Effective Animal Shelter Fundraising through Social Media
Animal shelter fundraising can be equal parts fun (think galas involving pets in tuxes) and frustrating (many needs, few donations). Animal shelters require a great deal of ongoing funding to maintain day-to-day activities as well as provide food, healthcare, bedding, and other goods and services for the many animals in their care. But while animal shelters may be fortunate enough to have many volunteers who come to play, groom, feed, and interact with protected animals, funds may not be as readily available.
As an administrator or volunteer involved with your local animal shelter, you’ll need to roll up your sleeves and get creative with how you solicit both one-time and recurring donations. Those donations may come from both private and corporate donors within your own community as well as philanthropists around the globe who you can reach through your social media initiatives. Qgiv can help you up your social media game to draw more attention to your animal shelter. We’re also here to provide the processing backbone to all of your fundraising efforts.
Establishing Your Animal Shelter Social Media Presence
How do you currently use social media for your animal shelter? With so many platforms for social media available, it isn’t enough to occasionally slap up boring and sporadic posts on Facebook. You’ve got to put time and thought into them! Instead of wondering why the likes and funds aren’t just rolling in on their own, spend some time putting together a good social media strategy. You can begin with these tips for branching out to full social media coverage.
Establish accounts for your animal shelter
Get your shelter present on, at a minimum, Facebook, X, and Instagram. Later on, you can look into additional opportunities like Tumblr, Pinterest, Google+, NextDoor, and Snapchat. You don’t want to spread yourself too thin too soon! Remember, quality is more important than quantity on social media channels. Instead of doing everything at once, work to master your ability to build an audience and interact with it daily on the big three sites first.
Brand your social media accounts with the specific name of your shelter
Brand your social media accounts with the specific name of your shelter, and add in the name of the town/area you are in. That last bit is important, especially if that name doesn’t already appear in your shelter’s name. This is to help differentiate your shelter from ones that may be similarly named but are in other areas of the country. Although fundraising isn’t really a competition – those shelters need funding just as much as you do! – it would be a shame to lose money because of a mix-up. You don’t want potential deep-pocket donors in your area to mistakenly follow and donate to a similarly-named shelter three states over!
Draw up a social media campaign calendar.
Your supporters and followers will be more connected with the goings-on of your shelter if you post more regularly. You should post often, but your posts seem should deliberate instead of thrown together. Campaign calendars help you plan those deliberate posts! And, as an added bonus, the person or people who run your social media will have an accurate calendar to follow. That will help them to know what to post each day. You can also compose and schedule those posts ahead of time using in-platform tools or add-ons. There are tons of options readily available as browser plug-ins and stand-alone software. Just pick the one that’s right for you!
Remember that social media is SOCIAL.
It isn’t enough to paste up a picture on Instagram and hope people like it. You can’t just put up a plea on Facebook for funds during a campaign and hope money trickles in. Instead, each and every one of your posts should be engaging and designed to draw in your intended audience. You should also spend time responding to your audience as they respond to you. Answer questions, directly thank people for support, swap quips, etc. Just be social!
Once you’ve established a solid social media presence, you’ll be ready to leverage that presence to launch your first social media animal shelter fundraising campaign. Be realistic – you can’t start a Facebook page and launch a major campaign on the same day and hope for instant success. You’ll need to spend some time building your audience– and it can take days, weeks, or even months. But that step must be completed before you’ll really be ready to count on them to participate in your campaigns.
Leveraging Social Media for Your Animal Shelter Fundraising Campaigns
When you leverage social media for your animal shelter fundraising campaign, you can achieve two objectives. First, you have the opportunity to bring in much-needed funds for your shelter. You can also energize your base with a fresh new campaign type. Then, you can use your new visibility as a stepping stone to draw in even more supporters. This is the time to get creative, administrators and volunteers! Put on your thinking caps, pet your favorite pup for good luck, and think outside of the crate – er, box. Get started with some of these ideas to really get those funds rolling in.
- Host a favorite pet photo contest.
Think about what pictures you see as you scroll through your own Facebook or Instagram feeds: food, kids, and pets. Then get on X, Reddit, or other platforms. What do people post most? That’s right: they usually post pictures of cute, furry creatures. Cat pictures! Dog memes! Videos of goofy animals! Leverage that pet love into a fundraiser. Here’s how:
Designate an open entry period.
Designate an open entry period for people to submit their favorite pet photos. Charge an initial entry fee for each photo – depending on the general affluence of your area, this fee can range from minimal to much higher. You can also offer packages: perhaps if one photo entry costs $5, you can charge a “discount” entry fee of $25 for six photo submissions. You can also charge $0 to create a pet page on the condition that people share their pages with their friends and family.
Arrange photos into a gallery.
This should be done either on the social media site or hosted on your own website. This will take a bit of effort on your part, as you may need to spend time cropping, labeling, and arranging photos.
Alternatively, you can set this up as a peer-to-peer fundraiser. To go this route, invite each pet owner to create a page for their pet. Let them get creative! Have a pet tell their story, share photos, etc.
Open up your photo galleries.
Invite your followers to start voting and charge per each vote cast. This is a bit like a tricky tray fundraising system. You can presell votes – for example, $1 for 1 vote or $10 for 15 votes – which the donor can then distribute between their favorite photos or all for one particular photo.
If you’ve decided to go the peer-to-peer route, this part is easy. Simply direct people to your event page and have them vote by donating to individual pages.
Run with it!
Further leverage the fundraising potential of these photos by turning the top vote-getting photos into pet-of-the-month focal points on calendars that you can create and sell over the internet directly to additional donors. You can create these calendars with no money spent out of pocket if you choose a site that direct sells on your behalf! Be aware, though, that sites like that receive a split of the funds after the sale. You can also purchase some of these calendars at cost and sell them in person at adoption events and at the shelter itself.
Why favorite pet photo contests work.
With this type of animal shelter fundraising campaign, you open at least three different streams of donation revenue: entry fees, vote sales, and calendar purchases. Plus, you’ll enthuse your support base, draw in even more fans, and have a system you can run annually for continued fundraising. You can also consider twists on the theme by splitting photo submissions into categories and awarding best-in-category wins. You can also try having different themes each season of the year to continue fundraising! Themes like Easter pets, Christmas pets, pets in costumes, etc. would be fun ideas. They can also be especially fun for your supporters without feeling like a continual drain on their wallets.
Another twist on favorite pet photo contests.
As another twist, focus on your shelter animals instead of soliciting photo submissions of pets owned by your supporters. You can have an open photography day at your shelter! Invite interested professional and hobby photographers to snap the cutest photos possible of pets you currently have within your shelter. You can consider providing props and costumes or inviting the interested photographers to bring their own. Then, run your contest campaign using the great shots that they capture. This can allow you free publicity for the pets you currently have available for adoption, provide the photographers with shots they can use in their own portfolios, and also raising funds for your shelter. Win-win-win!
- Let specific shelter residents “take over” your social media for a day.
Help your supporters see what shelter life is like through a pet’s eyes. Get into the persona of a pet and truly break down what every day is like for them. Spend some time laying out the costs of their being at the shelter, from food to being fixed to immunizations. That kind of specific information helps donors feel like they’re making a real difference.
End each of these social media posts with an appeal. Ask your supporters to consider sponsoring one or more pets for a month to cover the costs of their care and feeding. This is a great place to offer the opportunity to make monthly recurring donations. Use many, many pictures of the pet that is managing your social media that day, or even video if it is available. The cuter, the better!
Why social media takeovers work.
When you break down the numbers, you may find that supporters are more likely to reach for their wallets to cover the costs for the cute puppy or kitty that just filled their Facebook or Instagram feed for the day. Plus, by featuring pets one-by-one via social media, you may find a potential family to adopt them even faster. Check our Qgiv blog for even more ways you can incorporate Facebook into your social media repertoire.
- Organize a pet date-a-thon.
Are you looking for donations AND volunteers to help care for your shelter’s pets? Why not organize a pet date-a-thon? This is a twist on using a specific shelter resident to take over your social media for a day. Instead, on designated days of the week or month, offer up a pet who is looking for their perfect “date.” Use the best of your creativity and humor to write a dating profile for this pup or kitty.
Here’s an example of some “dating” copy to use for a feature shelter resident:
Fluffy is a 5-year-old Maltese mix who loves long romps through the bushes out back, barking at pesky squirrels, and juicy bones to munch on at the end of a busy day. She seeks a companion who enjoys ear scratching, snuggles, and doesn’t mind going home covered in fur. She has black eyes, soft paws, and a luxuriously flowing white coat. Her ideal date must love nose licks, be able to wrangle bows into her hair, and be willing to keep those nummy puppy treats a-comin’.
Why pet date-a-thons work.
At the end of the profile, implement the trick used by most human dating apps: for more information on how to “date” this wonderful creature, users must first pay a fee (donation). Then, they can come to the shelter to meet and spend time with their “date,” giving you an extra volunteer for that day. At the least, you’ll get extra hands on deck. At most, your volunteer could fall in love with a specific pet that they end up adopting. They could also become interested in your shelter as a whole and turn into a loyal volunteer and supporter.
Hosting In-Person Fundraisers with Social Media Support
Donor letters, traditional communication campaigns, and direct person-to-person are still effective fundraising methods. But you may be able to get more bang for your (unspent) buck by leveraging your social media channels to support an in-person event. By creating online event pages, you may find your shelter funded by private and corporate donors beyond levels you’ve only before imagined. Make this a reality by posting regularly on your channels, then organizing a spectacular in-person event. Consider some of these potential events and how to make the most of them beforehand using social media.
Host a black-tie pet gala…with a twist.
Not only will you be inviting your donors to arrive for the event dressed to the nines, but your shelter residents can also dress up and come out for the event. Imagine immaculately set tables intermingled with pet feeding stations where tuxedoed dogs enjoy their own scrumptious meals while donors are served three-course delights. Pulling off a large event like this will take a lot of time and coordination – but your shelter is worth it!
Begin by staging pictures of some of your shelter residents dressed up in tuxes and pearls. Frame them as the epitome of well-behaved pets waiting expectantly for a wonderful event to come. Use these publicity photos to draw in your donors who can purchase a place at the table – or an entire table, in the case of potential corporate donors – for themselves as well as a shelter pet. Rile up your base of already-avid fans and volunteers to be the first to jump into supporting this event, then utilize their enthusiasm to draw in others. Ask them to share shelter social media posts, send personal invitations on your behalf, or help with backend fundraising to get each piece of the gala paid for through monetary and in-kind donations.
At the event itself, be prepared to have a great time with your favorite two- and four-legged friends. You’ll be able to watch more donations come in as available shelter residents also find great new families from amongst the crowd. Just make sure you have plenty of volunteer pet wranglers on hand to take care of potty breaks or spilled food!
Sponsor a man’s best friend fun run.
Charge an entry fee for donors and their pet to join in the fun. You can also work to get sponsors who donate by how far participants run in terms of distance, laps, or time. Another fun idea is to pre-match donors with a shelter pet who they can walk or run with on the day of the event.
Split your event out into categories to engage an even larger base of donors: kids 10 and under, adolescents 10-18, young adults, families, and silver supporters. Use the event as a way to increase awareness of your animal shelter with branded t-shirts, hats, and bags. You can also do this by scheduling the route of your event through a popular park or along roads where participants can show off their support to watchers and passers-by.
This is a really great idea for a peer-to-peer fundraiser for your organization. If you’re curious to see what it looks like in real life, check out the SPCA Florida Walk for Animals.
Establish a “take your pets to work” day with local businesses and corporations.
Leverage your supporters who work for local businesses and corporations to organize a day – perhaps one-time or the start of an annual tradition – when employees can bring along their favorite pet to work. Each employee who takes part can pay a participation fee to your organization through their employer. Encourage those who join in to take pictures and share through your social media channels using a special hashtag. Work with participating companies and corporations to have literature about your animal shelter on hand to pass out on “take your pets to work” day so that employees are encouraged to make future donations or become volunteers at your animal shelter.
While animal shelter fundraising can be just as time-consuming and difficult as raising funds for other nonprofit organizations, you can achieve great returns through a bit of hard work and creativity. When you begin by establishing your social media channels and then leverage them appropriately, you’ve taken the important first steps to engaging your base. Then, continue your social contact, share your success stories often, and the support for your shelter will grow and grow!