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Five Tips to Make The Most of Your Annual Planning Process (aka “The Budget”) 

I recently attended a PATH Intl. “Survive and Thrive” presentation. One of the interesting facts presented at the beginning of the workshop was that more than 50% of member centers have budgets less than $140,000 per year, and have been members, on average, for 15 years. At that level of funding, with many years of experience, it may seem like a formal budget process is an unnecessary waste of precious time. After all, you know what it costs to run your facility, and how many services you provide. Why is it necessary to spend the time and effort to write that down – you already know. 

As one who has managed budgets for more than 40 years, from as small as a few thousand dollars to as large as more than one hundred million, I am convinced the only way an organization can stay on track and meet their mission and goals is to stay focused. A good planning process (of which a budget is a big part) can be invaluable toward that end. Every organization experiences the occasional crisis, and when that happens having a written roadmap that identifies your priorities will give you the ability to make proactive decisions based on priorities rather than just a reactive response to the most current crisis. 

We all strive to make our dollars go as far as they possibly can. Here are a few more ideas that might help you get just a little more “bang for the buck” and make all that time you spend developing a formal plan and budget worth the effort. 

1. Identify priorities and set goals before you start your budget process 

It’s important to know exactly where you want to go before you start trying to identify the associated costs, or estimate potential revenues. If you don’t know where you’re going “any old road will get you there.” Ideally you’ll have a set of short term goals – things you want to accomplish over the next 12 to 18 months, and a set of long term goals – things to accomplish over the next three to five years. It really is important to write these down, and to update the list on a regular basis. More on that later……….. 

Most smaller organizations build a budget one year at a time. Once you’ve identified your short term goals, itemize the resources needed to accomplish each item in the time frame established. Associate an estimated cost with each resource, and group into the categories you’ll need to track for financial and legal reporting. Basically you’ve just built the expense side of a budget that’s needed to do everything you want to do in the coming year. Note that continuing operations needs to be included as a goal. Expanding operations should be considered as a separate goal, with separate identifiable costs. Set this part aside for now. 

Next objectively identify and reasonably estimate your various sources of revenue. Do not let the expenses drive your revenue estimates – be realistic. The reason to identify the goals and necessary expenses first is to avoid letting limited resources arbitrarily set your goals for you. Alternatively, you do not want to let the need for resources cause you to overestimate the revenue side of the budget. It is the nature of nonprofit organizations to rely heavily on donations for operational needs. Many things can impact the level of giving in any given period of time. Plan for what you can reasonably expect to happen, but know what you will do if it doesn’t. If you have established a clear set of operational priorities back at Step 1 – you’ll know exactly what your lowest priorities are if you have to adjust midyear. 

Now compare revenues to expenses. If the gap between the resources available and the resources needed happens to be positive that is an amazing opportunity for investment in your organization. Time to review that priority list for the next items to be accomplished. More often, though, the gap reveals that there will not likely be enough revenue to do everything we’d like to do. This is also time to review the priority list to decide what can be deferred, adjusting costs downward until you’ve balanced the bottom line. This is also a good time to mention that nonprofit does not mean “no profit”. Keeping expenses less than revenues is one way to generate funds needed for such things as capital improvements or emergency funds. 

2. Review your budget vs actual regularly – not obsessively 

Whether you contract your accounting activities to an outside entity or do it all yourself, it’s important to routinely review your budget versus actual statements. This is a lot like dieting advice, you shouldn’t step on the scale every day, but you’ve got to do it often enough to know that you’re still on track. Accurate, timely information allows you to make better decisions, whether that’s cutting back in some areas, or additional investment in others. Budget variances are normal, none of us can predict the coming year perfectly, so there will always be variances. Understanding those variances, and knowing when to make corrections to our behavior is the important part. 

3. Before you jump on that “amazing good deal”, review your priorities. 

Everybody loves a good deal, it’s super hard to pass up a real bargain. Especially if you’re on a tight budget and you’ve stumbled across something you normally could never afford. Don’t let your emotions overpower your planning senses. Is this amazing bargain part of your priority list? Does it contribute to the immediate goals you’ve set? If it’s a significant contributor to a longer term goal, what will you have to give up or defer in order to make this a priority now? It’s important to take a step back, and make your decision based on the goals you’ve already set. All that time and effort you’ve invested at Step 1 above will help to keep you on target now. If it’s just not the right time for you to invest in this particular bargain, do a friend a favor and let them know about it. 

4. Get a second opinion (or third, or fourth…………) 

This is where a diverse board, or even just a diverse group of friends and associates, can be an invaluable asset. If you are struggling to figure out what the next best step will be for your program, conflicted over whether to invest in more programming or simply expanding current services, or just uncomfortable whether your estimates are reasonable and goals are achievable – use your lifeline!! Call a friend! Getting more opinions can shed light in areas you haven’t thought of, and expand the creative thinking process. You may not be crazy about all the ideas that come rolling in, however it not only gives you new ideas it also creates opportunities for engagement and support. 

5. Don’t forget to celebrate success 

Last but not least, don’t forget to celebrate the goals you’ve accomplished. It’s easy for those in a leadership role to feel as if all the weight of the world is on their shoulders and theirs alone. There will always be another problem to solve, another goal to achieve. Remember that none of us do this by ourselves. Celebrate successes, even the small ones! We do this in our classes all the time – don’t neglect doing this for your staff and yourself.

 

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Managing Gastric Health in PATH Intl. Program Horses

By Jessica Normand, Member of the PATH Intl. Equine Welfare Committee

March 2019

Gastric ulcers are common in horses for a variety of reasons. According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ online summary, Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome by Frank M. Andrews, DVM, MS, DACVIM, “Prevalence estimates have been reported to range from 25 to 50 percent in foals and 60 to 90 percent in adult horses, depending on age, performance, and evaluated populations.”

The horses that are our partners in equine-assisted activities and therapies can easily experience the risk factors of equine gastric ulcer syndrome and may also have added mental and emotional stress.

Risk Factors for Equine Gastric Ulcers

  • Stress in all forms (e.g., training, competition, shipping, injury, etc.)
  • Infrequent feeding
  • Large grain meals (feeding more than 0.5% of horse’s body weight in grain in a single meal)
  • Limited access to hay/pasture
  • Intense exercise
  • Excessive use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Signs of Gastric Ulcers in Horses

  • Reduced appetite/changes in eating and drinking behavior
  • Weight loss/poor body condition
  • Poor attitude (girthiness, irritability, resistance, etc.)
  • Recurrent colic
  • Dull hair coat
  • Decreased performance

If you observe signs of gastric ulcers in the horses under your care, it is imperative that you involve your veterinarian for diagnosis and proper treatment. This may include the use of prescription medications such as GastroGard® (omeprazole), currently the only FDA-approved medication for the treatment of gastric ulcers in horses.

In addition to treatment, work with your veterinarian to adjust your horses’ management program in order to reduce the risk factors for gastric ulcers. Good practices include:

  • Feed forage frequently (consider “slow feed” style hay net or bag to make hay last longer and to mimic natural grazing behavior throughout the day)
  • Allow for pasture grazing, if available/appropriate (i.e., grass may not be ideal for overweight horses and those with metabolic conditions)
  • Consider adding some alfalfa to the horse’s forage, as it has been shown to benefit gastric health
  • Limit grain, and feed in multiple, small meals
  • Manage your horse’s stress, provide down time and provide as much turnout as possible
  • Consider a daily gastric supplement to proactively support and protect stomach tissues
  • If your horse needs NSAIDs for managing pain and inflammation, work with your veterinarian to determine appropriate dosing and administration
  • Ask your vet about the use of UlcerGard® (omeprazole), the only FDA-approved medication for prevention of gastric ulcers in horses, as needed during times of added stress, such as trailering, routine and herd changes, etc.

Equine Tips: The Right Horse Initiative

By Christy Counts, PATH Intl. Equine Welfare Committee Member

In 2017, there were 873 certified PATH Intl. centers in the United States. On average, the centers utilize well over 8,000 horses in their programs. Although we do not yet know the exact average service time of horses in these centers, we believe it is approximately three to seven years. Thus, thousands of these horses are transitioned out of service annually. Each time a horse transitions out of service in a PATH Intl. center, the center is faced with two challenges. First, they have to find a new home for the horse and second, they have to find a new replacement horse. Where do all of these horses come from? What happens to them when they are finished providing service to the programs? These questions are particularly interesting to The Right Horse Initiative. 

The Right Horse Initiative (TRH) was launched 18 months ago by the The WaterShed Animal Fund. The Initiative was developed to massively increase the number of horses adopted each year in the United States while also creating more community resources to provide humane transitions for horses. Each year in the United States, 200,000 horses fall at-risk and a large majority of them have much left to give to this world. There are currently over 7 million horses in the United States, but sadly, in 2017 less than 10,000 horses were adopted from adoption facilities. The public is unaware of the vast supply of healthy, trained horses that are currently living in these adoption centers awaiting new homes and careers. An increase in market share of adoption horses will directly reduce the number of horses that fall at-risk in our country each year.
In 2018, PATH Intl joined as a partner of TRH. The partnership with PATH Intl. is a natural fit as the EAAT industry continues to grow so does its need for horses. In fact, thousands of horses are needed each year to replace horses transitioning out of service. In addition, EAAT centers all have different types of horses they are looking for with different levels of training and behavior characteristics. There is a huge opportunity to create programs with streamlined partnerships between PATH Intl. centers and TRH transition facility partners that are looking for jobs and homes for their horses. In these programs the horses are transitioned into a new EAAT career and the PATH Intl. center has a reliable, transparent source facility for their horses.

Another issue that is often reported by PATH Intl. centers is the struggle locating new homes for horses needing to transition out of a PATH Intl. center. TRH is working to create programs with transition centers that accept the return of the adopted or leased horse from the PATH Intl. center. This partnership can relieve the barn of the headache of constantly looking for placement for their retired horses. Creating this type of placement partnership can provide a win/win for both parties. The PATH Intl. centers are participating in safe and humane transitions for horses and also have a feel-good message for their supporters. Not only are they providing a valuable service to people but also to horses potentially expanding their donor base to a broader pool of funders.

When a PATH Intl. center is building out their development/fundraising plan they most often target their efforts on donors that have an affinity for humans with special needs. We all know that raising operating funds is one of the biggest challenges nonprofits face to sustain their programs. Utilizing transition horses from adoption facilities can be a fantastic way to target an entire new audience of potential donors. Suddenly, a center can attract animal welfare donors as well, if they can demonstrate the PATH Intl. program not only helps the humans but also provides homes and jobs for at-risk horses.

Surviving today in the world of nonprofits requires savvy fundraising skills. The organizations that can attract multiple bases of donors will be the winners in the end. In addition, they are directly participating in solving the horse welfare issue we are facing in this country. Programs like these could potentially provide jobs for thousands at-risk horses each year while also creating fundraising opportunities for the programs. What could be a more perfect partnership? TRH is currently working to build out the infrastructure to create efficient programs that alleviate the burden of randomly sourcing horses while also providing good, sound and trained horses in a transparent system.

The Right Horse is thrilled to welcome PATH Intl. as a partner to the Initiative and is eager to get to work building programs with PATH Intl. centers and PATH Intl. instructors. The first thing PATH Intl. members can do to get involved is spread the word about The Right Horse and its adoption partners. Sharing the adoption message and happy adoption stories goes a long way to opening horse owners mind to adoption. Furthermore, reach out to PATH Intl. if your center is interested in promoting adoption horses and wants to be partnered specifically with a Right Horse Source Shelter. The plan is to begin by piloting some regional placement programs while finetuning the system. After the regional pilot programs are completed, The Right Horse plans to expand the partnership with PATH Intl. to provide resources nationally to participating centers. For more information please contact The Right Horse at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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