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?

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