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Ask E. Jean For DearSugar: How Can I Accomplish My Dream?

Dear E. Jean,

I have an unusual dilemma. My mother and I would like to buy/obtain land in Ocala, FL, open a sanctuary and call it Willow Star Haven.

This will be a wellness center for the elderly, a no-kill animal rescue shelter with a vet on site, and a children’s center for kids with learning disabilities. My mother is already working on the getting the permits. But obviously it will require a lot of money to bring our dream to life. Can you give me some ideas for fund raising? We can’t afford to hire a fund-raising firm. — A Better Tomorrow

To see E. Jean's answer


Better, My Buttercup,

You’re going to need the bloodlines of Tinsley Mortimer, the brain of Eleanor Roosevelt, the brilliance of Mother Theresa, the stamina of Oprah, and the energy of cocaine addict just to find a decent parcel of land in Ocala, let alone buy it and build the sanctuary. But, so what? I completely and totally believe you can do it.


Because the only people who can accomplish anything this huge are the crazy ones — crazy to save dogs and cats, crazy to nurture kids, crazy to entertain old white-haired people. (Or as Jack Kerouac says: “the mad ones . . . the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn")

I also looked you up online, and I see that you have already established yourself as a non-profit charitable trust. Excellent! Anyone who can endure the interminable grind of obtaining 501c3 status from the IRS, can endure anything.

I advise you to start small. Don’t try to do the animal shelter AND the wellness center for the codgers AND the kids all at once. You must think like a corporation: Do one thing very well, establish a presence, burnish your reputation, gain the respect of the people of Ocala, and then you can start going to large corporations and soliciting funds.

To get the seed money for the land and the building materials, I suggest you seek partnerships with local businesses. (Begin with talking to their marketing/PR/advertising department heads.) It will be a boost for their company image to be connected with your sanctuary and good for you because they will give you the wherewithal to start! Good luck!

P.S. To see what just one little girl can do, look at this video! Her dad teaches at our local high school here.

To see more advice from E. Jean, visit Elle magazine and

GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 9 years
I agree with Brooklynbee. Also, are there grants available in the public and private sector that you may qualify for? Furthermore, once you receive some funding, you may set aside SOME capital to invest (in the center's name, of course). Don't spend the principal, spend the interest only. Put that money to work!
Brooklynbee Brooklynbee 9 years
I'm a professional fundraiser as well as on the board of a non-profit. You need to establish a really good Board of Directors if you haven't already. The Board will help you focus your mission as well as create a fundraising plan. Your fundraising plan should include plans to approach individuals (through events as well as networking with major gifts prospects - your board should have these contacts); foundations (find a board member who can research foundation prospects) and corporations (local businesses are a good start). Your Board should also make monetary contributions as well as helping you find partners. Good luck!!
Jmartens Jmartens 9 years
great advice, I love it! I agree with the "pick 1 and do it well" advice but also see what you are getting at with the combo of animals/kids/seniors. You are gonna have to package that message better and sell it. Good luck and keep up the great work!
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
having lived in Ocala, and now living an hour away with my parents and sister living there, I say it would be a bad idea to open one that is a pet/kids/elderly, the people in ocala (and we call it Blow-cala and Slow-cala and No-cala for a reason) are alot of retirees, major money horse people (its the horse capital of the world!) and john travolta. You should focus on one thing and than build on it from there, i suggest the elderly because there are plenty of those!
emmebeth emmebeth 9 years
This sounds like an amazing dream- Good luck to you!
fleurfairy fleurfairy 9 years
I never thought much about animal resuces until I got a dog. Now, the thought of any dog without kindness and comforts and a safe place breaks my heart. It's those damn Pedigree commercials that make me cry! I know how much I love my dog and I can't imagine any other dog living without that kind of love. I say go for it. People can make a difference if they have enough drive. Don't give up.
ehadams ehadams 9 years
I agree about starting with one thing at a time. Also I really hope you have experience in some of these things first hand. For example, no one should open a no-kill shelter if they have never volunteered with one before. I have volunteered for 6 years with one and I am honestly not sure I could run one myself or do it full time. It is a lot of work and truly heartbreaking a lot of the time. I'm sure the same is true for children's and elderly centers too (I used to volunteer with the UCLA hospital and had to quit- I could not see so many people in pain). So I highly suggest you pick an area to focus on and volunteer in it first. You will also meet contacts, which never hurts.
lawchick lawchick 9 years
Good advice to start with doing one of those three things first. I'd start with the no-kill shelter. Good luck!
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 9 years
this is my dream :) To have an animal rescue... I jsut feel so sorry for all those poor creatures out there who have never experianced kindess from a human being. It's so sad...I just want them to know that someone does care. That they can be loved...
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