“What I enjoy most about working with NAF is they respond quickly knowing what our organization is all about. They are nimble….”

Phil Jenni, Executive Director, Wildlife Rehabilitation Center

The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center (WRC) of Minnesota provides quality medical care and rehabilitation for all injured, sick and orphaned wild animals. Phil Jenni, the executive director of WRC, calls it the “emergency veterinarian clinic for wild animals.”

WRC was founded at the University of Minnesota in 1979 as a student club of the Veterinary College, providing care for about 40 animals its first year. Today, now an independent nonprofit organization, WRC served nearly 12,000 patients in 2015, a 32-percent increase compared to 2014. That makes WRC one of the nation's busiest wildlife hospitals, and a pacesetter among all wildlife rehabilitation centers.

Phil, who joined WRC in 2002 and helped champion a building campaign as one of his first tasks, developed a relationship with Nonprofits Assistance Fund (NAF) about 10 years ago. At that time WRC had a loan with a bank for WRC’s building, and because the bank was unable to make another loan, it encouraged Phil to meet with NAF to secure a line of credit. Phil calls it more than a line of credit during those early years, enabling WRC to keep its lights on while it was establishing itself. “There is no way we could have continued without the line of credit from NAF,” Phil said.

Like many nonprofits, a large percentage of donations come to WRC during the final month of the year, yet spring and summer are the busiest for admitting injured, sick or orphaned animals at WRC. Phil said there is an average cost of $100 for each animal admitted, so there would be a huge gap between expenses and revenues this time of year without the line of credit from NAF.

Janet Ogden-Brackett, NAF Associate Director who manages the relationship with WRC, is proud of the relationship NAF has with Phil and WRC. “Phil is a great example of someone who was not trained in finance, but has become such an amazing financial leader of this organization,” Janet said. “He is great with the board, and is a terrific fundraiser.”

Phil laughs and said, “I don’t like to borrow money, and only do it when I have to. But when I need it, all I have to do is call Janet or send her an email, and the money is there the next day – no hassles, no hoops – because she knows us.” 

At one point Phil’s board was asking if there might be other places WRC could get a line of credit at a lower interest rate. And Phil said a lower rate was possible, but he asked the board’s permission to find the “best deal, not necessarily the lowest rate” for WRC, and the board agreed. And for Phil, that best deal is NAF. “What I enjoy most about working with NAF is they respond quickly knowing what our organization is all about. They are nimble – banks are not nimble – NAF is nimble.”

“Now Wildlife Rehabilitation Center could get a line of credit from a bank,  but they choose to stay with NAF,” Janet said. “They are a believer in NAF, and we are a believer in WRC. They have a mission that we can easily embrace.”

Phil leverages NAF as a thought partner as he plans what is next for WRC. For example, as he was finalizing a partnership with the Animal Humane Society, Phil talked to NAF about financial implications. Phil sees other growth and expansion opportunities coming as WRC looks at how it can better serve as a resource for wildlife for the entire state, like the large health-care systems for humans. And NAF will be consulted as those opportunities are explored.

“We have a long-standing relationship with NAF. Managing money is a lot of work, and NAF makes that easier, “Phil said. “They know our mission, know our ebb and flow.”

Phil says that as demand for their services continues to grow, they will soon be bumping up against capacity at their current facility. “Within the next 5 years, we will probably be looking at a capital campaign, and we would turn to NAF,” Phil said. “I hope by then I don’t need the line of credit as we develop our nest egg account, but we will need to expand capital.”

Phil’s recommendation to any nonprofit looking for financing is, “NAF should be the first place you look to. For a bridge loan or line of credit, if anyone asks me about funding, I say to call NAF.”

For more information about Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, click here.