Amanda Lollar once thought
bats were "vermin" until one hot day in 1989 she discovered an
injured Mexican free-tailed bat baking on the sidewalk. She
couldnít stand to let it suffer, so she brought it home and
set out to the library to find out how to care for bats. The
small mammal, "Sunshine," spent the remaining year-and-a-half
of her life in Lollarís care.
"Seeing this little
creature in front of me, it was the complete opposite of
everything I had ever been told [or thought about bats]," says
Lollar. "I was looking at a gentle, clean, intelligent,
inquisitive, beneficial creature. It inspired me to teach
others what I had learned and open other peopleís eyes."
In 1994, Lollar founded Bat
World Sanctuary, Inc. and opened the organizationís first bat
sanctuary. The Mineral Wells, Texas-based refuge has been a
place for hundreds of non-releasable bats to live the rest of
their natural days; it also serves as a temporary shelter to
bats with non-permanent injuries before being released back to
their natural habitat.
Bat Worldís development
started off slow, but it is now Lollarís lifestyle. Over the
last 20 years, she has learned a lot of lessons to pass on to
those wishing to start their own charitable organization.
Bat World Sanctuary, Inc.
is registered as a 501c3 nonprofit and Lollar highly
recommends those, seeking to do the same, to find a lawyer or
accountant to help with this process. Lollar also advises that
prospective charitable organizations recruit a Board of
Directors with multi-talented, trustworthy members that are
also passionate for the cause. She adds that charities should
not rely on one single source of funding in order to keep the
organization running. (Bat World has raised funds through
numerous avenues, such as donations, Adopt-a-Bat programs,
merchandise sales and workshops.)
Finally, Lollar cannot
stress enough the power of social networking. She says one of
the biggest mistakes a non-profit or charity can make is
ignoring those who make contact, as it not only could
jeopardize potential donations, but it also tarnishes part of
the organizationís mandate (in her case educating the public
about bat conservation.) Lollar shares that one time she had a
lengthy phone conversation with someone looking for advice on
how to care for an injured bat. A couple weeks later, that
same person called back revealing that she was with a
foundation that wanted to donate $25,000 to Bat World.
"Donít ignore anyone no
matter how trivial their question or need may seem. Everyone
deserves a response," says Lollar. "Particularly if a donation
is made, the worse thing that anyone can do is to not thank
their donor. If that person was only able to donate $5, that
person should get a thank you just as meaningful as someone
who might have donated $50,000 because that $5 may have been
huge for that person."
Lollar has some help from
volunteers (including her husband) but spends seven days a
week, up to 20 hours a day, caring for the bats at the
sanctuary. But Lollar says that she "wouldnít trade it for
anything in the world" as she truly loves what she does.
"If youíre going to start a
non-profit or be behind a cause, it has to be your lifeís
work," she says. "You have to be willing to devote almost all
your time and energy. Itís like a child you have to basically
raise and nurture constantly. Youíre going to learn along the
way whatís good and whatís not. Youíre going to grow as the