Finding Ongoing Donors and Sponsors for Your Pet Food Bank

Fundraising for a pet food bank on an ongoing basis is a challenge, particularly in our economic environment. But pets are part of the family, and meeting their food needs is critical in reducing the number of pets being surrendered to animal shelters.

If your local shelter doesn’t have the staff to set up a food bank or solicit funds, anyone concerned about this crisis can start a pet food bank. Ask your shelter’s staff for input on this project. Anything helps and all ventures start small.  Take time to brainstorm and network with friends, business contacts, church groups, etc.  Ask for their ideas on how to approach funding in your community. Get others involved in making contacts with folks they know who could help.

Use the following ideas for funding a pet food bank:

Animal shelter donors

No matter who is the driving force behind setting up a pet food bank  — animal shelters, food banks for people, or a totally separate group organized just for this purpose —  ask the local shelter to contact their donors concerning the pet food bank. There are many donors who give on a recurring basis to the shelter, as well as donors who give substantial sums for specific needs, such as new buildings, etc. Let these donors know about the pet food shortage in your area and ask for their help. Show specific examples of pets in need in any donor mail solicitations.

Taking this a step further, you could make very personal appeals to donors who have donated larger sums – perhaps ask them to attend a group brainstorming session on ways to fund this project on an ongoing basis. Ask for their ideas and any contacts they may have, including professional, arts, or social groups they belong to. These animal lovers may lead you to folks with the financial means and love of animals to be the backbone of your pet food bank fundraising.

Set up pet food bank “friends” group

You’ve probably seen or may even participate in a “friends” group for a library, museum, school, animal shelter, or other nonprofit groups. These groups act as volunteer fundraisers. A friends group could be established for the purpose of setting up a pet food bank, perhaps in cooperation with an already established animal shelter or a food pantry for people.

Friends groups can provide a huge boost of funding when committed people with business and social connections reach out to the community with fundraising events or just their own individual donations. To start a friends group, consider approaching frequent animal shelter donors as well as pet lovers who have a high profile in the community. High-profile people can attract others to attend events and donate when they act as emcees, auctioneers, etc.

Online pet food drive

Encourage dollar donations rather than pet food. Work out an arrangement with a local pet food retailer or supplier to buy food at a discounted price over his wholesale price so you get more food for the money.

Include on your website specific information on what you can purchase for $10, $25, $35, etc., such as how many cases of dog food or cat food you can purchase directly. Show the cost of that same amount of food on a can-by-can basis at your local grocery stores.  Always mention in your printed information which local store(s) is providing the food at less than retail prices.

Include options for one-time giving, a monthly recurring donation, a donation in memory of someone, and a donation “in honor of” events or people. If possible, offer to send cards to the person being honored and/or the family of the deceased.

Expand this online program to other partners. For example, ask other businesses or organizations with heavy online traffic to link to your pet food donation page. Examples include the online edition of your local newspaper. Many have pages devoted to pets. Ask if you can have a permanent link from their sites to yours and a small ad asking for donations to the pet food bank. Other business examples include veterinarians, groomers, kennels, or pet boutiques. Also approach any retailer, restaurant, etc., in your area.

Contributions from local retailers

Find ongoing contributions of pet food from local retailers, such as dented cans, torn sacks, etc., that are still fine to eat but they cannot sell. Work with as many retailers as possible since their contributions will vary from month to month.

Partnership with local groups or businesses

Set up a partnership with local groups or businesses to act as ongoing sponsors for needy pets in your community.  It’s important that employees or members of these groups “buy-in” to this concept since they will be asked to help. Try to team up with folks who are really committed to helping needy pets so they will continue the program independently, thus providing ongoing assistance. Examples include:

Corporations and small businesses —  Try to get several to participate. Seek out companies and businesses with as many employees as possible. Work with these companies to set up a means for their employees to contribute dollar donations to your pet food bank. Ways to encourage participation could include asking for dollar donations every Friday or once a month with the company matching the donations. For large companies, they can have contests every quarter between departments on who can raise the most money. These companies can coordinate fundraising events on their own to raise money for pet food.

Universities –-  Perhaps academic departments, associations, alumni groups, student groups, sports teams, etc. could be your pet food sponsors. Most universities or community colleges have student groups such as photography clubs, literary groups, etc. Alumni groups present an interesting opportunity since graduates are scattered all over the country. Many have wealthy members who contribute to the school’s building projects and other needs for decades after they graduate no matter where they live. Alumni groups send out mailings and have websites for alumni to visit; some have social networking sites. Using print or the Web, why not remind graduates how much they enjoyed their college days in your community and ask them to help needy pets and their owners who can’t feed them.

Retail associations, downtown merchants, shopping center merchants — Teaming up with retailers will help you reach their in-store customers. For example, merchants at a shopping center could ask their customers one day a week to add a dollar donation to their purchase. They could also sponsor on-site pet adoption days one day a week or one day a month, thus making homeless pets an important part of their community involvement.

Foundations, charities, charitable trusts

Many large corporations, universities, newspapers, wealthy individuals/families, and others set up foundations for charitable giving. Find out what foundations or trusts have been set up in your area. Search online for this; you may be surprised how many there are. Frequently wealthy individuals who have moved away continue to donate to causes back home, such as universities, hospitals, etc.  Try to get a commitment from a foundation or charity to help buy food for your needy pets.

Before setting up a pet food bank program, be sure to do the following:

If you’re not working with an established animal shelter or animal rights group which is already established as a nonprofit organization, be sure to set up a 501(c)(3) organization yourself. This allows donors to deduct donations from their taxes and helps assure donors where their donations are going. Trust is very important right now in our society. Give lots of details on your website and any communications concerning how much food has been purchased, how many pets and families have been served, etc. Update this information frequently. Include photos of food distribution if possible. Make potential donors confident that donations will really go to your organization.

Visit Setting up a Pet Food Bank which outlines organizational issues and distribution considerations in setting up a pet food bank. Finding Individual Donors for your pet food bank outlines ways to get publicity in your community to spread the word about your service.

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