Animal shelters provide a number of services for both current and potential animal owners. They care for animals who need protection, find homes for homeless animals, and help lost pets get reunited with their owners. Some shelters also provide animal health services, behavioral evaluations, as well as training and education. Shelters will often partner with other organizations to improve their services. For instance, the app Shadow, partners with several humane society organizations to include their lost dog listings on their app, helping owners to locate their lost dogs that much faster. Unfortunately, these services don’t come cheap.
Most people believe that animal shelters are financed through tax dollars and adoption fees. Unfortunately, this type of funding only applies to shelters that are run by or connected to a municipality. In general, most shelters don’t receive government funding, and adoption fees only cover the cost of caring for the animal during their time at the shelter. Therefore funding for animal shelters comes primarily through donations.
There are five primary ways that shelters solicit donations:
1. Yearly Donations
If you’ve ever given your email to an animal shelter, then you’re no doubt familiar with the annual donation email. This email is generally part of the shelter’s annual giving campaign. They will usually ask for a donation of money in exchange for a gift, such as a calendar or a t-shirt. The emails will usually include a webpage link so you can donate directly to the shelter, and the email’s donation demand will usually be followed up with social media marketing.
Social media is an effective way for shelters to let people know about the animals they take in. This is particularly effective when an animal comes in that needs extensive medical care. It’s become a common practice for shelters to broadcast an animal’s situation on social media and ask for donations to help pay for their care. These cases are usually ones of abuse or abandonment and often involve costly surgery.
Martha Smith-Blackmore, president of Forensic Veterinary Investigations LLC, told petmd.com that “A single case of abuse can potentially wipe out an entire year’s worth of veterinary budget for a town. No animal should ever have to lose its life after suffering correctable injuries at the hands of an abuser. A successful crowdfunding campaign can make a life or death difference for a victim. This decentralization of fundraising and lifesaving is the way of the future of caring for animal cruelty victims.”
Fundraisers help animal shelters to attract potential regular donors, promote awareness of their services, and reach people who wouldn’t donate otherwise. Frequently shelters will solicit donations of auction items, prizes, venue, and staff so that all the money raised can go directly to keeping the shelter doors open. Popular fundraising events include benefit concerts, carnivals, charity dinners, dog walks or runs, animal grooming, and pet photoshoots.
Several programs give funds to charitable organizations that promote animal welfare. Some of these programs are:
- The Albert Schweitzer Animal Welfare Fund
This program grants funds to support causes such as humane education, reducing pet overpopulation, and the promotion of the humane treatment of shelter animals.
- The Bissell Pet Foundation
The Bissell Pet Foundation provides funds to offset the cost of spaying and neutering as well as subsidizing adoption fees and providing foster care.
- The American Humane Association
This grant funds equipment purchases, improve shelter buildings, as well as providing capital campaigns that go towards shelter animal welfare.
- The ASPCA
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has several grant programs that provide assistance to nonprofit animal organizations.
- The Doris Day Animal Foundation
This foundation places a specific emphasis on senior pet programs. The award funds to a variety of causes such as pet food banks, spay/neuter programs, special needs programs, and senior care.
5. In-Kind Donations
In-kind donations or gifts in kind are a form of charitable giving where instead of donating money to purchase goods and services, the goods and services themselves are donated. For animal shelters, this often means donations of food and toys. It can also include volunteering. Volunteers are essential to animal shelters. Volunteers perform a range of activities such as walking dogs and playing with cats, as well as providing administrative support, conducting fundraisers, and furnishing adoptions.