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4) Clarify the Rules – Set your bylaws, policies, procedures, and systems

Before moving forward on your projects, it is important to set the rules of your organization.

  • Bylaws - Bylaws address the framework and governance of the organization. These are the rules for how you expect your supporters, volunteers, board members, and other associates to handle situations that may come up. Bylaws also provide direction for your board, explaining how meetings should run, how votes are counted, how members can be removed, and how finances and budgets are handled. Bylaws can even specify job descriptions for staff, such as what you expect from your volunteer or adoption coordinator.

  • Policies and Procedures - Policies and procedures address your organization’s daily operations. Policies are more detailed, but they are also easier to change than bylaws. Here you can include steps your organization will follow in completing an adoption or your policy stating that all animals must be spayed or neutered and vaccinated before being placed into a home.

    Your policies will need to include things like the services you will routinely provide for the public, veterinary care protocol, and a listing of individuals empowered to authorize veterinary care. Such guidelines help to create stability within the organization by keeping everyone on the same track. They also give the organization credibility by helping to ensure that consistent, quality services are provided. If you need a starting place, examine other organizations’ policies and procedures.

  • Systems - It’s important that you are able to show success for all of the work you do. Creating effective filing systems and keeping track of all of your statistics will help show your success to funders and those interested in joining your organization. Identify baselines now, so that in a year or two, you can compare statistics and ensure that your work is helping you reach your goals and accomplish your mission.


  • How many animals did your group handle this year? Tracking the number of animals and how you dealt with them will help show the progress you are making in protecting the lives of outdoor cats.
    • How many did you trap?
    • How many were spayed or neutered?
    • How many were returned versus adopted?
    • How much per animal did your organization spend?
    • How many were euthanized for health reasons?
    • How many people were you able to help?
    • How many testimonies were you able to obtain?
    • How many calls did your organization receive asking for help?

  • What is happening to cats in your community now? Being able to see trends in the number of animals not helped by municipal agencies helps define your organization’s programs and goals as well as the failure of the government, tax-funded system. You may want to obtain the following through FOIA statistics if animal control keeps them:
    • How many cats are entering each shelter?
    • How many are killed?
    • How many are adopted?
    • How many are euthanized for health reasons?
    • How many people called the shelter about outdoor cats?
    • How did cats enter the shelter (owner relinquishment, trap, animal control responding to a call, etc.)?

Next Step: Establish a Board of Directors