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I am in search of help! I want to open my own domestic violence shelter and I am in need of some serious do's and don'ts from anyone who has opened their own shelter or who is in the process. I have worked in a shelter before and will be starting at a new shelter soon. I would greatly appreciate any help you could offer about grants, start-up costs, overhead, etc.. THANKS, in advance! -Nida

Thanks for your note to feminist.com--and what a great project you are undertaking. I have actually never opened a shelter either, so I am certainly not the most appropriate person, but I did helped to found an organization, so I know many of the steps neccessary for such an undertaking.

The first is to make sure that you aren't duplicating someone else's work. For instance, is there already a shelter in your area. If yes, maybe you should partner with them to open another location or something. I encourage this, but there is alot of paper work involved with starting your own organization. For instance, the next step will be inquiring about obtaining non-profit status. Perhaps you can find a sympthetic attorney to help you with this. Also, you can try the Support Center, which is a New York City based organization, which helps provide this type of support/information. This is very important to obtain, because this is what will help you raise money for you work. People are much more likely to give--not to mention that you have access to foundation dollars--once they know they can get a tax write-off.

So once this is secure the next step is raising money. I prefer raising money from individuals--I think that it's easier to ask individuals or host an event than it is to wait and pray that a foundation sees the value of your work. However, there is now more foundation money available for domestic violence. To research this, please try the Foundation Center --they have information on various foundations and you can search by issue.

However, people are going to want to give you money only after they know what you are doing--even if you aren't actually doing it yet, you need a plan of action. For instance--how many clients do you want to serve? how much on average does it cost to serve one client? Do a budget--what are your expenses: staff/counselors, rent, supplies, phone/fax, etc.... also where are the women housed? And do you house women and children or do you only help them? As you can see there is so much to think about.

I'm not sure where you are in your planning, but as you said in your note, it might be best to contact someone who has gone through these exact same steps. You can look through our directory of Women's Services or you can get this information from the shelter you use to work at. There are also national organizations, such as the Family Violence Prevention Fund and National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which is an umbrella group for state shelters.

Wow, that should be a start. Good luck--and your work will certainly improve the lives of others.


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