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Animal Shelter and Rescue Fundraisers


Find ways to raise funds for your animal shelter or rescue group from this list of nineteen fundraising ideas:

--  Sponsor Your Own Community Events
--  Set Up Contests with Entry Charges / Sponsorships
--  Participate in Sports Events, Festivals, Fairs, and Community Events in Your Area
--  Participate in New Store Opening Festivities, Openings of New Facilities or Parks in your Community
--  Seek Ongoing Company Sponsorships
--  Sell Items for Your Shelter
--  Set Up Sponsorships for Specific Pets
--   Revenue Sharing by Local Businesses
--   Partner with Upscale Businesses in the Travel and Hospitality Industry
--   Partner with Pet Friendly Hotels to Raise Funds for Your Shelter
--   Funds in the Form of Pet Food: Establish and Support Pet Food Banks
--   Tag Along with Seasonal Events in Your Community
--   Set Up a Resale Shop in Your Area to Raise Money for Your Shelter
--   Sponsor Parties at Your Shelter for the Animals
--   Combine Kids' Programs, Humane Education and Fundraising
--   Sponsor Classes or Workshops at Your Shelter, Veterinarians' Offices, Pet Stores, etc and Charge a Fee for Attendance
--   Partner with a Local Marketing Firm, Advertising Agency, Public Relations Expert or Experienced Fundraiser
--   Establish "In Honor Of" or "In Memory of" Memorials or Donation Opportunities
--   Find Fundraising Ideas Online
--   Marketing your Fundraising Events

Also see fundraising ideas on our blog.

Sponsor Your Own Community Events

Throughout the year, schedule a variety of events appropriate to your area. Tap into the interests of potential donors and local events.

Think outside the box. Galas with dinner, dancing and private auctions are commonplace, but go beyond these.

how to raise funds for your animal shelterMore ideas for fundraising events include:

Golf tournaments -- Include title sponsor, tee sponsor, and raffle prize gifts. Charge each player to participate. Hold a barbecue and charge separately for that. Look for corporate sponsorships such as sports related businesses.

Motorcycle ride -- Our area had a "Critter Run," in which riders donated $20 and passengers donated $15 to participate. The same day a "Motoring for Mutts Car Show" was held. The entry fee was a trunk, bed, boot or glove box filled with pet food. This event raised nearly three quarters of a ton of dog and cat food plus $4,000.

Dog Walks / Runs -- An event in our area is the Paws for a Cause 5K walk, with or without a canine companion. This is a collaboration focusing on wellness and animal welfare sponsored by the Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society, the National Dance Institute of New Mexico, and St. Vincent Hospital Foundation.

Set Up Contests with Entry Charges / Sponsorships

Online voters can participate in contests. You can charge an entry fee to enter, ask participants to ask others to sponsor their entries, and /or charge no fee and locate sponsors to pay prizes for first, second, third place, etc., with all prize money going to the shelter. Examples of contests:

-- Photo contests. Get creative here. What about photos of kids reading to their pets? Or photos that portray pets playing with each other.

-- Stories about their pets. This is great for kids. Let them write stories about why their pets are the most special, including stories of animal courage, bravery, etc.

-- Most clever videos.

Participate in Sports Events, Festivals, Fairs, and Community Events in Your Area

Work with the local tourism board to stay abreast of upcoming events and develop a plan of action and budget to participate.

Develop a partnership with event organizers and tag along with the publicity they generate in local newspapers, signs in storefronts, etc. At the event have animals on site to adopt and opportunities for visitors to donate. Hand out specific information about your facility, including items you need (pet food, etc), and fundraising goals for specific purposes (a spay/neuter program, etc). Have an email sign up sheet for potential volunteers. Allow volunteers to sign up for specific services, such as working at the shelter, working at specific events for a few hours, offering professional services, such as photography, graphic design, etc.

Examples include:

-- County fairs
-- Holiday parades, including 4th of July, Christmas, etc. Consider a pet parade in conjunction with an established local parade
-- Ice cream social
-- Dog run and dog walk

Activities to include at festivals, fairs, or other community events

-- Demonstration from local police department's K9 unit
-- Obedience training demonstration
-- Cutting horse demonstration
-- Herding dog demonstration
-- Pet communicator
-- Pet behaviorist
-- Pet massage
-- Pet acupuncture
-- Pet portraits
-- Pet photographs
-- Vendors, including arts, crafts, food
-- Local bands
-- Local dance performances
-- Games, such as Bingo, Trivia, etc. Players buy a ticket to participate with the proceeds benefiting your shelter.

You can charge for tickets, ask local companies to sponsor, sell raffle tickets with prizes for winners, etc.

Participate in New Store Opening Festivities, Openings of New Facilities or Parks in your Community

If a store opens that fits with animals' interests, ask to participate in the opening festivities with animals on hand for adoption as well as information about your shelter. Sporting goods, discount retailers, grocery stores, etc would be options.

Seek Ongoing Company Sponsorships

Find businesses or corporations to support your shelter on an ongoing basis. Many fundraising opportunities would be possible with a relationship like this. Your sponsors can ask for their employees' participation in fundraising, volunteering, and more. Perhaps you could find sponsors which offer services you need, such as a printing company, a marketing and /or advertising firm, a graphics art company, a pet boutique, etc.



Sell Items for Your Shelter

Some shelters have the room and resources to have a small retail store onsite. Even if you don't have room for this, you can sell items from your website.

Check out any service carefully before using it. Test all the items to be sure you like the way they look. Check the customer service, response, etc. periodically. Cafepress is a service many nonprofits and websites use to set up a print on demand type service for increasing revenue.

You can compile photos of animals in your shelter for prints, cards, etc., or you could have a contest in which animal lovers submit their pets' photos. Post these on your website and ask for votes. Ask your local newspaper to post the pets' photos on their website also. Of course you can also have your printing done locally and sell calendars, cards, etc., in local retail stores.  

Set Up Sponsorships for Specific Pets

Post on your website and in your newsletter opportunities to sponsor a specific pet. This could be a pet needing special medical assistance or one needing basic food and care. Try a program of ongoing contributions for specific animals in which the donor contributes on a monthly basis with charges to his credit card.

Also see fundraising ideas on our blog.

Revenue Sharing by Local Businesses

photo of cat groomingPartner with local businesses to donate part of their revenue on specific days. Examples are pet stores and boutiques, including chains as well as locally owned stores. Also consider restaurants, veterinarians, and boarding facilities. Stores for kids, such as clothing stores, sporting goods, game and toy stores, etc are other possibilities.

Partner with Upscale Businesses in the Travel and Hospitality Industry

These are mentioned separately due to the financial possibilities. If you have bed and breakfasts or resorts in your area, work with them on an ongoing basis.

For example, the hotel could have a promotion such as Help Animals Live, offer a discount of 10% for everyone who books and mentions this program, and give your shelter a specified donation. The hotel can offer this program as an Internet only promotion which must be in the middle of the week (typically a slower time) to be most cost effective.

A hotel could sponsor an open house in which locals are invited to an evening for the animals. Adoptable animals, a local band or musical group, a light buffet, and entertainment for kids could be a part of this event. This is excellent public relations for a hotel to help animals as well as build a relationship with locals who may not be familiar with the hotel.

Hotels can offer workshops or classes as fundraising events for your shelter. For example, art, photography, or financial planning classes could be held with local instructors offering their services for free or a discount. More great public relations for the hotel as well as the teachers. The class fees could be donated to your shelter.

Partner with Pet Friendly Hotels to Raise Funds for Your Shelter

Many hotels now allow pets as guests. It's a natural to ask them to partner with shelters to help those pets not so lucky to be traveling with their owners.

For example, partner with a local pet friendly hotel and suggest they make a "You stay and we'll pay!" offer to animal owners. For every animal staying with them, they'll donate XX amount to your shelter.

Or, you may have noticed that many pet friendly upscale hotels provide luxuries for those pets to encourage bookings. Those hotels are prime candidates for donations to your animal shelter. They could sponsor events at their facilities, donate a specified amount for every pet they book, ask pet owners to donate to your shelter, etc. Approach these hotels! They could be ongoing fundraising partners for your shelter.

Fundraising in the Form of Pet Food: Establish and Support Pet Food Banks

Work with local community food banks to set up pet food banks if they don't have one already. Does your local Meals on Wheels deliver pet food? Funds in the form of pet food will help reduce the number of animals surrendered to shelters by needy citizens struggling to feed their pets.

Tag Along with Seasonal Events in Your Community

Think of every seasonal event or time of family celebration in your area and ways you can participate. What about weddings? Many newspapers publish bridal sections with local resources and tips for the wedding season. You could run an ad suggesting that the engaged couple ask their wedding guests to donate money to your shelter to honor their wedding. Ditto for high school graduation, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, etc.

The Christmas / holiday season is a standard for fundraising. Set up an auction for holiday shoppers to benefit your shelter.

Farmers' markets are excellent places for animal shelter fundraising. Arrange to have a pet adoption at farmers' markets. Many of these are outdoors and have booths for art, food, etc.

Set Up a Resale Shop in Your Area to Raise Money for Your Shelter

Our area has a very successful thrift store benefiting animals in a neighboring community. It's a busy place and many folks who know about it are happy to donate their gently used household furnishings, clothing, etc. to benefit homeless animals.

To see a thrift store, see the website of Second Chance Treasures, a resale store in Garland, TX benefiting the homeless animals at the no kill East Lake Pet Orphanage in Dallas.

Go to the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops for low cost guides in setting up a retail store and get advice from other shelters operating resale stores.

Sponsor Parties at Your Shelter for the Animals

For example, have a Valentine's party, a Christmas party, etc. Or celebrate Thanksgiving by arranging a feast for your pets. Provide a list of acceptable holiday treats for kids to bring.

Offer your facility as a location for kids' birthday parties if you have room. So much more meaningful than the local pizza parlor! Payment could be in the form of a donation and/or donated pet food. Raise money and/or donated items for your shelter and educate children about the plight of homeless and abused animals at the same time.

Combine fundraising for animals Kids' Programs, Humane Education and Fundraising

See Waggles World for examples of how this shelter provides summer camp, animal crafts, animal afternoons, and more.

Sponsor Classes or Workshops at Your Shelter, Veterinarians' Offices, Pet Stores, etc and Charge a Fee for Attendance

For example, raise funds by sponsoring dog training classes, a class on caring for senior dogs, diabetic cats, surviving the death of a pet, taking digital photos of pets, etc. Ask veterinarians and others to donate their services or at least discount their services; this is good public relations for them. Publicize these classes in the "pet" section of your local paper.

Partner with a Local Marketing Firm, Advertising Agency, Public Relations Expert or Experienced Fundraiser

If you can get marketing and fundraising help on a volunteer basis or even discounted for a specific event or project, you may discover ideas you've never thought of to improve your fundraising efforts. See the article on Finding Volunteers for more information on this.

Establish "In Honor Of" or "In Memory of" Memorials or Donation Opportunities

Set up a way for animal lovers in your area to donate in memory of a beloved pet or a family member. Or, donations can be made to honor graduations, birthdays, an anniversary, a wedding, a favorite pet's tenth birthday, etc. These donations can be in the form of checks, bricks on your property, or plaques inside your facility. For example, often new facilities offer donation opportunities in which a specified amount allows the donor to have a plaque in the new kitty condo room, etc. Include in your newsletter and your website ideas for doing this. Be creative. What about donating a tree on your shelter's grounds to honor a family member? Or a donation to a specific need, such as a spay / neuter clinic or new dog beds? The key is to remind people about this frequently.

Find Animal Shelter Fundraising Ideas Online 

Review the Sample Online Fundraising Plan by Groundspring for an imaginary local animal rescue organization called Save the Animals (STA). Goals for this plan include using the Internet to acquire new online donors and re-solicit existing donors. This plan is on the Network for Good website, "a fundraising guide for the overworked nonprofit."

Marketing your Fundraising Events

Develop a marketing plan and publicity plan to get the word out about your events.

-- Include a local "celebrity" on your board of directors. Find a celebrity to be a part of your fundraising events. Using the person's name in press releases and/or advertisements may help increase attendance. Celebrities don't have to be the Hollywood type. Local celebrities including TV anchors, high school football stars . . . try to find a well known and well respected person in your community.

-- Develop relationships with the local newspaper, local retailers, and anyone with a network of publicity and advertising to let the community know about your fundraising events.

Please read How to Find More Grants for more revenue generating ideas and resources. And, read our Outdoor Fundraising Ideas.

Also see fundraising ideas on our blog.


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