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How To Start A Nonprofit Organization With No Money

Rescue Blog 06.16.2020
By Jill Caren
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You love animals and have decided you want to make it your mission to help them by starting an animal rescue – but where do you begin? Learn how to start a nonprofit with no money in this simple guide!

Starting a charity to help animals is definitely commendable – so thank you!

There is paperwork to fill out, a name to pick, volunteers to recruit, an online presence to build – and of course much of this may require money.

Unfortunately, money is one of the biggest issues most nonprofit organizations have – and with animal rescues it can even be harder depending how animals there are in your care.

But the good news is that there is resources to help you! First you need to create a budget to get an idea of how much you will require to run your nonprofit and then you can take some of the ideas below to get your animal rescue started with little or no money.

How Much Does A Nonprofit Cost To Get Started

Understanding the costs that are associated with starting your organization is critical to helping you find ways to get funding!

There are fees that are required to get your charity registered as a legal entity including the incorporation of your nonprofit and the then the tax exemption application.

  1. Incorporation is needed before you apply to be a charity and every state has different fees and processes to incorporate. Costs can be up to several hundred dollars depending on your location.
  2. Once your incorporation is done then you can apply for tax-exempt status which will make you an authorized nonprofit. The amount you pay again will vary based on the size of your organization but you can expect to spend an additional several hundred dollars for this part of your process.

Costs above are if you do it yourself and do not include any legal or professional services you might use to get started. You can also view more information about charities and nonprofits on the IRS website.

Building Your Online Presence

Once you have your name – make sure you get the domain name! Once you have your domain you can then get started on creating your online presence. We highly recommend NameSilo for purchasing a domain as they have the most affordable domains.

The cost of a domain is around $10.00 so make sure you add that to your budget.

While you can make an investment into a custom built nonprofit website – there are ways you can get an online presence for free just to get your brand kicked off. Then when you have more funds and donations coming in you can upgrade!

You can build your website on a platform like Wix which is a fine first step and free, but we highly recommend you save some money to invest in a better platform when you can.

We highly recommend self-hosted WordPress as your website of choice! This will give you the ability to grow and expand when you are ready and you will never be limited in terms of functionality.

Hosting can cost about $20.00 per month, so you will need to budget for that when the time comes.

Websites like Donate Code can help you find pro-bono help or you can see if there are any web developers in your local community to assist you.

At a minimum your website should have the following:

  • About page & Mission statement
  • Donation page – where can they donate, donation form etc.
  • Tax exempt number should be easily visible if you have it
  • Contact page
  • Event listings
  • Social follow links
  • Newsletter subscribe form (you can use Mailchimp which is free for a limited number of subscribers)
  • Volunteer information if you need volunteers

Gaining Support

Now that you have a website it is time to get supporters!

Gaining a committed following before you even get started can make all the difference in your ability to get your charity started with little or no money. Relationships in charity organizations are everything – so reach out to your community, family, friends and businesses letting them know your plans for making a difference.

Be sure you forward them to your website to help them learn more about you and ask them to subscribe to your newsletter.

Once you have made the connections and began nurturing those relationships then you can do a fundraiser to try and help offset the costs of your incorporation and charity status fees.

While you can have a fundraiser before file as a 501(c)(3) – you will need to let your supporters know that their donation is not tax-deductible.

If you do it right – your first fundraiser should help you raise enough money to cover those startup costs!


Don’t be afraid to talk about your idea! If you are starting an animal rescue nonprofit then reach out to the local animal community and see if someone would like to join forces. Pet stores, groomers, dog trainers may all be great options to consider as a partner for your organization and would be a great way to not only share costs – but to share ideas and grow your organization faster!

Jill Caren

Jill Caren Bio Logo

Jill Caren

Jill is the owner and creator of CharityPaws and has been involved in animal rescue for over 12 years as a volunteer and board member for Jersey Animal Welfare Society. You can read all of her articles here.

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