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Starting Your Own Group

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You may find that there isn’t a local group that addresses the issue you are concerned about, so you’d like to start your own. Congratulations! Here are some tips for getting your group off the ground:

Finding Others in Your Area

Try networking with animal-related groups, shelters, rescue groups or environmental groups in your area to find others who are interested in the same issue(s) as you. Be creative, and post notices at supermarkets, laundromats, health food stores, vegetarian restaurants, college campuses, and health clubs. Always make sure to get permission from a manager before posting a notice. Some national groups will also share a portion of their membership list with you if you explain that you would like to network with other activists in your area.

In our increasingly electronic society, don’t forget tools like email and social networking sites to try to find other activists. Start a website and Facebook page for your group and send the URLs to everyone you know, to help spread the word. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t receive much interest at first. It takes time to build an organization and attract members.

Organizing an Event

Holding a meeting is an excellent way to generate and hold interest in your group.

  • Planning the event: Many libraries, schools, community centers and places of worship offer free meeting rooms for nonprofit organizations. For meetings, it is better to err on the side of a smaller room. A small, crowded room generates excitement, while a large, empty room tends to drain the energy out of a meeting. Once you have a date, time and location for your meeting, publicize your meeting with newspapers, local websites and radio stations through public service announcements and calendar listings. Don’t forget to promote your event through the channels discussed in the “Finding others in your area” section.

  • During your meeting: Be sure to greet each person who arrives and welcome them. Ask how they heard about the meeting, so you can figure out which methods of outreach are working. Start the meeting by introducing yourself and thanking everyone for coming. To stay on track, try to follow an agenda, and plan for extra time at the end for any member to bring up any animal-related topic they would like to discuss with the group. To stay in touch with your members, pass around a sign-in sheet so you’ll have everyone’s contact information. If you serve refreshments, serve only vegan refreshments. Even if you are not vegan, an animal protection organization should be vegan-friendly and should not contribute to animal suffering by serving animal products at their events. Lastly, before everyone leaves, announce the next meeting date.

Incorporating the Group

Incorporating the group will make the group an official legal entity, which leads to several advantages. Once the group is incorporated, it can apply for 501(c)(3) status to become a tax-exempt nonprofit organization. The group will also be eligible to receive grants, and will appear more legitimate to the public. Incorporating the group may also provide you and other members of the group with certain legal protections. The requirements vary by state, but usually involve filing a certificate of incorporation, forming a board of directors and drafting by-laws. Read an overview of nonprofit incorporation.

Applying for 501(c)(3) status

A 501(c)(3) organization is a tax-exempt nonprofit organization. If your organization is tax-exempt, the organization is not required to pay taxes, and donations to your organization are tax-deductible. Many people assume that donations to any nonprofit organization are tax-deductible, but that is true only if the organization is granted 501(c)(3) status by the US Internal Revenue Service. Achieving 501(c)(3) status may encourage donors to make larger donations to your organization, or may attract donors who might not have donated at all. In addition to these benefits, 501(c)(3) status will help legitimize your organization in the eyes of the public and will make your group eligible for grants and privileges that are available only to 501(c)(3) organizations. Read how to apply for 501(c)(3) status.

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