

    Downloads And Media

    Organizational Policies

    As your organization develops, you will benefit significantly from discussing and developing policies to govern your work. The following resources can help guide your discussions on this kind of policymaking. 

    Downloads And Media

    Recordkeeping And Accountability

    Keeping good organizational records is not only important for legal compliance but also from a standpoint of transparency and accountability to your supporters! The following resources can offer you guidance on that front!

    Downloads And Media

    Addressing Potential Liability

    Managing your liabilities as an organization is an important concern, and can include everything from creating waivers for visitors to getting appropriate insurance, and crafting your contracts carefully. The below resources can help with some of the liability concerns that your organization may encounter! 

    Downloads And Media

    Budgeting And Fundraising

    For most organizations, fundraising is critical to keeping operations running smoothly. There are legal considerations associated with that of which you should be aware. Also, budgeting is crucial to making sure that you know where your resources are going, and what you might need ongoing! We have a number of resources available to help you with all these issues!

    Downloads And Media

    The Open Sanctuary Project’s Gift Acceptance Policies & Procedures Template

    Volunteer And Worker Considerations

    Taking care of your team of workers and your volunteers is key to ensuring long-term organizational success. The following resources can help you learn about your legal obligations, how to promote a healthy workplace, and how to help your team thrive!

    Downloads And Media

    Sanctuary Growth And Transitions

    Your sanctuary’s growth and evolution over time can present unique challenges. The following resources can help support you through these challenges, and also assist you with planning your organization’s future!

    Cooperation And Collaboration

    Every organization will need to, at some point or another, collaborate with others. This set of resources is meant to assist you in creating cooperative relationships, whether they be with your vet, another sanctuary, or even between individuals in your own organization. 

    Downloads And Media

    The Open Sanctuary Project’s Press Release Template For Animal Sanctuaries

    Contingency Planning

    Even the most meticulously organized sanctuaries can encounter unexpected challenges. Our resource on contingency planning, as well as our contingency planning workbook, are there to help you anticipate and plan for the unexpected!


    Accessibility is not only a legal consideration for sanctuaries, it’s something that should be a valued goal for anyone working towards a more compassionate and inclusive world. The following resources can help you make your sanctuary a more accessible space!

    Downloads And Media

    We hope that you find the above resources helpful! If you have requests for other governance resources, feel free to reach out to us to suggest them!

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