Ever wonder how you can help your local animal shelter (or, perhaps your own facility) raise some extra money? We know that saving pets is not always cheap. Shelters require food and bedding, cleaning solution, medical supplies… not to mention scanner technology. One universal microchip scanner can cost anywhere from $300 to $800 (much cheaper than that and the scanner is likely non-universal). It’s a good chunk of change, but when animals’ lives hang in the balance, shelters can’t afford to skimp on crucial resources like pet ID. Whether you’re an animal lover who adopted your pet from a shelter, or you work/volunteer at one, you can make a real difference by helping offset some of those costs and raising money creatively.
The following 10 fundraising ideas will make it easy for you to get started.
1. Have a “Bark Sale.” Pet owners love to spoil their pups (and themselves!), so a bake sale is the perfect way to draw them into your shelter. Include treats for both pets and people, and label them clearly so everyone can munch stress-free. If you don’t have a baker’s thumb, encourage local bake shops to donate muffins, cupcakes, and cookies, as well as homemade dog/cat biscuits — with all proceeds going to shelter programs.
2. Hold an “Adopted Pet Beauty Contest”. This is a fun way for pet owners to show off their pets, and it also helps you promote pet adoptions at your shelter. Invite all shelter-adopted pets to participate for an entrance fee. You can come up with creative awards and build a runway or agility course so the pets can strut their stuff in front of a few (unbiased) judges. Bonus: You can raise additional funds by selling food and beverages, or offering to take photos of the contestants. You can even paint a glamorous “step and repeat” photo backdrop where the glamorous pet stars can strike a pose. Cute!
3. Organize a pet supply drive. Place large donation bins at the front of the shelter near the entrance doors to collect pet items from both regulars and visitors. Create large, colorful banners to hang around the bins, and place signs around your community to encourage neighbors to come by with some new, unopened toys or treats. You can use these donated items in your shelter, or sell them in your lobby to raise extra funds.
4. Set up a dog walk/run/parade. This can be a fun, yet highly labor-intensive activity to coordinate, so be sure to involve your entire community when planning a dog walk. Encourage participants to dress up their pets and even decorate “floats” in honor of their pet. As with any dog walk, allow participants to form teams and compete to see which team can raise the most money to donate to your shelter. Bonus: Use this as an opportunity to showcase your adoptable pets to the public.
5. Host a dog wash. There’s not much that beats a refreshing “water fight” on a hot summer day. Invite the public to bring their dogs and get them washed for a small donation. Shelter staff and volunteers can run the wash, soap up the dogs, and dry them off with towels. Not only will the dogs have a blast splashing around, but their owners will leave with clean, happy, and tired pups.
6. Hold an art exhibition. This is a great idea if you live in an artistic community with a lot of local art shops. Ask some artists if they can create animal artwork to showcase at an exhibit at your shelter. You can charge an entrance fee for the public to view the exhibit, and then sell the art pieces at a reasonable price. Ask the artist(s) if they would be willing to donate a percentage (or all) of the proceeds to your shelter.
7. Throw a seasonal party. You’ve already got a large, available open space that would be perfect for a party – your very own shelter facility! Sell tickets in advance at a cheaper price, and you can raise prices for tickets sold at the door. Provide some food and refreshments, and have fun activities depending on what season it is (ie: for a Halloween-themed party, you can have a costume contest for both humans and pets). Decorate your kennels for the festivities, and potential adopters may be inspired by your holiday cheer.
8. Have an auction. You can start by auctioning off smaller items like pet supplies, and then move up to pet services, such as an hour-long dog walk by a professional dog walker, five free washes at a local groomer, or even a free microchip for their pet. Take time beforehand to form relationships with local businesses and ask if they would be willing to donate their services for a good cause. You can also put together one big, fantastic prize (or see if someone is willing to donate something that’s worth a bit more) and send it off with the highest bidder.
9. Get the kids involved. Most kids love animals, and they will work hard to help the puppies and kittens in your shelter. Partner up with local elementary schools, boy/girl scouts, and after-school programs to see if they’d like to sell cookies or start a recycling program to help raise money for your shelter. You can reward them with a free tour of the shelter and by letting them socialize the friendly dogs and cats.
10. Last but not least, start a simple campaign. It all begins with education. The public wants to help your cause, so don’t be afraid to make the request! You can have the staff and volunteers tell your adopters about your goal and ask if they’d like to contribute when they’re checking out in the lobby. You can also go door-to-door with fun signs and baskets and ask for donations. Sometimes, the old-fashioned “ask and tell” method will get people interested enough to donate. Local businesses like grocery stores and pet supply retailers may even be willing to spread the word or offer a “register roundup” for donations. It never hurts to ask.
But wait! Before you speed off to accomplish all of the ideas above, remember these three key take-aways for holding a fundraiser:
- Have a clear goal. Put together a mission statement and a fundraising goal. Your mission statement should be compelling and concise so potential donors will understand your shelter’s needs. Make that mission the driving motivation to reach your goal. Also, make it clear where the money is going. Encourage people to donate to a good cause, and tout the fact that 100% of proceeds go toward helping the community’s animals.
- Band together as a community. You can’t do everything alone. Recruit help from friends, neighbors, and other pet lovers. The more hands and voices you can involve, the faster the job will go, and the more money you can raise (you may even find yourself whistling while you work!).
- Spread the word. It won’t do you much good to set up an awesome fundraiser and not tell anyone about it. There are a lot of ways to advertise an event – put up fliers, post it on your website, share it on Facebook. Take advantage of community newsletters, school assemblies, farmer’s market billboards, MeetUp groups, Craigslist, and other online and print media. Get creative with how you spread the word — the sky is the limit!
Wondering where to buy a universal microchip scanner? Many companies will offer discounts for high volume shelters (Found Animals will offer discounts for both high volume shelters and 501c3 organizations), so make sure to check with the supplier before buying to see what options you have.