Animal Writes
3 January 1999 Issue

How To Start Your Own Animal Rights Group

A group can start with two people. The important thing is to decide from the beginning which issues you will work on. Then choose a name for your group that reflects that focus.

Do you want to work primarily on animal rights issues or animal welfare issues? Realistically, you won't have the time, energy, or money to do both effectively. We recommend that you stick to animal rights education, organizing, and lobbying and refer individual cruelty cases to the appropriate agencies in your community who should be equipped and trained to deal with them.

Before you get a group together, educate and organize yourself.

* Get an answering machine, and be sure you can change the message. Keep a spiral notebook near the machine to record messages.

* Use a card file to keep important telephone numbers organized and easy to find.

* Get a post office box mailing address at a local post office.

* Get stationery printed as soon as you have a PO box and a telephone number. It will make you look more professional.

* Open a bank account. You'll need to keep accurate financial records from the start, so decide on a record keeping system. At the minimum, record the date and amount of all donations, and the name and address of the donor. Also keep a record of how money is spent, including the date, amount, and purpose. Save all your receipts and write on the back of the receipt the item you bought and the date and reason you bought it. "Display, x/xx/xx or "school talk" x/xx/xx

* Get a bulk rate mail permit. This will give you a discounted mailing rate if you mail more than 200 pieces at once and sort the mail according to zip codes. Your local post office can send you instructions on how to get and use the permit.

* Prepare a form welcome letter and information pack to send to new members. Print several hundred copies so you can respond quickly to requests. Also print a form thank-you letter for donations you receive and make sure you acknowledge them quickly. It is tempting to answer inquiries with a personal letter, but you can better spend that time reaching new people. You can add a handwritten, personalized postscript at the bottom of the page.

* Make up a "phone tree" - a calling system so that one person doesn't have to spend an entire evening on the telephone calling each member. For example, when you need to make a number of calls, you call three people who then call three others, who in turn each call three more people, and so on.

* Prepare a media list of newspapers and TV and radio stations with their addresses, telephone numbers, and deadlines to save time when you need to publicize an event.

* Do some long-term planning. Set up a tabling schedule or leafleting plan for the next three to six months.

* Organize your home office. Set up a filing system for issues, financial records, media lists, etc. Insert reference materials and a fact sheet under categories such as: CIRCUSES, FACTORY FARMING, FISHING, FUR, HUNTING, RODEOS, VEGETARIANISM, ZOOS, etc.

* You may want to postpone incorporating your group as long as your budget is small and you're not launching high-profile campaigns.

* Get a computer or word processor as soon as you can afford it, or ask businesses or members to donate one. This should be one of your earliest priorities, because using a computer makes it so easy to get - and stay organized.

As a small and new group, prioritize your activities. Member newsletters, for example, should be a low priority. Your money will be more wisely spent on educational materials, leaflets, and campaigning.

Remember that newsletters relate what a group has already done, they shouldn't be used as a replacement for action.


Go on to What You Can Do To Protect Your Pet
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