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    Cultivating Resilience At Your Animal Organization In The Face Of Inflation

    An image of a pile of money, from multiple different currencies.
    Economic realities are hitting everyone hard, and sanctuaries and rescues are no exception. Understanding inflation basics and some considerations that you can start thinking about to insulate your animal organization from its impacts may help. Photo by Ibrahim Boran on Unsplash


    Sometimes it seems like sanctuary and rescue operators need to develop expertise on literally everything. From animal care needs for multiple diverse species, to nonprofit governance, to how to compassionately work with caregivers in a supportive environment, it’s overwhelming how much you need to know. Add complex economics to the mix, and it can be enough to make your head spin.

    While these subjects can seem intimidating and frustrating, a little basic knowledge and understanding can help to mitigate your anxiety and help you plan how to keep meeting your needs, your caregiving staff’s needs, and of course, your residents’ needs. This resource is meant to be a brief introduction to the concept of inflation, how it can impact your animal organization, some things you may need to consider as prices rise, and some resources that we have that can support you!

    What Is Inflation?

    Inflation is a hot topic, particularly now in the media and among economics scholars and policymakers. But what is it exactly?

    The International Monetary Fund provides a simple definition of inflation as follows:

    “Inflation is the rate of increase in prices over a given period of time. Inflation is typically a broad measure, such as the overall increase in prices or the increase in the cost of living in a country. But it can also be more narrowly calculated—for certain goods, such as food, or for services, such as a haircut, for example. Whatever the context, inflation represents how much more expensive the relevant set of goods and/or services has become over a certain period, most commonly a year.”

    Prices do tend to go up over time. This is a general trend. But right now, prices are going up in unexpected ways generally, and specifically in ways that are impacting animal sanctuaries and rescue organizations. Unpredictability when it comes to pricing can cause significant instability and can make it hard to plan. This leads to the question, how is inflation measured, and how can sanctuaries use these measures to aid in their decision making?

    How Do We Keep Track Of Inflation?

    Measuring rates of inflation is difficult, because as mentioned above, it can impact some sets of goods and not others. For example, while costs for things like fuel may rise, costs for other items, like shelter, may fall. Some costs that inflate may impact other kinds that inflate in unexpected ways. In order for economists to create a system to track such a diversity of market costs, they had to get creative!

    If you want to keep tabs on inflation, the primary way to do so in the United States is via the Consumer Price Index (also known as the “CPI.”) CPI was created by economists who monitor the costs of goods and services. Tracking the cost of every available good and service in the marketplace is an impossible task, so economists have found another way to track and model inflation numbers. They have chosen a particular range of items and services that they consider to be “staples” for a hypothetical model consumer, and then track changes in pricing for those items and services over time. The list of items and services that economists track is considered to be the CPI “market basket.” Goods and services included in this “market basket” include things like basic food and beverages, housing costs, bedroom furniture, apparel, transportation expenses, medical care costs, recreational expenses (such as the cost of admission to museums), toys, educational and communications expenses, as well as other items you may find surprising, such as the cost of tobacco, haircuts, and funerals. The increase in price of the “market basket” over time is known as consumer price inflation.

    A graph from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that shows the 12-month percentage change in the Consumer Price Index. The first category is "all items," which has increased a little under 10%. The second category is "food," which has increased slightly over 10%. The third category is "energy," which has risen over 30%. The final category is "all items less food and energy," which has risen just over 5%.
    This chart shows the twelve-month percentage change in pricing in certain CPI “market basket” categories as of July 2022. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    Keep in mind that even though this “market basket” is meant to be a general indicator of price changes over time, it has limitations, and may not reflect the impacts of inflation on populations who have particular unique consumption habits. The most relevant limitation regarding the interests of farmed animal sanctuaries is that CPI is focused on the consumption habits of urban individuals rather than those in more rural areas where sanctuaries are more likely to reside. To learn more about the limitations, check out this article.

    As far as relevance to sanctuary work goes, CPI may not reflect how the rising prices of animal food impact animal sanctuaries and rescues. Hay costs, for example, are not likely included in the “market basket” used to calculate CPI. Also, it’s sometimes hard to know how rising costs of items in the “market basket” can have secondary effects on items that are not included. For example, the rising cost of fertilizer may indirectly affect the cost of hay. To learn more about variable and fixed costs that can impact hay pricing, check out this article.

    Anecdotal accounts from sanctuaries suggest that when it comes to inflation right now in the summer of 2022, most are experiencing serious impacts, specifically regarding food costs for residents. Sanctuaries have noted that duck food has gotten much more expensive, as have high-quality chicken foods. Similarly, the secondary impact of increases in fuel costs alone has affected costs of items like bedding such as straw, as well as transport costs for rescues, residents, and caregivers. Sanctuaries and rescues also note increased costs for veterinary care and animal medications. Animal caregivers are also experiencing cost of living expenses rising, which can impact them significantly!

    What Can We Do To Mitigate The Impacts Of Inflation?

    An image of cartoon animals in a jar filled with hearts, as a hand adds more hearts to the jar. The text reads: "Foster Resilience Through: Staying Informed, Collaborating In Your Community, Internal Assessment And Adjustment, Creatively Fundraising, Supporting Caregiving Staff."
    As troubling as inflation may be, it can present an opportunity for your animal organization to innovate and find new ways to engage with community, and do some internal assessment to increase your strength and resilience!

    Cost increases of any kind are always scary for sanctuaries, animal rescues, and caregivers. It can be difficult to figure out how you will continue to survive when the cost of the day-to-day goods and services that you need keeps increasing above what you can fundraise! It’s especially tough when providing compassionate care already involves so many expenses, both expected and unexpected. So how can you manage budgeting and planning in light of unpredictable and uncontrollable external factors like inflation? While inflation is certainly a challenge, it may also be an opportunity to get creative in new ways and develop some new networks and channels to support your sanctuary. Here are some things to consider:

    Stay Informed

    As anxiety-inducing as keeping tabs on economic news can be, we recommend that you monitor new information on inflation. Keeping an eye on CPI and predictions regarding inflation rates can help you to plan for changes in circumstances that may impact your ability to provide compassionate care. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics releases CPI information monthly, as well as other information and indicators on possible inflation trends. Keeping an eye on these can help you anticipate any issues in advance and help you to plan.

    You can also stay connected to price changes and increases locally by connecting with your local agricultural cooperative extension services. In addition to having generally helpful information on matters like animal diseases in the area, on local vendors, and information specific to your locality on matters like soil testing and regionally appropriate pasture creation and management, these services will likely be more attuned to pricing in your area, and they can offer specific insight that is relevant to sanctuaries beyond what is measured by CPI. 

    Collaborate With Other Sanctuaries

    If you work in proximity with or near other sanctuaries and animal organizations, now is an excellent time to reach out to them and figure out collaborative and mutually beneficial actions you can take together to help reduce costs. Can you buy food, hay, straw, and other bedding types together and possibly save funds through a bulk order? Do you share veterinarians? If so, can you talk to them about how to work jointly in ways that might minimize expenses for things like medications that might be ordered less expensively in bulk? Can you work together on transportation to minimize fuel costs? 

    Embracing a mutual aid mindset and collaborating to develop creative solutions to problems is one way that communities can build and grow together in unstable times. While we know it isn’t easy, especially in the face of fear and scarcity, we urge you to embrace the notion that with challenges come opportunities to explore possibilities that you may not have thought about before. To learn more about fostering positive and mutually beneficial relationships with other sanctuaries and to get even more ideas about how these relationships can help you weather storms like inflation and other crises together, check out our resource here!

    Reconsider Capacity, Strategic, and Contingency Planning

    While inflation is a scary thing for the sanctuary community, it’s also possible to see it as an opportunity! In times of crisis, it can be helpful to revisit some of your internal policies and plans and both reassess and strengthen them to make your organization more sturdy and robust. Let’s start by talking about capacity:

    While your capacity should always be a primary consideration when it comes to providing consistent and compassionate care for farmed animals at your animal organization, in times when prices are rising in unpredictable ways, it is of particular importance. While we recommend that your organization have conversations similar to our twenty-five questions to assess any resident intake decision, now is a more important time than ever to implement careful assessment and decision-making regarding resident intakes. When you’re thinking about these issues, we recommend that you consider them through the lens of lifelong care. We have a tool available to help you assess lifelong care expenses for residents.

    In line with doing some internal assessment on your capacity given the uncertainty around rising prices, consider revisiting your sanctuary’s strategic plan. If you work with accounting professionals or consultants with regard to financial planning, now may be a good time to pay them a visit, to get a good objective picture of how you may or may not want to adjust your  organization’s financial planning in the face of inflation and pricing uncertainties. Similarly, it may be good to revisit policies like your organization’s contingency plan, and see if anything requires changes in light of economic uncertainty. We have a Contingency Planning Workbook available to help you with this process! 

    Reconsider Fundraising Strategies

    Fundraising and securing public support are always a critical part of any nonprofit or charitable work. Because inflation impacts the general public, it may have a chilling effect on charitable donations. It might be a good time to review your current fundraising strategies. One possible strategy involves adjusting your organization’s storytelling. Reframing the primary narratives about your work may be helpful and present new opportunities to educate the public about animals, sanctuary, and lifelong compassionate care!

    For example, consider that many animal sanctuaries receive a lot of donations during rescues. Sanctuary supporters enjoy a good rescue story, and sharing rescue updates can make for very effective social media posts (though rescue is never necessarily quick or easy). This may be why animal organizations have focused much of their publicity on telling these kinds of stories historically. However, given that rising prices may limit your sanctuary’s capacity and ability to take in new residents responsibly, you may now wish to consider shifting your focus onto sharing some of the less “novel” aspects of sanctuary, including the day-to-day experiences that you have in your organization’s work. While not having new rescue stories may initially appear to be a challenge for sanctuaries, it can be instead turned into an opportunity to educate the public in new ways.

    Talking about lifelong and ongoing compassionate care for your residents can be just as compelling as a new rescue, with the help of effective storytelling. If you share stories about the ongoing challenges, healing, and triumphs of existing residents, you can promote an entirely new perspective of sanctuary to your supporters. Residents’ stories do not end upon rescue; in fact, their new lives are only just beginning! Examples of stories that highlight the work you do daily for your residents might include:

    • Sharing a video of that funny dance that a long term goat resident did today (with appropriate context);
    • Talking about a routine health check at the vet for a rabbit resident, and why routine vet care is important to their ongoing well being;
    • Showing the progress of a hen resident after receiving reproductive care;
    • And celebrating the lives of senior residents and highlighting their ongoing sanctuary experience.

    Outside of narrative updates, you may also wish to revisit your organization’s fundraising plan. Taking time to look at how your revenue streams have balanced each other in the past may help you think about avenues that you haven’t yet explored. Things like in-kind and product donation opportunities may be something you haven’t tried yet and might be helpful in times when donors’ discretionary income has decreased. Consider that now may be a good time to sit down with your board and discuss trying out some new and creative strategies to get support! This infographic may help spark ideas in that kind of discussion!

    Avoid Using Catastrophic Language When Fundraising!
    While questions around inflation can understandably cause you anxiety, we strongly recommend that you avoid dramatic and dire language like “Donate, or our residents will suffer.” This kind of approach to fundraising can cause potential donors significant stress and may cause undesired consequences like making them second guess the abilities and resilience of your sanctuary, or simply tuning out your fundraising appeals entirely. Compassion fatigue and burnout are real and can impact donors as well! Additionally, in your fundraising and efforts to connect with the public and garner support, remember that accuracy and transparency are important. Instead of using fear-based language, it can help to portray your sanctuary and work as an inviting journey that is healing and share narratives that supporters can feel positive and proud of supporting.

    Provide Support For Caregivers

    It is important to remember that you are not alone in experiencing the impacts of inflation. As noted above, the general public is also going through this, including your caregiving staff! Being supportive of caregiving staff is always critical as they are on the front lines of providing day-to-day care to residents, and they deserve empathy and compassion too! Caregivers are essential members of your sanctuary or animal rescue community. Of course, creating and promoting a respectful workplace should be a given, and you should endeavor for your staff to be appropriately paid and also receive helpful benefits and other support from your sanctuary leadership. If you cannot raise wages for your staff to help offset inflation, consider offering them perks like flex days, support for transportation expenses, or additional vacation time. While these perks may not entirely offset the increasing cost of living expenses your staff is facing, they may help, and they can also demonstrate your organization’s empathy, loyalty, and appreciation of hard-working caregivers. Taking these measures is vital to building internal organizational solidarity and increasing the robustness of your sanctuary, especially when external circumstances like inflation are impacting us all.

    Sanctuary caregivers who are concerned about rising prices may feel compelled to try and seek alternative employment with higher wages to offset the forces of inflation on their lives. This is a common thread in nonprofit organizations in particular, where wages tend to be less than in private or for-profit organizations. Additionally, nonprofit hiring in a time of high inflation can be a challenge for the same reason; lower-paying jobs in an inflationary economy are less sought after. While not a panacea, we urge you to review this resource which can help give you some more in-depth information on creating an environment that promotes caregiver retention at your organization. High caregiver turnover becomes only more challenging for organizations to cope with when it’s harder to attract more assistance in the first place!


    The sanctuary and animal rescue community is fundamentally grounded on principles of resilience and strength. If organizations didn’t believe in the possibility of creative and innovative solutions to what seem like intractable problems, they would not exist! While inflation may threaten sanctuary work in some ways, it can also present opportunities to build solidarity in the larger community, develop novel approaches, change narratives and perspectives, and strengthen the community overall. Possible solutions like engaging with other community members, engaging in internal assessment to strengthen your governance, and finding ways to support caregivers will only enhance your animal organization in the long term, hopefully well into a more stable and predictable economic future.


    Agricultural Cooperative Extension Services: What Can They Do For Animal Sanctuaries? | The Open Sanctuary Project

    Fostering Positive Relationships Between Animal Sanctuaries | The Open Sanctuary Project

    Determining Your Animal Sanctuary’s Capacity For Responsible Care | The Open Sanctuary Project

    25 Questions To Help Guide Responsible Intake Decisions At Your Animal Sanctuary | The Open Sanctuary Project

    Estimating Species Lifetime Care Costs At Your Animal Sanctuary | The Open Sanctuary Project

    Creating A Strategic Plan For Your Animal Sanctuary | The Open Sanctuary Project

    Creating An Effective Set Of Contingency Plans For Your Animal Sanctuary | The Open Sanctuary Project

    The Open Sanctuary Project’s Contingency Planning Workbook | The Open Sanctuary Project

    How To Raise Money For Your Animal Sanctuary | The Open Sanctuary Project

    How To Develop A Fundraising Plan For Your Animal Sanctuary | The Open Sanctuary Project

    Creative Fundraising For Sanctuaries Infographic | The Open Sanctuary Project

    Accuracy And Transparency: Two Critical Responsibilities Of Your Animal Sanctuary | The Open Sanctuary Project

    Recognizing And Managing Compassion Fatigue At Your Animal Sanctuary | The Open Sanctuary Project

    Recognizing And Preventing Burnout At Your Animal Sanctuary | The Open Sanctuary Project

    Care Staff Retention At Your Animal Sanctuary | The Open Sanctuary Project

    Inflation: Prices On The Rise | International Monetary Fund

    Consumer Price Index | The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

    Limitations Of The Consumer Price Index | Investopedia

    Considerations For Consumers, Producers, As Hay Prices Likely Rise | Extension: Alabama A&M & Auburn Universities (Non-Compassionate Source)

    The U.S. Bureau Of Labor Statistics

    Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (And The Next) | Dean Spade

    Nonprofits In The Race Against Inflation | Grant Station

    Non-Compassionate Source?
    If a source includes the (Non-Compassionate Source) tag, it means that we do not endorse that particular source’s views about animals, even if some of their insights are valuable from a care perspective. See a more detailed explanation here.

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