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Getting Grants for Cruelty Response: Techniques Built for Speed

Is preventing cruelty part of your agency’s mission? As we celebrate Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month, the ASPCA’s Claire Sterling shares tips for securing funding for your efforts.


Aside from being heartbreaking and logistically difficult to address, cruelty cases are also financially draining for organizations doing the rescuing and caretaking. That especially applies to agencies short on cash reserves that are nevertheless assigned legal responsibility for animal victims throughout what is often a protracted custody period. 

Unfortunately, applying for and receiving a grant can be a slow undertaking—a six- to- nine-month response time from funders is not uncommon (though the ASPCA reviews cruelty response applications far more quickly). However, there are a few techniques you can use to help accelerate and streamline the process:

  • Have a prospect list ranked and ready – Don’t wait until an emergency hits before starting the hunt. Try to capitalize on less hectic days at your organization to get a jump on your prospect research. Once you’ve carefully reviewed each funder’s guidelines in the list you create and confirmed that your organization’s work is a good fit, rank your prospects in descending order of compatibility between the work they support and the work your organization does. You may want to highlight the funders who provide grants specifically for cruelty response so that you can zero in on them later.
  • Know your application deadlines – Visit the websites of your current and prospective foundation donors every six months to capture their most current application deadlines, which are subject to change from one year to the next. Note the deadlines on either an electronic or paper calendar—whichever format works best for you—so that it’s clear which applications are due first. Again, you may want to highlight the application deadlines associated with funders who support cruelty response so you can dive right in when the time comes. Make sure the calendar is easily accessible and visible in your workspace.
  • Have your “perennials” on standby – While funders’ applications vary, there will often be significant overlap in requested information that can be reused from one application to the next and sometimes even one year to the next. Rather than waste precious time reinventing the wheel with each application you submit, keep an ongoing record of all the application questions you answer—ideally in electronic format conducive to copying and pasting—and tailor your answers on a case-by-case basis. You’ll also want to scan and electronically store your important documents, including:
    • IRS Determination Letter
    • Form 990
    • Annual Report
    • List of Leaders at Your Organization
    • Financial Statements
    • Operating and Project Budgets
    • Annual Animal Intake and Final Disposition Statistics by species, generated from shelter software (e.g. PetPoint, Chameleon and Shelter Buddy)
  • Read instructions carefully and provide all required documentation – Although following funders’ application guidelines and instructions closely may seem like a no-brainer, many applicants, feeling harried and stressed, give in to the temptation to take shortcuts. Not only does this slow down review of their application if it is incomplete and requires submission of supplemental information later on, but it often jeopardizes their chances of receiving a grant from a given funder altogether.
  • Follow up to confirm application receipt – While many online application systems will send you an automated response confirming receipt of your application, not all do; if you don’t receive some form of acknowledgement within 48 hours, contact the funder. And be sure to save a backup copy of the application before you hit “Submit” just in case the worst should happen and all your hard work mysteriously evaporates into cyberspace. If you’ve submitted your application via postal mail, reach out to the appropriate person at the recipient organization after two weeks to confirm that it arrived and is on track for review. Lost applications are a more common occurrence than funders would like to admit and can slow down review of your grant request.


Guest blogger Claire Sterling is Director, Grant Strategies at the ASPCA, and previously did foundation fundraising for six years at the Foundation Center. She adopted her cat Toffee from the ASPCA in 2015.



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