Coming up with fundraising ideas for local animal shelters, animal rescues, or humane societies (SPCA) can be a challenge, but too often these non-profit organizations get too focused on BIG events. Here are five ideas that can provide a much-needed boost to awareness and reduce the friction to giving.
Accept Online Donations
While the ability to give online has been around for a long time, the process had been complicated and frequently required the help of specialized web programmers. A lot has changed and it has never been easier to seek and manage donations through your website.
One very easy platform to use is PayPal. This longtime leader in online payments offers a significant discount in transaction fees for processing online donations. With easy setup and tools, this platform works great for small shelters looking to get started.
Another option is coordinating with a dedicated online giving platform such as:
- Donor Perfect
- Click N Pledge
Each of these platforms has its pros and cons. Some of the more advanced features may require help from your website manager in implementing. If you’re looking for some additional online giving partners, check out this article on other online donation tools.
Create Brand Giving Programs
One time donations are fantastic, but the recurring donations provided by your core supporters can make the real difference in operational cash flow. A great way to recognize and thank them is with a branded giving program. By creating a tiered recognition system, your shelter can brand, promote, and thank supporters based on levels of giving.
An example of this is Lakeland Animal Shelter’s program recognizing individuals who have monthly recurring donations. Each membership tier has a branded icon and giving level.
These “members” receive additional benefits including:
- Membership key tag: identifies members of the Lakeland Animal Shelter’s and entitles them to discounts at participating businesses
- Discounts on adoption fees
- Free identification tag and a reduced cost microchip for their companion
- 10% discount on branded merchandise
The impact has been substantial. The first year the branded giving plan was implemented, the annual amount nearly tripled. Carrying the branded giving option into other areas also greatly increased the performance of each opportunity. Through a branded giving experience, donors felt more engaged with a greater sense of reward.
Percent of Sales Day with Area Restaurant
Collaborating with a restaurant for a fundraiser is a win-win situation for both your shelter and the restaurant. The concept is simple—on a specific day the restaurant will donate a percent of their sales to your shelter. In exchange, your combined promotional efforts give the restaurant additional exposure, increased business, and great PR.
Restaurants That Support “% of Sales Day”
- Papa Murphy’s (contact individual franchise)
- Chipotle (https://www.chipotle.com/fundraisers)
- Pizza Hut (contact individual franchise)
- Culvers (contact individual franchise)
Here’s a larger list: https://soapboxie.com/activism/restaurant-fundraising
Collaborating with Local Businesses
Connecting with local businesses are critical for shelters, however, look to your local business leaders for more than a sponsorship! Your local workplaces can be great places to build awareness with the cooperation of management. Here are some ideas:
DROP-OFF BINS OR BUCKETS
Whether you need cat food or extra blankets, drop off bins are a great way to get needed supplies or equipment. These bins can also hold upcoming event literature or volunteer opportunities. Don’t forget to brand the bins!
Small buckets could be a way to collect spare change or small donations from communal areas, water coolers, or other office/break room spots. Small signage can explain exactly where the funds will go.
Don’t forget a thank you card and a picture on social media when you pick them up!
CREATE A NON-EVENT DAY
This sounds silly, but it can be a great awareness builder. By picking a completely random day (or maybe not-so-random) and targeting a top reason to give, you can create a fundraiser on the fly. For example, saying May 22 is “Pennies for Pitties” could be a great way to raise targeted funds. Protip: I’d recommend accepting more than pennies.
Get creative with the topics or the goals. By coming up with a unique twist it will give your shelter added awareness and shine a light on lesser known needs. Don’t forget to promote it well in advance.
Alleviating stress can be a huge perk to a busy office. Coordinating with a big office offers great exposure to bring another win-win to your shelter’s local business relationships. Imagine bringing in some of your most adorable adoptables for workers to play with. For example, set up a “cuddle cube” in a supervisor’s office and ask for a small donation to cuddle a kitten or play with a puppy.
While organizing and coordinating these site visits may be demanding in the beginning, after the first visit, ask for office volunteers to help with setup and cleanup. The more the staff at the destination office is involved, the more your shelter can get in awareness, volunteers, and donations. Just make sure to avoid overstaying your time and frustrating management.
NOTE: Shared pictures from these events can be a huge boost to social media pages.
Final Hint: Always ask if the company will match the raised funds. This is a great move to help the internal morale and be a great PR move.
Social Media Giving
Social media continues to be a fertile giving environment and social media platforms continue to make it easier to donate. Facebook has a variety of donation options for non-profits. Two of the most popular methods are adding a “donate” button to a personal post and adding a donate button to your organization posts.
Immediately make sure your organization is setup to receive Facebook Payments. The three (3) step process is pretty simple.
Next, make your community aware that they CAN tag your shelter in a post and accept donations. More detailed instructions for personal posts can be found here. It is a good idea to have a blog post or video by shelter staff showing how easy it is.
On your shelter Facebook page, make sure you add a “call to action (CTA)” button asking for donations. These buttons can be displayed on your shelter’s Facebook Page and tied to the same Facebook Payments account. Check out Facebook’s instructions to adding a CTA button.
SOCIAL MEDIA PROMOTION FOR GIVING
Facebook is not the only social platform. Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, and even Snapchat are great ways of staying connected and sharing your shelter stories. While direct donation buttons may not be available on all platforms, make sure you have donation link in your bio.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU ASK FOR DONATIONS?
How often should you ask for donations on social media? About 1 in 10 posts should be a solicitation for money. While that may sound like a lot, remember, not every post is seen. Mix up the times and days when you ask. Make sure you ASK—don’t guilt or beg, but also include a link. If you don’t ask, you won’t receive.
Two Departing Tips
From operational expenses to capital campaigns, animal shelters, rescues, and humane societies regularly face fiscal challenges. Many shelter managers and executive directors have become masters of budgetary controls, operational efficiency, fundraising wizardry, and event promotion. Our mission is to help make their job easier. To help accomplish this, we recommend:
MAKE IT EASY
The ease of the sales or donation process is frequently referred to as “friction.” The easier it is to complete a transaction, the “less friction” it has. The reasons the Red Cross succeeded in raising so much money after the 2010 Haiti earthquake was, first, simply texting a message was something everyone could do. No credit card number. No check to mail in. No online form. Just a text message. Second, the donation amount of $10 was a very acceptable amount for most people. The result was tens-of-millions of dollars raised in a very short time.
Review your fundraising process. How much friction is there? What makes giving more challenging? How can you reduce friction and make it easy for people (and businesses) to give?
MAKE A PLAN
While many shelters and humane societies have an event schedule or a timeline for important events, have they been combined into a master marketing plan? At Signalfire, we like to call this the Marketing Action Plan, or MAP. This calendar-driven plan outlines activities, events, common supply needs, and cash crunch times.
From the calendar, we begin plotting promotional schedules, awareness campaigns, and financial asks. The result is a plan that includes:
- Schedule of social media posts, live video segments, calls for volunteers, and financial “asks”
- Timeline of email blasts
- Drop dates for direct mail
- Topics for blog posts including success stories, volunteer profiles, and sponsor thank-you’s
- Photo/video needs
The completed calendar outlines when and how you communicate with your community. It is up to each shelter to execute the “who” portion, but whether it is a volunteer, staff member, or supporting vendor the PLAN will save time, improve focus, and deliver better performance.
I’d also recommend a few other blog posts to help your shelter marketing: