Q&A: Dawn Mellen offers tips on horse grants

Dawn at Churchill Downs during the 2011 Breeders' Cup

Dawn at Churchill Downs during the 2011 Breeders’ Cup

Every year, Dawn Mellen throws her good business sense and her charitable heart into helping Thoroughbred horse charities make financial ends meet.

Through her nonprofit funding charity After the Finish Line, which grows stronger with increasing donations from within the racing world, Mellen seeks to help charities help themselves. Her job is to help certified 501 (c) 3 Thoroughbred charities meet both their expected and unexpected expenses.

In this week’s Clubhouse Q&A, she explains the two funding mechanisms available through After the Finish Line to certified horse charities, and offers advice on avoiding some common pitfalls in the application process.

Q: Dawn, could you start by explaining how After the Finish Line, which you founded, differs from other grant-giving organizations?

The short answer is: ATFL awards year-round funding for Thoroughbreds at all different stages of their racing and breeding careers.  In each of the twelve months of the year we award funding, either grants or emergency funds, to help the horses.

After the Finish Line awards year-round funding for Thoroughbred horses that can no longer race or breed. Once a year in May we award yearly Grants. The other eleven months of the year we award Emergency Funds because we know every day a horse needs our help. The funding can be used to save horses at auctions, pay for surgery or medical expenses, pay for farrier, dental or vet expenses, provide hay and feed, pay boarding expenses or transport a Thoroughbred to safety. We do not fund to build barns, for fencing or arena footing.

Q: What is the total number of ATFL grants and emergency funds given last year?

In 2012 ATFL awarded a total of 65 grants and emergency funds to rescue organizations in 17 states helping approximately 300 horses.

We award emergency funds eleven months of the year. The total number rescue organizations that can receive emergency funds on a monthly basis are between one and five.

I should note that a rescue organization can apply as often as they want, but that ATFL limits the awards to a maximum of three times per year, per organization, to be fair to all the rescues.

Q: How can a rescue organization find out more about funding opportunities at ATFL?

Dawn with her "California snowball" Ashley's Folly

Dawn with her “California snowball” Ashley’s Folly

Information about both funding programs is included in out monthly newsletters found on the ATFL News page of our website. ATFL includes grant information in our newsletters published in December, January, February and March. We are now in the process of creating a new website that will have a link for our funding programs.

People seeking grants for their certified 501 (c) 3 organizations can start the process by contacting me, at dawn@afterthefinishline.org, to request a grant application. Rescue organizations that assist any breed of horse can apply. Yet ATFL’s funds can only be used to help the Thoroughbreds.

And they should keep in mind that we award grants to certified nonprofits whose mission is to save, care for, rehabilitate and re-train Thoroughbred ex-racehorses for a second career or retirement.

Q:  Please tell me more about the individual circumstances of Thoroughbreds who may be eligible for help from After the Finish Line.

ATFL funds Thoroughbreds at all different stages of their career.

This includes Thoroughbred foals bred to race, Thoroughbreds still maturing but not yet brought to the racetrack to start training. Thoroughbreds who have started training but after evaluation, are not considered good racing candidates.

We also assist with Thoroughbreds who were injured while training or racing and can no longer race even after a long layoff. And with Thoroughbreds who were injured while training or racing, but who do not have owners or trainers willing to support the horse through a long layoff, even if the horse has a good chance of racing again. We also help Thoroughbred stallions and broodmares who are not producing quality foals or are barren.

Q: When should a horse charity seek grant funding?

A horse charity should seek funding before they need it.

They should always be seeking funding. After all, how can you help a horse with an empty bank account?

Horse rescues often face all-too-common situations when Thoroughbreds in their care face unexpected sickness or injury. At the same time, rescues continue to be asked to take in more and more horses, but due to a lack of funds, they often have to turn away deserving animals.

The majority of rescue organizations have just enough funds to provide for the basic needs of their horses, so when the unexpected happens, funds need to be diverted from the overall budget, which cares for all the horses, to help with the unexpected need.

I always suggest that board members and volunteers of the rescue organizations meet in the beginning of the year to plan and discuss their yearly fundraisers. And I encourage them to build relationships with local businesses and media to help support those fundraisers.

Q: What are the common pitfalls or mistakes made when a horse charity applies for grant or emergency funding? Do you have any tips to make the process smoother?

Paradise, a rescue horse at Harmony and Hope Horse Haven just benefitted from an ATFL grant for hay, grain and farrier expenses

Paradise, a rescue horse at Harmony and Hope Horse Haven just benefitted from an ATFL grant for hay, grain and farrier expenses

One of the biggest oversights I see is that they don’t read the instructions and return a complete application.

Others don’t do their own research to learn about the funding organization they are applying to. Before sending in a grant or emergency fund application, the applicant should know what the funding organization provides funds for.

Some tips: They can easily learn about the funding organization by reading their website or Facebook page.

Another tip would be for the applicant to try to answer their own questions, by doing their own research, and only ask questions of the funding organization when they can’t find the answers to their questions.

Q: What else can an applicant do to help make the process more successful?

If possible, grant requests should be sent by the president of the organization, and if they are not coming through the president, that person should be CC’d in the email to ATFL.

Applicants should always include their mailing address and website address. They should state why they need funding. Tell us what happened and what they need to do to help the horse(s).

I should also note that we require pictures and conduct a telephone interview. We also request copies of invoices that match their funding request.

In addition, they should also know and state the type of funding they are requesting. This would be either a grant or emergency funds.

Q: Please explain the difference between grant and emergency funds.

Our two funding options that require an application are grants (offered in May) and emergency funds (offered the other 11 months except May).

Both funding sources can be used to save horses at auctions, pay for surgery or medical expenses, pay for farrier, dental or vet expenses, provide hay and feed, pay boarding expenses or transport a Thoroughbred to safety. We do not fund to build barns, for fencing or arena footing.

ATFL also offers Compassion Funds. For this type of funding, ATFL contacts the rescue after hearing about the horse(s) in need. We learn about the situation through a telephone conversation and we fill in the application as we speak with the rescue. Perhaps they have already raised the funds needed. If not, we will decide how much we can offer them to help their horse(s). The rescue must send us a copy of the invoice(s) showing how they spent the funds and a few pictures of the horse (s).

After the Finish Line's logo represents pride in Thoroughbreds, and a desire to help them

After the Finish Line’s logo represents pride in Thoroughbreds, and a desire to help them

For the past two years ATFL has mailed surprise holiday checks to the rescues. We appreciate their commitment to the Thoroughbred ex-racehorses in their care. Their demanding work does not go unnoticed and ATFL applauds their dedication to our equine friends.

5 responses to “Q&A: Dawn Mellen offers tips on horse grants”

  1. Patti Shirley

    Dawn Mellen and After The Finish Line have helped us numerous times throughout the years with everything from equine dentistry to training to help make horses more adoptable. It’s obvious that she works very hard to raise money for non-profits who take care of off-the-track Thoroughbreds. We have recently asked for her help again. Keep up the wonderful work, Dawn!

  2. Lynn Sullivan

    (ATFL and) Dawn Mellen was kind enough to help our organization early last winter when we were short on hay due to the 2 year drought. Hay prices were extremely high if you could find any at all, and panic was beginning to set in. Thanks to this organization, we were able to buy enough hay to get us through a really rough time. We can not thank them enough!

  3. Susan Crane-Sundell

    Dawn Mellen has worked so hard to educate the public about the lives of OTTBs. She deserves great respect for all her efforts and advocacy. So many people committed to rescue don’t have backgrounds in development and that can be the most frustrating part of all!

  4. Linda R. Moss

    Susan – Thank you for highlighting the OUTSTANDING work that Dawn and ATFL does!

    Dawn – Thank YOU for your heart and efforts on behalf of the OTTBs!! I hope to connect with you again soon.

  5. Elizabeth Dickerson

    Thank you to Dawn Mellen and After the Finish Line!

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