Keeping Rescue Expense Records
It's always a good idea to have your financial records for Rescue activities in good order and to keep copies archived on safe media in a safe place away from your home. You need to do this for tax reasons, especially if you are part of a 501c non-profit organization. Although I've written this as if speaking to the individual who is a donor or worker in the Rescue organization, especially to those fostering dogs, it also applies to the organization's need to keep permanent records.
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If you are looking for a way to archive your records of vet bills etc for each rescued or fostered dog and if you have a scanner and a CD-R or CD-RW drive on your computer, let me suggest that you scan in each receipt for each expense, put expenses for each dog into a spreadsheet, and burn the whole lot of it onto a CD-R. Use CD-R rather than CD-RW because a CD-R cannot be overwritten, ie once written cannot be further altered, thus makes a better documentation. (CD-RW drives can burn onto either CD-R disks or onto CD-RW disks; it's the disk that makes the difference.) Also you can count on a properly burnt CD-R disk to be playable in most computer's CD drives, at least if you have matched your format to those the computer can read (Macs have the advantage here, as for almost everything !). If for each set of data you make at least 2 CD copies, preferably 3, and keep at least one copy off site , ie away from your home (in case your house burns down or is demolished by hurricane or other catastrophe), preferably in the hands of your accountant or your attorney, then you have made yourself a very good paper trail that you can use if you ever have to defend yourself against a challenge from the tax guys or from any ill-wisher who might challenge your integrity. And I am sad to report that the inspiration for this article ccame from a recent incident in which an ill-wisher accused a well-respected Rescue person of misconduct.
If you don't have a CD-R drive you could do the same thing with Zip disks. CD-R drives with USB or Firewire interface are now very very cheap and the disks themselves are about 30 cents apiece, plus another 20 cents for a jewel case to protect the disk; Zip drives cost as much or more and Zip disks don't hold as much and are over $10 apiece, so I think getting a CD-R drive is the better choice. Scanners with USB connections are also extremely cheap. I used to use MO (magnetic optical) disks for my most critical backups and that is still another choice , but the drives are getting rare and the disks are lower capacity and higher cost than CD-R.
What if you don't have a computer, scanner, and CD-R drive? Or what if you are one of those poor souls who are terrified of computers ? Well there is a much more primative and less secure scheme, such as the one I have been following. Now I so far have not bothered to make CDs of my rescue records. I just have a manila envelope for each dog and I keep the original bills in the same manila envelope as that dog's other records (spay certificate, surrender contract, adoption contract , etc etc). I also photocopy the check for the dog's adoption fee and that goes into the envelope. Being a part of a club effort, I send photocopies of bills to our treasurer, either as basis for reimbursement or as basis for a "you paid this on behalf of our 501c non-profit Rescue group" letter to use when filing my taxes. My very biggest expenses have been vet care at the UC Davis Vet Med Teaching Hospital, so of course the record of these expenditures will remain on the VMTH computers long after the 9th Circle of Hell has unfrozen. My private practice vet's records are probably much less secure and enduring. So if my house burns down, I would lose some of my records. I do have spreadsheets summarizing some of my older rescue expenses on floppy disks and on MO disks stored at the bank in my safe deposit box (you can get these for as little as $35 a year and they are a great place to store floppies, Zip disks, and 3.5" MO disks, but the smaller boxes are not wide enough for CD disks).
Now some expenses such as food can be difficult to allocate as you are no doubt feeding several dogs , some fosters and some your own, out of the same bags of food. My suggestion would be to either (a) weigh each dog and apportion the food on the basis of total body weight of rescues to that of your own dogs to figure the percentage of food going to each, or (b) for a more accurate allocation keep a record of how many cups of food per day each dog is getting. (At times I have had starved dogs who need twice the usual amount and at other times obese dogs who get half the ususal amount). (Or you could not bother to keep track of food expenses as a rescue expense and just put it all on your own personal tab, which is what I actually do.) For monthly items like heartworm prevention pills and flea prevention topicals, just keep track of the number of months involved times the per unit cost of the material. Or you could just ignore this as a very minor element.