Fundraising for Your Animal Shelter: 4 Engaging Ideas
Fundraising for Your Animal Shelter: 4 Engaging Ideas
Fundraisers keep your animal shelter running, and planning a complete fundraising calendar can be a full-time job. Between everyday responsibilities and running your regular set of fundraisers, it’s normal to fall into the trap of running the same initiatives over and over. While there’s no reason to stop hosting fundraisers with successful track records, mixing it up can bring attention and earn your animal shelter much-needed revenue.
Animal shelters have a few natural advantages over other types of nonprofits when it comes to fundraising. Animals, especially household pets, have many fans willing to help out. In fact, Gingr’s report on pet industry trends estimates that over $99 billion was spent on pet industry products and services.
While animal shelters differ from for-profit businesses in the pet industry, these numbers still represent major support for organizations working for the good of domestic animals. Your animal shelter can run with this popularity and mix up your fundraising efforts with these four ideas:
- Sell pet-themed merchandise.
- Host classes.
- Partner with local businesses.
- Tell your animals’ stories.
For each fundraiser, keep track of your overall donations, supporter retention, and other key performance metrics. Doing so will help you measure your success rates, allowing you to compare your new initiatives to your previous event calendar. Then, you can identify places for potential growth and celebrate fundraising wins.
1. Sell pet-themed merchandise.
As mentioned, animal shelters have one fundamental advantage over other nonprofit organizations: the animals. Both animal supplies and photographs of cute animals are sure to appeal to animal lovers. Your animal shelter can partner with product fundraising suppliers to purchase pet-themed merchandise in bulk.
Of course, not everything with a picture of a cat or dog slapped on it will be an instant bestseller. Choose products that make sense for your audience. Many animal shelters have found success by selling:
- Pet-themed apparel. T-shirts are a classic merchandise idea for a reason. They provide your supporters with a useful item for their day-to-day life. Not to mention, any time they wear it out in public, they’ll provide additional advertising for your shelter. The COVID-19 pandemic has also caused facemasks to rise in popularity, and many people are likely to continue wearing masks as a preventative measure during cold seasons. For your shelter, this means custom face masks are another product you can add to your apparel sales.
- Pet supplies. Leashes, tennis balls, frisbees, and dog treats are all in regular demand from pet owners. Keep your shelter stocked with these items all year round to help equip new pet owners with the necessary supplies. Consider partnering with a local pet business like doggy daycares, pet groomers, and obedience trainers to help market your products.
- Pet photoshoots. Most of us are accustomed to our social media timelines being flooded with photos of our friends and family’s pets. Offer to take professional photos of people with their pets to give them their own photos to post online. Consider asking them to tag your animal shelter as well to help spread the word about your fundraiser.
Merchandise provides your supporters with reminders of your animal shelter they’re likely to hold on to long-term. Plus, branded apparel and supplies also act as additional marketing for your shelter. Make sure your merchandise features your shelter’s name and logo, so your supporters can share where they got their t-shirt, frisbee, or photo from with ease.
2. Host classes.
Your animal shelter’s volunteers and staff know how to work with animals from a variety of backgrounds. You can put this expertise to even further use by hosting classes to help new pet owners train their dogs in basic obedience.
Of course, before you start lining up your class schedule, you’ll need to make the necessary preparations, including tasks like:
- Finding teachers. Unfortunately, not everyone who loves working with animals necessarily knows how to train others on how to interact with them. Dog obedience also has multiple schools of thought, meaning that different teachers are likely to have different approaches. Survey your employees to see if any of them have the appropriate experience, and, if not, consider asking local dog trainers to donate a few hours of their time to a good cause.
- Ensuring you have the necessary space. Placing many dogs in a small space will likely lead to distracted animals that will have a hard time learning. Set up your teaching space far in advance, and make sure your students (both dogs and their trainers) have plenty of room to work with.
- Investing in the proper insurance. While your animal shelter should already have insurance, classes where people interact with either their own dog or dogs from your shelter may require additional waivers and insurance. Research animal shelter and pet business insurance laws to understand exactly what protections are required, but in most cases, you’ll likely need all participants to sign a release form.
Additionally, as Bonfire’s guide to animal shelter fundraising points out, classes are also an opportunity for attracting new adopters. “[Hosting dog obedience classes for beginners] is a great way to get potential adopters to start interacting with the animals and to be more prepared for when they actually own a dog.” These classes can be a win-win for your shelter and potential adopters—you’ll receive a fundraising boost, while prospective pet owners can get more comfortable around their potential new pet.
3. Partner with local businesses.
Businesses and corporations are often interested in partnering with philanthropic organizations that align with their mission. Doing so helps earn them a reputation boost in their communities and can improve engagement amongst their employees. This means your animal shelter likely has the opportunity to partner with the pet-focused businesses in your community.
Businesses can support your animal shelter in many ways, including straightforward monetary donations. As you approach potential sponsors, be open to accepting a variety of support options, such as:
- Marketing assistance. As mentioned, local businesses can help sell your animal shelter’s branded products in their own stores. They can also help market fundraising events by reaching out to their customers or encouraging their employees to attend.
- Workplace giving programs. Rather than donating outright, some businesses may be interested in setting up internal giving programs. These programs allow their employees’ donations to go farther when they give to a specific cause by matching their donations. When partnered with the right businesses, your animal shelter has the potential to earn even more through a giving program than you would with a one-time donation.
- Item donations or reduced product costs. Businesses that align with your animal shelter such as pet supplies stores may be able to provide tangible items like pet food or beds. In some cases, they may be able to donate them outright, whereas local stores may only have the resources to offer them at a discounted price.
No matter the type of support you receive from businesses, be sure to thank them for their generosity. Establishing positive relationships even with organizations that aren’t able to donate at the moment can leave the donor open for future sponsorship opportunities.
4. Tell your animals’ stories.
Online fundraising is a necessary component of almost every nonprofit’s fundraising strategy, and animal shelters are no exception. Animal shelters looking to fundraise online need to have the right software set up to accept donations, and they also need the right approach to succeed in fast-moving online spaces.
Storytelling is a powerful component of many nonprofit’s fundraising strategies, especially for virtual fundraising. Your animal shelter can fundraise through well-crafted social media posts that tell your animals’ stories as well. A few elements of an effective story are:
- Attention-grabbing feature image. Blocks of text alone, even when well-written, rarely do as well as posts accompanied by photos. Take eye-catching photos of the animals you plan to showcase. Starting your story off with a visual also helps readers easily imagine and identify with the cat or dog whose story you’re telling.
- Emotional appeal. While many of us like to think we put facts before our emotions, the truth is that emotional appeals work. For many of us, they work especially well when animals are involved. Center one of your animals as the hero of your post and mention their name to help readers make a personal connection and become invested in helping them find a home.
- Call to action. Whether you’re asking for donations, adoptions, or volunteers, be sure to give your audience an action they can channel their emotional response into. Provide your contact information and a link to your website at the end of your posts, so readers will be able to get in touch immediately after reading.
Telling your animals’ stories can help fundraise for your shelter and find some of your animals good homes. Maintaining a consistent posting schedule on your social media accounts will also help build up your follower base, increasing your fundraising potential.
Fundraising is a vital part of keeping your shelter running. If you find yourself falling back on the same fundraising strategies over and over again, consider branching out and brainstorming how you can reach new supporters. Make sure to keep your fundraising options open by making the proper investments, whether that’s keeping up with your social media accounts, connecting with local businesses, or researching potential fundraising partners.
Hi, I’m Casey! I’m the Sales Manager at Gingr software. Originally from Indianapolis, I now live in Colorado with my wife and dog, Dexter. Our hobbies include hiking, skiing, and visiting local breweries.