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Case Study: Developing Earned Income at the RSPCA

The RSPCA is the largest animal welfare organisation in Europe. It rescues, rehabilitates and rehomes hundreds of thousands of animals each year in England and Wales. The RSPCA also offers advice on caring for all animals, and campaigns to change laws that will protect them, which it enforces through prosecution. But they face the challenge that they don’t have enough money in donations to deliver the services they want to.
This article explains how =mc helped them assess the potential for setting up two earned income businesses to extend their work. It also explains how the business plan created then persuaded a major foundation to invest almost £500K to help set up the ‘social’ businesses.


There were two areas where the RSPA believed there was a market for earned income services:

  • A farm animal welfare service which allowed farmers to call in specialist RSPCA inspectors to advise them on welfare issues
  • A service focusing on the entertainment industry – from films to theatre- ensuring at animals employed in productions were safeguarded.

But they needed more than a belief, and so sent out a tender to some of the UK’s top consultancies to bid for the work. =mc was selected after a rigorous process. This was the first time that =mc had worked with RSPCA.

There were concerns to the new approach – from staff, from managers, from board members and even from some supporters. One key concern was that any scheme had to make additional money over and above the cost – and it had to fit with the RSPCA’s mission.

=mc’s brief

=mc was asked to do three things over two months:

  • explore the market for each of these services – how big it might be, who the competition was, what the potential was for a genuinely added value RSPCA proposition
  • assess what the risks might be for the RSPCA in terms of reputation and, of course, financially. As a complement we had to establish exactly what the benefits might be if one or both of the schemes worked out.
  • Write a linked set of business plans with financial projections against a number of possible outcomes – and identifying price points to provide the services that made them viable and profitable.

What we did

We undertook a major market survey in both these very different businesses. So in the farm animal welfare space there were a number of individual providers competing locally and off a very low cost base. For the entertainment industry the big competition was the American Society for the Protection of Animals (ASPCA) whose name appears at the end of almost every film involving animals. So the plans had to be very different.

The resulting business plans were distinct but linked. They covered:

  • The financial potential to contribute to RSPCA unrestricted fund
  • How the business might contribute to RSPCA mission
  •  Who the customers might be for any service
  • How the services should be marketed
  • What management structure and resources RSPCA needed
  • What legal structure RSPCA should use to deliver the services

Finally, significant time was spent developing a strategy to ensure that the services formed an integral part of a new approach by the RSPCA.


The senior managers and Board at the RSPCA were impressed with the thoroughness of the plan and optimistic about the potential they offered to adopt a new way of delivering on the mission – and raising unrestricted resources to support other work.

Even better news followed when a major foundation offered almost £500K to support the new social businesses. 

These businesses are now established and beginning to pay dividends for the RSPCA.

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