How to Find Individual Donors for Your Pet Food Bank

Following are ideas for getting the word out about your pet food bank. Your goal is to maximize the number of donors. Make a plan on how to best do this in your community.

Educate the public about the pet food crisis. Let animal lovers know that your pet food bank is meeting that need. Try to get free publicity from animal-loving organizations that can direct potential donors to your fundraising efforts. Many animal lovers want to help.

You’ll also need to let those who need pet food know about your pet-food service.

Any individual, group, or animal shelter can start a pet food bank. Please refer to Starting a Pet Food Bank which describes organization and distribution considerations. For ways to find ongoing financial support, visit Finding Ongoing Donors for Your Pet Food Bank.

Brainstorm for publicity

You need many people to donate to keep your pet food bank going. Some will donate only once a year. Try networking with your pet food bank team, animal shelter board of directors, animal protection groups, and all your animal-loving friends. Churches, libraries, schools, etc., have bulletin boards, newsletters, etc. Just as you call and network with all your contacts when you search for a new job, do the same to get the word out about your pet food bank. While you’re doing this, you may find ongoing sponsors who can provide a financial cushion you can always count on.

Explain the basics

Always give potential donors “who, where, what, how, and when” information, including:

  • Who is the sponsor of the pet food bank? Are donations tax-deductible?
  • Where to donate food or money (local shelter, retail stores, your website, etc)
  • If you accept food, do you request specific brands, and where should it be donated?
  • For those who need pet food, always mention where to pick up the food, what hours, any restrictions on who can get the food (such as income), how often, number of pounds, etc.

Educate the public

Educating the public is very important when you ask for donations. Let animal lovers know that some of our fellow citizens are faced with the heartbreaking decision to give up their pets since they can’t afford to feed them.  Use specific figures on how many pets have been surrendered in the past few months.

Organize and update

Maintain records of all your contacts and how they are involved. Keep in touch with them and provide updated photos, ads, posters, etc., to anyone who helps you spread the word. Potential donors may start to ignore the same information they’ve seen before. For example, if a veterinarian posts your pet food bank information on his bulletin board, provide him with a new flyer at least once a month with different photos and updated information about the number of animals being surrendered. Also, ask if you can move the flyer to a different location on his bulletin board.

If you run ads in your local newspaper for an extended period of time, prepare a series of ads and rotate them. Use different animal photos, copies, and compositions to get attention.

Ways to accept dollar donations

On your website, have a donation page on a secure server. Provide a summary of what you’ve accomplished already. Mention the number of families or pets served, how many pounds of food you’ve distributed, etc. Make sure to build trust and confidence that donations will be well spent; this is extremely important. If your group is a 501(c)(3) organization, let donors know their donations are tax-deductible. Show photos of pet food being distributed. Provide information on how much pet food you can buy with different dollar amounts. For example, specify how many cases of canned dog food $100 will buy.

Offer the option for donors to give on a recurring basis, such as monthly or quarterly.

Be prepared to take donations by check. Have a donation form in PDF format that donors can print out and mail in.

Ask each donor if you may add his / her name to your email list. This is an invaluable collection of animal lovers’ names that can develop into a rich source of donations in the future. For example, you could send out an email alert to this group with wording such as:

“Pet food desperately needed! A puppy mill was shut down yesterday in {neighboring town}. The local shelter needs your help to take care of 35 undernourished dogs until they’re ready to be adopted. Any donation helps. These dogs deserve a much better life than they’ve had. They will start that better life today with your help.” Show photos of the dogs in your email and if possible show photos of the conditions at the puppy mill.

Where to find donations

Try to find ways to get free publicity on an ongoing basis.

Can your ongoing sponsors help?

If you’ve established sponsors to provide ongoing financial support to your pet food bank, ask them to help solicit more funds. For example, an ideal partnership is your local newspaper, radio station, or TV station. In addition to funding, the ongoing publicity these entities could provide would be priceless.  Retail businesses or businesses with large numbers of customers or clients can post information in their stores, within their ads, in email newsletters, on their websites, etc to spread the word.

Contact local newspapers and/or TV stations to cover the homeless pet crisis caused by foreclosures

Contact reporters or writers who have covered pets in the past. Go to the website of your TV stations and newspapers and do a search on pets to find the names of pet-friendly writers.

Before speaking with the reporter or writer, have the details of your pet food bank planned to be sure readers of the article know how to donate to the pet food bank. That is the purpose of the article or TV coverage. Use facts and figures of the foreclosure/pet surrender problem in your area, show photos, and provide specific stories to provide background information on why the pet food bank is needed.

I read a very long newspaper story on homeless pets recently that described several animals and their owners. The impact on the local animal shelter was spelled out in detail.  This story was on the front page of a Sunday section and continued on another page. The article mentioned the pet food bank about to be launched at the end of the article. No details on how to donate or where to pick up the food were mentioned. Such a wasted opportunity! Anybody interested would have to call the local shelter to get the details.

Be very specific and don’t hesitate to ask the reporter or writer to include these important details. If your pet food bank is covered by a TV feature, ask the reporter to post in writing on the TV screen where donors can donate and where those in need can pick up food.

Ask for food distribution partners’ help

If you’re teaming up with a food bank for people or a meals on wheels program, ask those groups to mention pet food donations on their website or any print publications, advertising, or news stories about their services.

Ask for help from animal-loving companies and small businesses

Companies that support animals but can’t commit to ongoing financial sponsorship are excellent candidates to help promote your pet food bank. They can let their employees, clients, and customers know about the pet food bank through their website, their intranet (internal website just for employees), print and email newsletters, etc. You could ask if they would link from their website to your website’s donation page. This is good public relations for any company and costs them nothing.

Ask pet-related businesses for publicity

Ask any pet-related businesses in your area to post information about the pet food bank on bulletin boards and in any newsletters they publish. Veterinarians, kennels, specialty pet boutiques, grooming and training services, and large chain pet food stores are examples. Ask that they keep this information posted or published on an ongoing basis.

Team up with animal rescue groups and shelters

These groups will all benefit from a pet food bank if financially strapped pet owners continue to feed their pets. Ask each of them to link to your website’s donation page from their website. Ask that they mention the pet food bank in any contacts they have with their own donors. These groups often publish print and email newsletters that reach active donors and animal lovers.

Run ads concerning your pet food bank

Free publicity is great, but sometimes advertising is needed. Ideas for placing ads include daily newspapers, both print, and online versions; “alternative” weekly publications; and online newspapers or blogs. Special pet sections appear in many publications; pet lovers read these sections and will notice your ads.

Pets in Anytown desperately need your help. Our economic crisis is forcing some pet owners to give up their pets. Pets shouldn’t lose their families and their homes. Donate today at (website address).

How to get the word out to those in need of pet food

Spread the word through local food pantries (for people), meals on wheels, churches, homeless shelters, and any nonprofit agencies providing services to those in financial need. You can contact the agencies in your community and ask if they would be willing to spread the word to their clients about your pet food bank. Provide them with the pertinent information of where to get the food, what days, etc. By making contact with these groups, you may find partners to distribute the pet food directly to their clients.

For more pet food bank ideas, visit How to Start a Pet Food Bank which outlines ways to distribute pet food. Also, see Finding Ongoing Sponsors for Your Pet Food Bank.

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