Cancer treatment fund in honor of my cat - can I make this a thing?
May 17, 2019 2:19 PM   Subscribe

I lost my incredible, sweet, beloved cat, Shadow, to cancer this past January. Since then, I've been trying to figure out a way to help save the lives of other cats in honor of him. One thing that occurred to me was starting up some sort of cancer-treatment fund that would assist people who couldn't afford things like radiation or major surgery for their sick kitties. What would be the most feasible way to accomplish this, assuming it's doable at all?

I can, of course, donate small amounts of my own money on occasion to individuals in need, but I'm far from being independently wealthy, and wondering if there's a way to set something up that could have a more lasting impact.

In the aftermath of Shadow's passing (he had an aggressive, inoperable fibrosarcoma in his chest that, sadly, did not shrink enough to save his life after radiation treatment), I've been desperately trying to come up with a way to turn my intense grief into something that could save other cats' lives in honor of my boy.

I've already contacted the pet oncology provider that treated Shadow to ask if they had any kind of memorial/"Good Samaritan" fund system in place, and unfortunately, they do not. They did tell me I wasn't the first to ask, and they may provide something along those lines in the future, but I don't want to wait around for that to maybe or maybe-not happen.

I also had someone suggest to me that there might be a way to orchestrate what I have in mind using GoFundMe tools, but I have no experience with GoFundMe at all, and have no clue where I'd even start with that (or whether it would accomplish what I have in mind).

In the ideal case, this "Shadow Fund" would:

- Be specific to cats, and specific to cancer treatment (there's already a LOT more resources out there for dogs)

- Allow people to make tax-deductible donations toward a general fund that would be awarded to applicants (on the basis of need) once it grew enough to actually pay for a significant treatment (e.g., a course of radiation, chemotherapy, or surgery)

- NOT involve me personally handling other people's money, but having it be managed professionally and according to all applicable laws and regulations.

- Be named for Shadow at some obvious, public level -- I really want to make this a kind of living memorial to him in particular, and I want as many people as possible to know who he was and how much he was loved.

Is there any way to do anything meeting these parameters, short of establishing and incorporating a brand new nonprofit?

E.g., Are there any existing nonprofits that would enable me to set up a treatment-fund pool in Shadow's name? (I've looked extensively, and have come up with nothing so far, hence asking here).

Or, *is* there some user-friendly tool or website out there that is sufficiently well-established and non-sketchy to enable me to accomplish my objective here?

Thanks in advance!
posted by aecorwin to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
It wouldn’t be in Shadow’s name specifically, but most vet schools will have a fund to support treatment of animals whose owners otherwise couldn’t afford advanced medical care. My local vet school at University of Wisconsin has the RESPOND Fund Along with a number of other targeted funding opportunities.
posted by rockindata at 2:59 PM on May 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Especially given these criteria:

-Allow people to make tax-deductible donations
-NOT involve me personally handling other people's money
-I'm far from being independently wealthy

I think your best bet would be to set up a donor-advised fund, which is administered by an umbrella foundation, and then direct donations to nonprofits you like that already do this work (there are a bunch of them!). You could also accept grant applications from nonprofits if you wanted to. You would be able to accept tax-deductible donations through your donor-advised fund.

Now, this would only allow you to donate to nonprofits, not directly to the people/cats in need - but those nonprofits would list "The Shadow Fund" or whatever on their donor pages, and you could set up a website under that name with Shadow's story.

Generally speaking, to set up a dedicated giving pool through a nonprofit that does this work would be enough of a logistical hurdle for the nonprofit that they'd probably only be interested if you had a LOT of money to contribute. And something like GoFundMe won't work for this, as those donations aren't tax-deductible.
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:14 PM on May 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

I forgot to add: when you donate to a nonprofit (via a donor-advised fund or not), you can specify what programs you want the money to be used for. So for example, if you find a good candidate org but they support treatment for both cats and dogs, you could specify that you want your donation to go towards cats only. In this scenario you should reach out to their development department first, tell them you want to make a gift to support treatment for cats, and ask how to phrase your donation letter to that effect.
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:21 PM on May 17, 2019

Thank you for doing this. I am so sorry to hear about Shadow.

All of my cats have FeLV, so this is a cause close to my heart. In February 2018, I lost my little guy Richard to feline fragile skin syndrome, which is a very rare (and utterly horrifying) complication of the aggressive, disseminated lymphoma which often arises from the feline leukemia virus. He was 18 months old and was pure joy stuffed into 5 pounds of orange floof.

Have you looked into the Feline Cancer Core research group at Colorado State University? CSU is one of the top veterinary hospitals in the United States and is on the cutting edge of feline cancer research. I bet they'd be happy to work with you to set up something in honor of your gorgeous guy.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 3:28 PM on May 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

If you get something up and running, let us know. I know I'd donate to a cause like this. Although my kitties over the rainbow bridge didn't have cancer, I did. And I know how my cat took care of me. Cats and cancer are two thing I love to support. Put them in one, and I'm on cloud 9.
posted by kathrynm at 3:35 PM on May 17, 2019 [3 favorites]

Allow people to make tax-deductible donations toward a general fund ... NOT involve me personally handling other people's money, but having it be managed professionally

What you're envisioning will take a lot of time and money. Unless you're willing to essentially have a second job of trying to recruit enough other donors to get the ball rolling, there's not practical to aspire to non-profit status with outsourced money management.
posted by Candleman at 4:02 PM on May 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You definitely need a registered non-profit to be part of the solution, so if you don't want to create one then you need to work with an existing group. I'm not sure what you were looking for when you say that you've looked extensively and come up with nothing? From some short googling, one group that does grants to pet owners for medical treatment is The Pet Fund. If you reached out to them (or anyone - they are just an example), perhaps they could tell you what amount of money you would need to have for them to be willing to manage it as a specific named fund.

And then you actually can use GoFundMe to raise money for a specific charity today, they work through the PayPal Giving Fund which means that donations are tax-deductible if they are going to a registered 501c3. So you get a goal from the charity that will run the endowment, you set up a GoFundMe for that amount of money, and when it reaches the required amount they take over.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 5:53 PM on May 17, 2019

Best answer: I feel you so hard on this. I wanted to set up something similar for my Daksha after he passed from Vaccine-Associated Sarcoma, but I found that it was more than I could really take on. I donate every month to Frankie's Friends, which is not cancer-specific, but helps people who cannot afford the emergency or specialty care that their pets need.

I'm so sorry for your loss.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:14 PM on May 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oh, and every year on the anniversary of his passing I ask people to donate in his name to Frankie's Friends. I am not sure if people actually DO this, but I ask anyway. And they get my $25/month on the regular, which is not much, but is what I can afford.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:15 PM on May 17, 2019

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for the suggestions and information - while I still don't have a fully-fleshed-out plan, I definitely have a better understanding of what this project could entail.

Regarding my "extensive googling", I did actually come across The Pet Fund, but it wasn't clear to me that it might be possible to contact them and ask about setting up a specific named fund. I may very well try that, once I do a bit more research into them as an organization (only because I'd never heard of them until recently).

It's also good to know that there is at least a way to utilize GoFundMe in terms of providing a user-friendly tool for potential donors.

Thanks as well for the kind words regarding Shadow. He lived and died a legend, and will always live in my heart. Cancer sucks, and I really do hope to see the day when more effective treatments are available for both humans and pets. <3
posted by aecorwin at 9:44 AM on May 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: UPDATE: So, I actually ended up getting in touch with the Development Director for Frankie's Friends, and she is helping me set up a dedicated fundraising memorial page for Shadow on their site! I will be able to specifically direct any donations given on Shadow's behalf to feline cancer care, too. Thank you SO much for pointing me in that direction, Medieval Maven - it's sounding like this will accomplish exactly what I am trying to do here.

And I'm so glad organizations like this DO exist...the pain and anxiety that goes with having a critically ill pet is bad enough without the added stress over how one is going to pay for their care, and if Shadow's page can help alleviate this for anyone, anywhere, I will be so grateful.
posted by aecorwin at 1:24 PM on May 28, 2019

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