Saturday, 16 July 2011

Fundraising for Animal Charities

Whether you are a group of friends rescuing street dogs or a large international animal charity with many departments probably the most vital person in your organisation is the fundraiser. If you had told me that when I was on the front line of animal welfare kicking down doors and taking names I would have laughed as surely the most important person is the one actually doing the animal welfare work ? Well yes and no.

Clearly no charity can exist without people who are prepared to get ‘down and dirty’ and work at the often unpleasant end of animal welfare on the streets but without funds to pay for animal food, vets bills and advertising for your work then you will always be struggling.

Now more than ever it is important to look at different ways to fundraise so that you have an income to continue your vital work.

Where do you start? Firstly you need to look closely at your supporters and volunteers. How well do you interact with them? It is likely that you will have a small core of regulars who volunteer weekly but what about the wider circle of people who have come into contact with your organisation, do you know anything about them? It may be you have a supporter who is an athlete or a top businessman or a fashion designer or even an entertainer that might be willing to help with a specific event like a sponsored run, designing a logo or even just helping sort out your finances.

Your volunteers and supporters are your greatest asset so it pays to try and get to know them and what better than to recruit them to help fund raise.

So let’s quickly go through fundraising options starting with the most common.

Stalls and booths at events. A good way to sell your merchandise and promote your organisation provided the stall is well stocked with good quality merchandise and literature. To maximise revenue how about a raffle? You could approach some of the shops in the Mall or nearby before the event to see if they would be willing to donate a prize in return for being included in your publicity material for the event. Also if you kept contact details of those who entered the raffle you might be able to increase your supporter database.

Dog shows and sponsored dog walks Can take a lot of organising so not an event you can just put on. You need to make sure that you have enough volunteers to ensure it runs smoothly. A good way to get people involved in your organisation. Try and get people to sign up to different classes before the event so that you know roughly how many will turn up. Remember it is a fun event so try and share out any prizes. In the UK fun dog shows are very popular and often a local celebrity is asked to judge some of the classes which may have themes like’ Dog most like its owner’ or ‘Dog with the waggiest tail’.

Charity/Celebrity Auctions A charity I advised organised a celebrity auction. They wrote to as many famous people in the country as possible asking for items to be donated which would be auctioned to raise funds for their shelter. They got quite a good response with paintings from artists, signed scripts and items of clothing from actors, signed photographs and sporting items from other celebrities as well as the unusual like a day at a Spa or a meal for two at an upmarket restaurant. They combined this with an open evening/auction night at an art gallery and sold tickets to people interested in bidding for the items. Simon Cowell of X Factor fame was the auctioneer.

Collecting Boxes. Do you use collecting boxes ? Perhaps you can organise a tie up with a chain of shops or pet stores to have your collecting boxes near the till. Think wacky, another charity I worked with had some handmade wooden dogs with a Perspex tummy so you could see your money being swallowed by the grateful pooch.

Charity Shops/Garage Sales . In the UK charity shops are big business , especially in a recession. The secret is to obtain good quality donated clothing, books and bric-a-brac to sell. You may have to chase donations and if you have a van and driver you could perhaps leaflet a suitable area asking for certain items like books, unwanted good quality clothing, ornaments and possibly even small household appliances or furniture, if you have the storage and display space. You never know what you might get and it is worth getting an expert to cast an eye over the results just to make sure you haven’t got a Ming vase in amongst the items collected ! The charity Oxfam in the UK even have specialist charity shops which sell the designer label clothing that is donated whilst other charity shops specialise in books, records and CD’s

Sponsored events. Again very common in the UK. Probably the most popular is a sponsored run with people entering marathons and other races and getting people to sponsor them per kilometre completed. The event does not need to be competitive, how about a sponsored swim at your health club or a sponsored row on a rowing machine in the gym ? A team of fundraisers in the UK raised £1,000’s for the Haiti earthquake appeal by rowing the distance to Haiti from the venue in the UK on a number of rowing machines . They had been sponsored by friends, family and workmates for each kilometre completed.

Overseas challenges are also popular with charities organising sponsored climbs and treks to places like Machu Picchu (Peru) or Kilimanjaro (Tanzania , Africa). The participants must raise a minimum amount of sponsorship to be able to take part. How about a sponsored trek up Kinabalu ?

Corporate Sponsorship. It is always worth approaching large organisations to see if they will sponsor a specific project. Usually they want something to show for their money so make sure you do your homework on what they might contribute to. This is where your volunteers and supporters will come in useful . Do any of them work for a large bank or international company ? being on the inside they will be able to find out the information you require and the person that you need to approach to maximise your chances of pitching your appeal for funds successfully.

Regular Small Donations. Many charities work on the basis of regular monthly donations from their supporters. This is where the mailing list is invaluable. By requesting a small regular donation for a specific use your supporters can visualise where their money is going. For example “ 10RM will feed a kitten for a week, whilst 15RM will treat a dog against heartworm and ticks for a month. 20RM will vaccinate a dog against rabies and 50RM will pay for a cat to be neutered” By giving a range of donations each individual can give what they can afford each month and provide a regular income for the charity .

These are just a few of the more common ways to raise funds but in a recession it pays to be quirky and inventive. So get together with some friends and start planning . Let me know how you get on or contact me for help and advice . Good luck