5-Minute Interview: Howard Baskin, chairman, Big Cat rescue
I met Carole in late 2002 and became a full-time volunteer in early 2003. Carole and I married in late 2004. My background includes a Harvard MBA, 11 years with Citicorp (now Citigroup), then ten years in small businesses where I had some kind of equity participation. In most cases, I went into an existing business at the point where the entrepreneur had gotten it started but was unable to take it further without better organization.
The sanctuary was very similar, except nonprofit. Learning abour the nonprofit world has been an interesting challenge, but the similarities far outweigh the differences.
We went from useless financial statements to detailed, audited financials that let us make intelligent decisions. We started with the “low-hanging fruit,” — the place I thought it was easiest to build revenue, the tours. As we generated modest surpluses and Carole could spend less time worrying about whether the cats would be fed, she focused on building her Web skills and the Web content while I networked and obtained donated advertising to build the tour traffic.
More visitors translated into more potential donors. The demographic of our donors began rising as awareness built through … personal networking, as well as the Web traffic. So in addition to more donors, we started seeing larger-denomination donors. Other efforts described above like the Fur Ball and ink recycle were generating increased revenue during those years as well.
The bottom line is that the $107,000 and $190,000 in donations and tour revenue respectively in 2003 have grown to $600,000-plus and $500,000-plus respectively in 2007, with donations for the first time exceeding tour revenue. This has allowed us to build larger enclosures, buy better food, make much needed capital expenditures, and in the coming month start an Endowment Fund by seeding it from the operating funds.