YouthBridge Endowment Funds: Stray Rescue of St. Louis

Sustainability is what every nonprofit strives for. Revenue sources may come and go. Funders’ priorities shift or circumstances change. Pressure on the annual fund intensifies as the cost of providing services and operating the organization continues to rise. A conversation with YouthBridge’s Barbara Carswell at a seminar in 2018 opened Aimee Dearsley’s eyes to the benefits of an endowment fund in achieving sustainability.

“An endowment fund provides a reliable source of revenue in perpetuity, Barbara explained to me, and relieves the stress of short-term, sometimes unrealistic fundraising goals,” says Dearsley. As Director of Development for Stray Rescue of St. Louis, Dearsley is responsible for meeting those goals so that the organization can continue to be a sanctuary and second chance to every dog and cat that needs one. After speaking further with Carswell and learning about the tools, resources and matching funds available with a YouthBridge endowment fund, Dearsley says she knew it would be a good fit.

While helping Stray Rescue increase their understanding about the growth potential of the endowment fund, Dearsley says YouthBridge also has reached out to introduce them to new funders.

“We’ve had such great support from YouthBridge donors, some even volunteer,” she says. The initial attraction for one YouthBridge client, according to Dearsley, was Stray Rescue’s Puppies for Parole program, which pairs rescued dogs with offenders at medium-security prisons to be trained for service or to learn basic obedience and socialization skills.

“It’s amazing to see how both the dogs and offenders transform within the three-month program,” says Dearsley, who has the opportunity to speak to inmates about the bigger impact of their efforts. “One man was pretty shut down when we met, but I saw him really blossom over time and today he teaches other trainers.”

Second chances and improving quality of life are what drive the Stray Rescue team to go where others may not. Recently, the organization rescued over 50 dogs from a property in rural Missouri, making several trips in order to locate them all. Dogs had been dumped at the property for many years and when the owner died, they were left starving in terrible conditions, says Dearsley. “There weren’t local resources to help, many dogs had died and were being eaten, some were evidently pregnant; it was a horrible situation.”

Dearsley says the organization also knew it did not have space at its facility on Pine Street to house them all, but that its “incredible foster families answered the call.” All of the dogs now have second chances with families and the deceased dogs were brought back to be given “dignity in death,” she says.

In a few short years, space will become less of an issue when Stray Rescue relocates to a new building in the Bevo Hill neighborhood that is three times larger, with significant green space and a campus feel, according to Dearsley. “We are really looking forward to more play yards, walking trails and living spaces for animals to recover at their own pace; along with expanded volunteer programs and community outreach that can take place in our new home.” The organization recently announced a $10 million capital campaign to fund building renovations to the new space.


If you would like to donate or have any questions about this organization, please contact Allison McDonald.