Fundraising During the COVID-19 Outbreak in 6 Easy Steps

March 17th, 2020

Many have asked about continuing fundraising during the COVID-19 outbreak, and the answer is a resounding YES. You should find alternatives for events, and find every way you can to fundraise through digital means in the short-term, and adding direct mail in the longer term. Just be sensitive and explicitly acknowledge that donors may be struggling, but still press on with your message that the animals need support.

You will need your community’s support in a crisis to help cover financial and supply needs. Never assume that your community already knows you need help. No matter how obvious it is to you, people who can help may have no idea that a crisis is affecting you, or how it is affecting you.

Here are 6 easy steps to creating a fundraiser, now and save the lives of animals in your community:

1. Use all channels you have available to broadcast quickly how people can help (social media, website, email, media).

  • Keep your appeals as short, urgent, and direct as possible
  • Remember to say you are grateful for all support
  • Use compelling photos if possible

2. Tell them why you need help.

What reality are you facing that you can’t solve without support? Pull the public into your story. (Examples: “Many of our staff and volunteers are ill or are in-home quarantine, and we must pay overtime to the rest to keep our animals cared for.” “We are seeing many more pets surrendered and need funds to cover food, vaccines, and other medical needs.”)

NOTE: The assumption among experts making projections around nonprofit donations across the next few months is that animal welfare nonprofits will be harder hit than those directly responding to COVID-19. However, we all know that we are directly responding, and we know how important the safety of pets is to so many people in our society. Therefore, it is contingent on us to remind people that pets are part of our families. We must broadcast that allowing shelters and rescues to go unsupported in favor of groups serving people and health organizations endangers pets at just the time when more beloved pets may find themselves surrendered to shelters. Those pets will be in more danger of not making it out alive without funding for rescue and adoption. Make sure people understand what will happen if we can’t finance our programs. Many in our communities who find themselves for the first time needing help with their pets or pets of ill family members will not realize what may happen in shelters left with much less funding.

3. Tell them the best way(s) to help.

If you need funds most, say so (and why)! 

“Funds are always best because they allow us to respond to needs as they change.”

  • Provide clear instructions on how to donate – use prominent links to online donation forms, say where to send checks
  • Boldface, underline, and and use a bright font color for a link in an email to a donation form
  • Donation links should be explicit not “Help the Pets,” but “Donate” or “Please give now
  • Provide a prominent contact phone or email in case supporters have questions or are having trouble donating.

4. Remember that many donors strongly prefer to help with supplies.

Even if you prefer cash, offer the means to give this way, and provide details about what supplies are most needed:

  • Post a wishlist on your website, like Austin Pets Alive! does here. Be sure to link to it in your social media, and in email appeals.
  • If the local media does a story on you, name the three most important supplies you need on camera, and say where your longer wish list is posted.
  • Create a list on Amazon with links to the exact types of supplies you need, here is an example.
  • Have lists ready that you can easily print out or email – in times of crisis people often reach out to offer to do supply drives for you.
  • Remember to be clear about where and when people can drop off supplies.
  • Say what you don’t need.
  • Tell them the best way(s) to help.

5. Look to other shelters and rescues for ideas.

There are lots of shelters and rescues are running successful fundraising campaigns to help the animals in their care through the COVID pandemic. Look on Facebook and other social media platforms for fundraisers you can implement in your community. Here are some links to successful fundraisers you might find useful.

6. Communicating even with donors who may not be able to give right now is essential.

Consider posting a page on your website with ongoing updates, including updates on your needs as they change for supplies and funding. Keep promoting this in social media, and in any email, you send out so that supporters have a place to go and keep up with what’s happening and what you need financially to do your work.

Please read the entire American Pets Alive! COVID-19 Preparedness Guide for a complete set of protocols to maintain lifesaving while protecting the health of staff and volunteers and follow American Pets Alive! on social media for up-to-the-minute updates and information. For this conversation and others, join the American Pets Alive! Shelter and Rescue Support Facebook Page.

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