Establishing a partnership between a local animal rescue and a local animal shelter or animal control facility is a great place to start. Both organizations have something to gain from the ongoing relationship but it is important to establish the proper rules and understanding up front. Unfortunately, many well established facilities have had difficulty working with animal rescue organizations in the past so they are likely going to require some formality to the agreement to ensure that the rules and operating procedures are clear. But do not let this scare you off. The right written agreement will benefit the both of you:
Requirements to establish & maintain the partnership – What are the conditions under which the partnership is established that if they change, would change the arrangement? For example if one party requires the other to be a 501(c)(3) IRS recognized charity. This portion of the agreement specifies those key requirements and what happens to the agreement if those conditions change.
Key Questions to ask yourself: – What elements in the organization you are partnering with could change? Leadership, operating structure, costs, etc. – Is there a threshold for change that you are willing to accept and milestones that would cause you to cancel the agreement
Specific conditions or rules the partnership will follow – This section specifies the day-to-day operation of the partnership. It outlines the tactical items and rules that each party will follow and what is and is not acceptable. In the case of animal welfare it may specify what types of animals are included in the agreement and which are not. Further it may specify the workflow for how things operate (i.e. you can apply for the animal after XX days but before XX days).
Key Questions to ask yourself: – Are the conditions mutually beneficial or one sided? Is your organization able to be successful under the rules? – Does the other party have the ability to change the rules at any time? What clauses protect you from changes to the agreement?
Protocols for communication – Clear and effective communication is critical for a partnership to be successful. Many issues arise because the communication protocols were not clearly laid out for who to call, how often to call, and how to handle urgent requests versus standard ones. Clearly defining the standard and backup process for both parties will help proactively eliminate problems down the road.
Key Questions to ask yourself: – Do I know how the normal course of contact will work? Who to call, email or reach out to? What about their backup? – What about urgent or non-standard requests? Does the protocol outline how these will be handled?
Issue escalation & remediation approach – It is not possible to think of every possible scenario when laying out an agreement. Further, things do not always go according to plan and issues will arise. The agreement should outline the process of how to handle issues. Who is involved, what the governance and final decision making process is, and how to handle disagreements should all be included.
Key Questions to ask yourself: – Is it clear how issues will be handled both in non-urgent and urgent situations? Who is involved and who is consulted? – What is the process when the initial parties do not agree? What is the escalation process or who has the ultimate decision making authority?
Duration & termination of the agreement – Specifying the length of the agreement and the renewal or termination date is important to ensure that it is not running perpetually without an end. These expiration and termination dates provide the opportunity to review with your partner how the agreement is working and any changes you would like to make to make things run more smoothly.
Key Questions to ask yourself: – What is the initial term of the agreement? Is there a trial period before a lengthy agreement goes into place? – Are there termination clauses for convenience if one or the other party decides they do not want to have an agreement anymore?