Well, you have your equipment, accommodation, reference books and, I hope, a little experience so now you need patients.
Being computer literate is very helpful as you can make posters and fliers and distribute them to Vets, libraries, notice boards etc. Hopefully the flow of patients will be relatively slow at first, allowing you time to organise yourself, find out what works best and learn more about hedgehogs. Most centres start up because a person has looked after one hedgehog successfully...St Tiggywinkles started that way and they now rescue all animals and I think they claim to be the largest wild life rescue centre in the world. Rescue centres are not zoos as they return their animals to the wild in most cases.
You will get the hang of this eventually but, at first, you will be putting your hand in your pockets all the time.
FIRST Keep accounts and keep all your receipts. Record every penny donated. People are giving you their money and have a right to see how it is spent.
SECOND Open a special bank account so the centre's money is seperate from yours. You will need to start it off with a large donation from yourself!
CHARITY OR NOT?
I am sure this question will arise. At first I would say NO, you are too small, especially if you are doing it alone. You are allowed to receive donations and these are not taxable, income is taxable. For that reason I do not charge for talks but request a donation to the Hogspital or, at schools, a donation of dog food. I once received 200 tins of all sizes!
Some advantages to being a charity are
a) You can claim back tax on donations through Gift Aid
b) You can apply to a lot more places for grants and for larger size grants
c) You can have raffle ticket books for people to take away and sell
d) You can have collecting boxes and do street collections with Council permission
Some disadvantages are
a) You must have 3 trustees......treasurer, secretary, chairperson etc
b) You must have regular comittee meetings...a couple a year
c) You must have 2 cheque signatories and no debit card
d) All expenditure must be sanctioned by the committee
e) If they wanted, your trustees could vote you off the board even though the centre is yours and on your property.
f) Should you die, there could be a problem selling the property unless you have been charging rent for the buildings housing the hedgehogs. Those buildings could be found to belong to the centre
I would suggest you take advice on this as I could see no advantage at all but it may depend on how you work. Now that I have two foster carers, we could join together to form ourselves into a charity and it might make more sense. We are still working independantly though and I have told them to keep any donations they receive, keep records and use the money on their expenses. I will supply anything they want but they both are happy to support themselves at the moment.
Get people to bring the hedgehog to you wherever possible. You could be running around all over the place. Also, you can be preparing a cage while they are on the way. (Heat pads take time to warm up)
Usually the finder is interested in their animal so let them see you weigh it, make out its record card, check it over for ticks etc and put it to bed. You can then show them your centre so they know what will happen to their find if it survives. They will often give you a donation after this as they can see the amount of care and dedication that goes into it.
Put your name down at the local Library on their list of speakers. A lot of local clubs and societies use this list. The W.I. are particularly good to get in with. They make you welcome and give you coffee and cake! At ths time the usual donation is £20-£25 per talk. I take a small shop with greetings cards (painted by one of my volunteers), pens, badges and car window stickers. Everything is around £1 and those sales plus the donation usually make the evening worth £50 but £100 has been reached!
Writing to large companies to request a donation rarely works and finding grants is not easy either. The first thing is that no-one will support running costs and, in my case at least, almost all my expenditure is running costs.
All grants have to go toward a PROJECT but setting up your centre does not count as a project. Also grants are not paid retrospectively and they take a very long time to decide on who is successful so never try for a grant if what you want is urgent!
I have been lucky to be helped by Murco to buy cages, PAVs to buy incubators and an anonymous donation allowed me to have my purpose built shed.
When applying for a grant you have to tick so many boxes. You must be seen to be working with the community, with children, with the environment, educating, encouraging, be green. If you just want to keep your head down and look after hedgehogs, I am afraid it is going to be very difficult to get this kind of support.
At first I am sure you will want to work alone just as I did. However, when I found it was taking an hour or more every morning to clean I suddenly thought, "What if I am ill or have to go away?" and I realised that I owed it to my charges to have some backup and to myself even though I give my time willingly. It was a hard decision to take on volunteers as ICU is actually inside my house.
Some people actually do phone up to see if you need help but I had an article in the paper and asked for volunteers in that.
The way I work is I have volunteers to help clean in the mornings. There will nearly always be two people working, either two volunteers or one and myself and I only ask for them to do one morning. Some are willing to do more on a regular basis but I find these are the people who drop out the quickest. If they are only committed to one morning, it doesn't feel like such an imposition if I ask them for extra time in an emergency. One of my ladies is also happy to come to talks with me and run the little shop. That is so helpful as it frees me up to answer questions. It is also nice to have company, especially on winter nights, driving along dark, windy country lanes looking for a Church Hall.
They can also help with fundraising events and one of my ladies is a really good artist. We have her pictures reproduced as greetings cards.....she is happy and so are we.
If I happen to be going away, I organise someone to feed and someone to clean in my absence. However, if I have any in intensive care, I either take it with me or I now have foster carers who may be able to take them if there are more than one. I divert my phone to either my mobile or to one of the foster carers.
YOU WILL SOON REALISE THAT THERE IS NO OFF SEASON FOR HEDGEHOGS. There are quiet times but never a time when you can guarantee you will not get a call.
You will have to decide on this. I agreed with my first volunteers that we would not require insurance. If someone falls in the garden, my house insurance covers that. If a hedgehog is contagious, only I deal with it. Most of the time the hogs are asleep in the mornings and the volunteers do not need to touch them so risk is minimal. I do take a hog to schools and a few fetes but I ask people not to touch it. It is not fair to the hog anyway. If I see a hand sneaking over I usually say I am not insured.
Having no insurance means I would not dream of taking on someone with disabilities in case they have an accident and I do have to say this sometimes. I feel bad but insurance is expensive and money spent on that cannot be spent on the hedgehogs. I used to take young people as volunteers but now they have to be over 18 due to the child protection laws.
I have always found my volunteers to be lovely people and I am sad when they have to leave for any reason.
Your life will change and it depends how you handle it and on your outlook as to whether it is for better or worse. My life is as follows:-
I am retired so I could be sitting at home, bored. I am not a group type person, a bit of a loner. Due to my Hogspital I have 8 volunteers, at least one coming in each day. I am out giving talks at least once a week I would say. I have phone calls for advice and people bringing hedgehogs. Everyone stays to look around and have a chat. I have access to a lovely estate to release the hogs on and some other beautiful places as well. I am known in several shops and by many as "The Hedgehog Lady" and people stop me in the street sometimes to ask about one they had brought me.
I have been on radio, TV and in the paper, mostly local but I made it onto Irish radio!
I have had to become much more computer literate making fliers, posters and setting up my own web-site.
I also have to be very organised in my life and in the Hogspital.
Yes, hedgehogs have taken over my life but it is no bad thing. They are also my social life and through it all I know I am helping an endangered species to survive.
On top of all that, I have had an invitation to a Buckingham Palace Garden Party. I cannot think of anything more wonderful than having my work recognised this way.