Raising Funds and Awareness with Ready, Set, Rescue

Ready, Set, RescueA few weeks ago, as I was standing in the grocery checkout line preparing to pay for my purchases and breezing past the usual hodgepodge of tabloids and entertainment magazine mainstays, a dog’s face suddenly leapt out at me from among the covers.

What was this? Certainly not what you’d call a celebrity rag!

I picked up the intriguing volume of Ready, Set, Rescue, printed on solid, full-color magazine stock, to examine it. Designed to serve new and prospective adopters of homeless pets, it was packed with useful tips to ease the transition for all concerned. I felt somewhat embarrassed that I work in animal welfare yet had no idea that this publication existed, but thrilled that it had found its way to a venue as heavily trafficked as my local supermarket. What brilliant marketing for the cause of animal rescue!

Once I got home and had a chance to read it more closely, I saw that it had some “star power” of its own — the magazine’s board of advisors includes one of the founders and directors of the nationally renowned Best Friends Animal Society; “cat whisperer” Jackson Galaxy made famous on the Animal Planet show, “My Cat from Hell”; and the executive director of Found Animals Foundation, whose $75 million Michelson Prize & Grants program funds cutting-edge research that advances the development of a permanent, single-dose, non-surgical sterilant for male and female cats and dogs.

The magazine’s content is a treasure trove of easy-to-digest nuggets of wisdom for soon-to-be and new pet parents, featuring articles on topics ranging from key factors to consider when adopting a pet to behavioral training strategies for the pet’s harmonious integration within a new household to health checklists for dogs and cats to essential supplies for meeting new pets’ needs to directories of additional resources for new pet owners. And the information goes beyond dogs and cats to provide starting points for those considering the adoption of companions such as reptiles, birds, rodents, equines, and farm animals.

In addition to equipping adopters with guidance to facilitate the best possible adoption outcomes, the magazine is also geared toward helping individual shelter and rescue organizations raise funds for their efforts. Organizations that purchase bulk “Go-Paks” of Ready, Set, Rescue issues bundled together with the bimonthly magazine Rescue Me showcasing “happy tails” of adoption successes around the nation — available at a deep discount — subsequently sell them to adopters/adopters-to-be at full retail value, making approximately a 70% profit. Furthermore, organizations that register online for a special ID number become eligible to receive about two-thirds of the price of each subscription to Rescue Me whenever their organization is designated as a recipient by the subscriber.

So what this innovative approach essentially amounts to is a win-win-win-win situation for no less than four parties: adopters (who become better informed about their new family members), shelters and rescues (which receive earnings from magazine sales, and whose cause is widely promoted and positioned for success), the publisher (which accomplishes its mission of helping homeless animals while earning revenue), and especially the animals (who have a better chance of finding — and staying in — new homes).

That said, the magazine’s ability to make a substantial difference for all these various stakeholders is heavily dependent on sales volume…so if the concept appeals to you, here’s how to get involved. Good luck and enjoy!

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Takeaways from the AWFNJ 2014 Conference

This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the annual conference of the Animal Welfare Federation of New Jersey, where I met lots of great people and picked up some helpful pointers. Although valuable information was shared in almost every session, I’ve compiled specific live-tweet tips below from the two sessions most relevant to folks who are starting and seeking funds for their shelter or rescue.

Creating a Successful Animal Rescue” offered the following advice:

  • Define the animal type(s) you’ll rescue, carve out a niche, & establish your brand.
  • Identify your sources for rescued animals & make sound plans for transporting them.
  • Start small w/ what’s manageable & build up gradually…it’s better for the animals!
  • Develop a good foster network and create clear processes & helpful resources for foster families.
  • Build up an emergency fund, particularly for unexpected veterinary expenses.
  • Make sure everyone involved has the training they need to best serve the animals.
  • Hold a formal volunteer orientation & regular volunteer meetings.
  • Compile e-mail & phone lists for emergency communications among volunteers & staff.
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel; seek advice from other rescues about successes/challenges.
  • Incorporate as a 501c3 org; increases funding opportunities & shows accountability.
  • Be sure to obtain liability insurance and a raffle license.
  • Be visible in your community w/adoption events, tables @ fairs/festivals, & parades.
  • Network with a variety of others as much as possible to ensure your sustainability.
  • Good marketing is key, esp via social media; it’s free & can be done by volunteers.
  • Marketing materials should include a brochure, T-shirts, and a mailing/e-mail list.
  • Build a web site & make sure it’s clean & easy to navigate to showcase your animals.
  • Establish relationships w/local media (newspaper, radio, TV) & local businesses.
  • Share your happy stories…people are hungry for them.

A One-Man Band Guide to Fundraising,” which was presented by Erika Mathews, VP of Development at St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center (one of my personal favorites), imparted the following words of wisdom:

  • Asking for $ is easier when you remember you’re asking for the animals, not for yourself.
  • When seeking grant support, following instructions is critical & will serve you well.
  • For direct mail, create a donor file & gather your best photos.
  • Mailing list rentals from similar organizations can be worthwhile & fairly inexpensive.
  • Filing for discounted mailing rate via USPS (Nonprofit Indicia) isn’t hard & adds up to significant savings,
  • The holiday season is the best time to send mass mailings.
  • Including a QR code that makes it easy to donate online appeals to younger donors.
  • Info re planned giving can be provided subtly w/a checkbox option in mailings & online.
  • Give people options for making a memorial donation in honor of a special person or pet.
  • Printed newsletters sent in envelopes raise much more $ than those mailed without them.
  • E-blasts (newsletters/appeals) sent with tools like ConstantContact are very cost-effective.
  • Post wish lists of needed items on your web site, in print at your shelter, & on Amazon.
  • Be sure your web site makes it very obvious where/how to donate to your organization.
  • Crowdfunding web sites such as Kickstarter & LoveAnimals can bring in additional funds.
  • Partner up w/local businesses for direct donations & for raffle/tricky-tray donations.
  • Sites like CafePress & Zazzle allow you to create personalized merchandise for your org.
  • Register for AmazonSmile, which gives your org a percentage of shoppers’ purchases.
  • Be very selective about the events you hold: should raise significant $ and awareness.
  • Make sure to keep your donors’ data & giving history clean & current.
  • It’s helpful to keep donor info organized in a database (DonorPerfect is user-friendly).
  • When someone makes a gift, send a timely acknowledgement letter/thank-you note.
  • Keeping in touch w/donors about your work & making personal contact goes a long way.
  • Take time to assess which of & how well your different fundraising strategies are working.

My next stop on the conference circuit: Animal Care Expo in Daytona Beach, FL May 20-23, where I’ll be co-presenting the session, “Ingredients for a Successful Grant Application.” Will you be there?

Got Special-Needs Cats?

New Spay/Neuter Grant Opportunities

PetSmart Charities is now accepting applications from organizations in the United States and Canada for its 2014 High-Impact Spay/Neuter Grants. Specific opportunities include grants for targeted spay/neuter, free-roaming cats, spay/neuter clinic equipment, and spay/neuter “blitz” promotional campaigns.  Eligible applicants include registered charities, government agencies, and tribal authorities in the U.S. and Canada. Applications are being accepted on a rolling basis.  See the program guidelines for further information.

In honor of Word Spay Day‘s 20th anniversary and the recent launch of Zeuterin™, the only non-surgical sterilant for dogs approved by the FDA, the Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs (ACC&D) — in partnership with Best Friends Animal Society, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), and the Kenneth A. Scott Charitable Trust — is holding a contest for U.S. municipal agencies, 501(c)(3) animal shelters and rescues, veterinary practices, and spay/neuter programs to win grants of up to $2,000 for their spay/neuter programs. Contestants are invited to share the best strategies that their organizations have implemented for marketing Zeuterin or incorporating it into their spay/neuter operations, and to describe the impact those strategies have had. Zeuterin’s potential advantages over traditional spay/neuter methods include reducing neutering costs, reaching communities without surgical facilities, sterilizing male dogs whose owners resist surgery, and neutering dogs who cannot safely undergo anesthesia. Submissions must be received by September 1, 2014.  See the contest guidelines for more information.

Is Your Organization Ready for a Campaign?

Good News for U of Missouri Veterinary School Students