Find More Donors with an Open House

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Woman Volunteer cleaning carrier or cage in cat shelter

Have you tried an open house as a way to introduce animal lovers in your community to your animal shelter? Open houses can be done with minimum effort. Animal lovers who have never donated may attend and become donors. Current donors may donate even more once they see you are spending dollars wisely and taking good care of your resident pets.

We attended an open house last weekend at the Kindred Spirits Animal Sanctuary in Santa Fe, NM. This sanctuary is “dedicated to providing end-of-life care and hospice for older, unwanted dogs, horses and poultry in a peaceful and serene sanctuary setting.” Although we had donated before, we had never visited the facility. What a heartwarming and inspiring experience. The pets were all seniors, many with past abuse or abandonment who are considered unadoptable.

Eight tips for making your open house successful:

Offer free seminars or classes that relate to your pet residents. For example, Kindred Spirits offered talks and demonstrations by health care professionals who work with their senior pets concerning dental health, chiropractic care, animal communication, etc.

Free events encourage animal lovers to attend if you present the information they could really use such as dog training, pet photography, cancer care, pet acupuncture, pet massage, holistic treatments, etc. Ask each presenter to offer a free service to at least one attendee as a prize, ie., a free acupuncture treatment, an hour holistic consultation, etc.

Offer at least one free event that involves kids. For small children, what about a storytelling hour based on a kids’ book followed by a book giveaway to at least three kids. Or offer a short art class for kids to paint or draw one of the resident pets.

Recruit an enthusiastic group of volunteers to explain your operation to attendees. Every animal we came in contact with was introduced by name along with that pet’s story of how he/she came to be there. The daily routine, the food they eat, and many other details were readily shared by these well-informed volunteers. They clearly enjoyed what they were doing.

Get the word out about your open house through the local newspaper, TV station, email list, etc. Announce the event a few weeks ahead and continue to get publicity until the open house date. Include a photo of at least one pet resident; this will attract more attention to your story.

Ask each attendee to sign a registration sheet with their contact information, including their email address. Match these against your current donors and send a thank you email to those who have never donated. Outline some specifics of how donor dollars are used, include photos of pets, and ask for a donation.

Have on-hand items to sell. For example, recruit artists to donate art or a local greenhouse could donate hanging baskets. Set up a table with note cards, T-shirts or any items that you typically sell to benefit your shelter.

Sell raffle tickets with a variety of pet-related items or services as prizes. Have a thank you card to hand out as people leave. Include your contact information, how/where to donate, etc. Mention your wish list items, such as specific brands of food or dog beds. This note could be written by one of your pets. “Thanks so much for your visit today. We loved having you here. Please help us buy food and other essentials by donating when you can.” Include a pet’s photo on the card.

Offer refreshments including treats that kids enjoy such as dog and cat-shaped cookies and raspberry iced tea. Ask a local bakery or grocery store to donate these items and display the bakery’s name prominently as a sponsor.

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