Fundraising Editorial

2006 by Rich Avanzino

Audience: Executive Leadership, Foster Caregivers, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers

For smaller shelters or rescue groups, the whole idea of fundraising can be intimidating. Daunting terms like "planned giving" and "major gift development" can shove fundraising to the backburner, or drive groups to limit their fundraising to methods they feel comfortable with: bake sales, dog walks, bowling parties and other events.

Events have a place in every fundraising plan - they generate good will and public awareness in addition to money. But they're also very time and labor intensive (which can really take a toll if the labor comes from staff).

In my opinion, developing grass roots involvement is the best way to fundraise. It's better to pull in a lot of $10 givers than a few major donors because it's not just about the money! A large cadre of loyal supporters can become:

  • Indispensable volunteers
  • Political action advocates
  • Public relations associates who spread a positive message about your organization throughout the community

And don't forget - those $10 givers can (and do) leave literally hundreds of thousands in bequests.

To me, the essence of fundraising is building relationships with the people in your community. In effect, you want your community to: 1) get to know you and then 2) fall in love with you. To do that, you have to woo them. Here's how:

  • Create a "Pet Lover List". Whenever staff or volunteers make contact with the public - at events, at a class, at a fundraiser, giving advice over the phone - ask for contact information. (This can take the form of signing up for a free e-newsletter, participating in a raffle, etc). These names, along with those of adopters, contributors and people who use your services, become the foundation of your "Pet Lover List." You want to stay in touch with these people so you can engage them in your mission.
  • Don't eliminate someone from your list based on the size or frequency of their contribution. If there is any indication at all that they are still interested in animals and care about what you're doing, keep them on the list. Maybe someone has stopped giving because they're out of work or on a limited income. That doesn't mean they've lost interest. Maintain the connection - keep them involved.
  • Inform your "Pet Lover List" about your lifesaving work. Touch base with them several times per year, through magazines, newsletters, e-newsletters, direct mail solicitations, publicity, events, fund drives, press releases, open houses, or advocacy "Calls to Action." Regale your "pet lovers" with happy ending stories, describe the miracles you create every day through medical rehabilitation, rescue, etc., and promote your lifesaving statistics.

Building relationships takes time, but be patient and stick with it. It will pay off.

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