Chat transcript: CARMAA discusses running a successful nonprofit

Kim Lyons: Our chat today is about entrepreneurship, and this week's story is on CARMAA, a non profit animal adoption company

Kim Lyons: http: //

Guest: Just want to say that I know these women and they do great work. Their goal is to help the animals.

Kim Lyons: you guys have a lot of fans, it seems!

Diane Friske: Just want to say that I know these women and they work hard for the benefit of all the animals. They do a wonderful job.

Kim Lyons: Thanks for you comment, Diane

Lori: Can I adopt a dog through CARMAA?

Kim Lyons: what say you, CARMAA ladies?


CARMAA Directors: CARMAA does not have a physical location but we work with many shelters and rescues in Western PA and can direct you to TONS of adoptable dogs ….. some of which we know personally.

Guest2: CARMAA: how would you compare the time spent fundraising, etc versus the time spent running your business?

Kim Lyons: fundraising takes up a lot of time for non profits, but so crucial

CARMAA Directors: Fundraising really takes up most of our time during the year. Our goal is to be able to host events like DogtoberFEST and be able to cover our costs. As funds come in we are able to expand our vision and increase our programs.

Kim Lyons: that answer segues nicely into the next question:

Richard: My friend told me something about Dogtoberfest. Are you doing it this year and can I bring my dog?

CARMAA Directors: We're always trying to come up with quickie fundraisers that take minimal effort. We just did one with Painting with a Twist that garnered over $1k.

Kim Lyons: do you find one time of year is better for fundraising, or do you try to tailor the events seasonally?

CARMAA Directors: We do tailor a lot of the events to the "non-winter" months. CARMAA attends a lot of animal adoption events during these months to support other organizations and spread our mission. Most of the events that apply to dogs are generally outside anyway!

Joanne M.: How many people work for CARMAA-do you have any volunteers?

CARMAA Directors: Yes, DogtoberFEST is Saturday, Oct. 4 and this year we have a new location. We're at the Waterfront, in Homestead, and as of now we're expecting 50 or more rescues and shelters with adoptable animals. And yes, please bring your dog for a great day! You might meet a friend.

Guest2: Do you have a business location, or do you work out of your homes or another facility?

CARMAA Directors: We do not have a physical location. We choose many places for our meetings and work around each Director's full-time jobs. But, we're all very involved with the shelters in the Pittsburgh area so we are very connected.

guest 3: why did you decied to make the business a non profit? Was it easier?

CARMAA Directors: No one is employed at CARMAA. We have 5 Directors and an Advisory Board along with volunteers. However, we always need volunteers! You can sign up on our website at:

Donna: How long does it take for a nonprofit to get charity status?

CARMAA Directors: We all have full time jobs so the non-profit was a no-brainer! CARMAA sprang from all of our volunteer efforts and as a way to connect the shelters through a more neutral body. It was easier for our mission.

CARMAA Directors: It took a minimum of 6 months. Luckily, we have a lawyer on our Board who handled many of the details and other directors with business experience.

TK: What function does CARMAA meet that other non-profit organizations could not fill on their own?

CARMAA Directors: The function we best serve is as a coalition and umbrella organization. We have the ability to be more flexible. For example, some shelters have a one-year budget cycle and the events we plan can take up to 2-3 years in advance.

guest 3: One follow up question, the guy who asked about Dogtoberfest, he can bring his dog, correct?

CARMAA Directors: Yes, please bring your dog to DogtoberFEST. We have great albums from years' past on our website with photos of public dogs. The ones from our Pooch Pride Parade are fantastic!

Doris: What's the first step in getting another business to partner with your organization?

CARMAA Directors: And, remember, the shelters and rescues all bring dogs ready for adoption!

Kim Lyons: I think I would want to bring dogs home with me if I went to Dogtoberfest. Like, all of the dogs.

CARMAA Directors: For example, we support local businesses by holding events and having meetings at their locations and in turn, they host events for us and support our efforts. This year, we're hoping to work with the businesses around Homestead and Squirrel Hill since we've moved DogtoberFEST to that location.

Kim Lyons: what kind of turnout did you have last year at Dogtoberfest?

Kim Lyons: ... and what are you expecting this year/

CARMAA Directors: It continues to grow each year. This year we're expecting over 2,000!

TK: How many hours of your week/month/year do you commit to CARMAA to have it function efficiently?

Diane Friske: They also have a fun "Night at the Races" in the fall. Lots of chances to win at the races and a great Chinese auction.

Kim Lyons: time is an even bigger challenge than money when you're starting a business from scratch

CARMAA Directors: It's contingent on the events we're hosting. Around the time of DogtoberFEST and some of our big speaker events (this year we had Victoria Stilwell from Animal Planet) is can be like a full-time job! There is not a week that goes by that one or all of us is not putting in several hours toward our mission.

Kim Lyons: I meant to phrase that as a question: "Is time a bigger challenge than money"

Kim Lyons: Or is it all about the money? : )

CARMAA Directors: It would say money is a bigger challenge than time only because some of us are self-employed so we do have flexibility from time to time.

Guest2: Are there funding sources available when starting a nonprofit? I mean, besides taking out a loan or something like that, were you able to get any start-up funds to help?

CARMAA Directors: We leaned on our friends and family for some small fundraisers initially like our Night at the Races event and that started the ball rolling. At the start, we were trying to make enough to support DogtoberFEST and host a successful event and now each event builds on the other.

CARMAA Directors: At four years into the process, we just received our first grant, so it's not easy to rely on that revenue only.

Kaye: I think it's important to educate dog/pet owners as a way to prevent animals from being dropped off at shelters. Do you do any educational programs?

CARMAA Directors: Yes, we've brought in many professional dog trainers and speakers over the years. One came all the way from Norway! We hope that people are willing to learn about the dog-human bond and become more understanding and tolerant of the relationship. Sometimes it's overwhelming to live with a difficult dog and we're available to let people know that you're not alone and there is help out there locally and nationally.

Kim Lyons: And just getting back to the comment about grants: that can be a time-consuming process because you know so many other organizations are in need of funding too, right?

CARMAA Directors: We had 250 people come to our Victoria Stilwell lecture (host of "It's Me or the Dog") last year. And, we're bringing Aimee Sadler in June with her program, Playing for LIfe, to help owners understand dog-dog play and communication.

Heather: I went to CARMAA's lecture with Victoria Stilwell at Duquesne U. She was AMAZING! thanks for the opportunity to see her in Pittsburgh!

TK: With regard to the grant question, how did you find out about the grant and did anyone associated with CARMAA have a background in applying for grants?

CARMAA Directors: Grants are very complicated and the process is very time consuming. They are usually very specific with their requirements so you have to sort through and make sure you're applying in a very pointed and timely fashion. We've had advise from people who have master's in grant writing and received some volunteer help, but yes, everyone is competing for the same small slice of the pie!

Kim Lyons: So before we wrap, CARMAA Directors, give us the details on Dogtoberfest one more time

CARMAA Directors: DogtoberFEST is this coming October! Saturday the 4th from 11-4 pm at the Waterfront Towne Square in Homestead right below Homestead Highlevel Bridge! Hope for good weather!

Kim Lyons: Yes! Because as much as everyone loves dogs, dogs in the rain aren't the greatest smell... : )

Guest2: thanks CARMAA !

Kim Lyons: OK, that will do it for today, folks

CARMAA Directors: Thanks for spreading our mission, Kim!

Kim Lyons: Thanks to the volunteers at CARMAA for participating. Check them out here: http: //

Kim Lyons: Thanks for helping out last minute with our photo mixup yesterday, guys, I think you all looked lovely in the Business section today!

Kim Lyons: http: //

CARMAA Directors: Yes, were thrilled with the front page coverage plus a photo.

Kim Lyons: Hope you all can join us next week for another entrepreneur chat. If you have suggestions for companies I should highlight please get in touch:

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