Make Money the Easy Way

2009

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

With a minimum of effort, you can boost income, increase your profile in the community, and have fun along the way!

Everyone knows how hard it is to raise money, especially in a time of tightened purse strings. When an organization is also working with limited staff and resources, coming up with easy fundraising ideas can be taxing, terrifying and time-consuming. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Take the Alachua County Humane Society, Inc. (ACHS) in Gainesville, Florida, whose dream is to raise money for a new 30,000 square-foot facility - no small task. They came up with a "Do What You Do" campaign in partnership with local businesses: Cafes, restaurants, flower shops, and a brew pub agree to support the Humane Society by donating a portion of their proceeds to the animals. Then, the Humane Society directs their supporters to "do what you do" at these businesses and help homeless dogs and cats in the process. The businesses benefit from affiliation with a good cause, increased publicity and new customers in a slow economy - and best of all, the Humane Society makes money and increases community awareness about their organization.

For example, a local Asian restaurant gives ACHS 10% of their curry sales the first Tuesday of each month.

At a "Drink Some Ale...Save Some Tail" evening, a local pub donated $1 to the society for every beer sold. It raised $1,200 on the first night of what will be a weekly event. And the business it generated for the pub exceeded expectations - within a half hour the place was packed and for the entire evening there was a line to get in the door. "We are just starting out but have been able to deliver an increase in sales for the corporate partners, and so far they are very happy," says Kirk Eppenstein, ACHS' Executive Director.

And at a weekly "Paws on the Patio" dinner and pet playtime event that takes place on normally slow Tuesday nights at a local restaurant, ACHS gets 10% of the eatery's take for the night. Kirk anticipates about $700 a month in income from the "Paws on the Patio" event alone.

"Our guests love the idea and so far every Tuesday night on the patio has been a party with 'Dogs Eating Free,' great live music, and of course great food for our guests," concurs Carol Doherty, General Manager of The Great Outdoors restaurant, the venue for "Paws on the Patio." "We are now into our 4th week and so far our sales on Tuesday nights are up 24%, so you can see, this is a win-win."

The beauty of these fundraisers is that they require a minimal amount of staff and volunteer effort. ACHS makes cute posters and sends out press releases to generate interest and publicize the events. They also staff a table at the event, where they solicit donations, sell t-shirts, hand out literature and provide education for the consumer. At the same time, they are building a strong relationship with business owners as well as their patrons.

Getting businesses to come on board can be as easy as talking with the manager or owner of a business that you yourself frequent. "Whenever I go somewhere, I'm preaching about animal rescue," says Kirk at ACHS. "When I am patronizing a business, I don't hesitate to ask for their help. And if I'm spending money in their business, I get a much warmer reception and they are much more likely to talk with me. Nine times out of ten, the business owner is receptive and they are keenly aware that we are not just going around with our hand out asking for money, but presenting a win-win for their business as well."

It also helps when there is already familiarity of your organization within your community. Kirk adds, "The business owner is well aware of what we do long before I speak with them, and they want to be a part of a winning team. And it gets easier and easier because they hear about us from other businesses that are increasing their sales with these events."

When it comes to promoting the events, it can be as simple as putting up a sign in the store's window, sending email blasts to your volunteers and members, Twittering your best friends, or posting a message on your Facebook wall. You can also ask the business owner, if they have a regular print or radio ad, to include a line about the special event. Press releases, print and online bulletin board postings, and listings in your local paper also get the word out.

ACHS was able to take advantage of the slow economy and stretch their limited marketing dollars by negotiating with a local cable TV company for ad space that cost less than $1. Each time they have an event, the ad is easily updated using a video "crawl" along the bottom of the screen announcing the upcoming event. "Try connecting with a local media buyer in your area," suggests Kirk. "Take him or her to lunch, pick their brains, put them on your board. They know the angles and can help you get a higher profile in your community by reaching thousands of households via local radio or TV spots."

The essence of fundraising is building relationships with the people in your community. When you connect, you can reap not only goodwill but financial rewards as well. With regular events at local businesses that help bring customers through their doors, you can generate smiles all around, and bring home the bacon for the dogs and cats whose lives we are committed to saving.

It takes the community working together to save all healthy and treatable shelter pets. This is yet another - and fun - way to engage the community and broaden the safety net of care for animals.

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