Beneath The Wood shares the realities of running an animal sanctuary with Vegan Business Tribe.
Animal sanctuaries are the real frontline of veganism, but each is also a business that needs constant income. Sasha Bennett from Beneath The Wood Sanctuary shares her experiences of running a sanctuary and what tips she has for anyone thinking of starting their own.
How did you first start running an animal sanctuary?
I worked at my partner’s dog behaviour sanctuary for many years, where I learned how to handle dangerous dogs. Then I moved to a smallholding in Wales with my mum, where I continued taking in dogs with serious behaviour problems.
With having land, it was only a matter of time until farmed animals started arriving, so it was a natural progression to start my own organisation.
A few years ago John Awen joined, initially as a Patron and later becoming a joint director. We have very different roles – mine is the physical running of the sanctuary and John does our promoting and awareness.
Running a sanctuary is obviously physically demanding, but what business skills have you had to learn?
I’ve had to learn how to do many things, mainly by teaching myself with the help of Google. I’ve had to get used to using social media as this is the best way to connect with people.
We have help with our accounts and we’ve bought in solicitors to help save animals caught in legal situations that jeopardise their lives.
Beneath The Wood Sanctuary has had some very high profile campaigns, including the 53 pigs who were saved from a government destruction order. How have these kinds of campaigns helped to raise your profile?
They have really helped to increase our profile. The #53pigs project is massive, and hugely costly. We tripled the size of the sanctuary’s dependants overnight; it was an epic rescue, especially as we’re a small sanctuary with limited support and funding.
If you could go back in time to when you started the sanctuary, what advice would you give yourself?
Originally I self-funded the sanctuary through my own online business. If I were to do it again, I’d become a not-for-profit organisation much sooner, because this has definitely been the best way to grow the sanctuary.
Taking care of so many animals must come with a large financial commitment. What percentage of your time do you have to apply to raise funds?
A quarter of my time is to do with raising funds, but we really need a whole full-time fundraising team! We have to raise at least £25,000 to build facilities so we can care for nearly 100 pigs in winter.
Plus, just feeding the #53pigs costs us nearly £700 per week! So, we have to increase our fundraising as well as look at other business solutions to bring funds in.
What would your advice or top tips be for someone who is thinking about opening their own animal sanctuary?
Just do it – turn your ideas into reality. Anyone can start an organisation of any kind, at any time. Just go with your passion and make it happen, and be prepared to put your heart and soul into it. If you truly want to do something, you’ll find a way to do it.
Lisa Fox says “Sasha and John have really understood about dividing the public-facing fundraising role with the everyday work of looking after the animals. But they are also very aware of the realities that, although not-for-profit, you need to have a regular income to make any business sustainable.”
Learn more about Beneath The Wood Animal Sanctuary (or donate) at here.