Why running a charity is like running a business

People often say to me ” I would love your job,” “It must be so nice working with animals all day.”

In reality, running an animal welfare charity overseas is nothing most like people think; it’s really like running a business. My donors are my investors and shareholders, and my customers are animals, owners, and local stakeholders. Like every business we have to have short and long-term plans, budgets, produce reviews and reports and we have to offer value for money, and unlike most business, we don’t have an overdraft

Planning and budgets are vital to ensure we can meet our short and long-term commitments, being able to say no is just as important as being able to say yes. Animals can and do suffer when organisations or individuals overextend themselves.

My work does involve hands-on animal work, but there is a lot of administration, reporting and governance. No one gets into animal welfare because they like fundraising, writing business plans or filing reports but it has to be in place for Dogstar to function efficiently. Like every business we need to assess our cost-effectiveness, impact, review work streams and check for “mission creep”, are we doing what said we would, is it working, do we need to change strategy, expand, invest in staff training or equipment?

Dogstar is registered as a Charity in the UK and Australia and an international Non-Governmental Organization (iNGO) in Sri Lanka which triples our financial reporting, dogstar-foundation-office-sri-lankaaccounts and audits but this provides transparency and accountability to individuals, donors and relevant authorities

Dynamic management cannot work in isolation, Internally we have a team that make decisions together about finances, reviews plans and budgets, we regularly consult our staff and ask for their views and input. Like any good business, we have processes, protocols and standard operating procedures and emergency plans which we are adding to all the time.

Externally we also work and train as often as we can with other organisations both local and international; our partnerships make us stronger and more robust which means we can deliver the results that are needed.

Animal welfare is a serious business, and that’s why Dogstar is managed as one.


  1. […] If an individual is already caring for a multitude of animals and they say they are full, please, please respect that. Please don’t ask them to take on just one more and please don’t send them multiple messages telling them unless they do the animal will die. That’s a dreadful burden to place on the shoulders of those who already care deeply and give so much of themselves. I receive such messages all the time and whilst I have the support of a (small) team, I still find it overwhelming some days. We of course help as many animals as we can but we have limits. Financial and resource limits mean that we cannot say yes to everyone; a subject I covered in last years blog post “Why running a charity is more like running a business than you would think”. […]

  2. Ros Kinloch on November 22, 2017 at 6:35 pm

    Very well said, Sam. A business approach doesn’t make you or Dogstar any less compassionate and concerned, but it does mean that strategy, funds (generation and spending), and outcomes are as efficient and effective as possible and that a significant number of dogs on the Sri Lankan streets receive the help they need and deserve. Having seen it with my own eyes as we cycled through the country very recently, your aims (neutering, rabies vaccs, skin care and children’s breakfasts) appear absolutely spot on, and in the Negombo area the fruits of your strategies are clear to see. Thank you for all you do.

  3. Why we need a critical care fund - on June 10, 2018 at 9:03 am

    […] Running an NGO / Charity is really no different   in our minds, and its a subject I wrote about in a 2016 blog article "why running a charity is like running a business." […]

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