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Competing for Nonprofit Donations: How to Get Donors to Donate to You Rather than Other Nonprofits

Unfortunately, many very worthy nonprofit groups are competing for fewer dollars. What can animal shelters do to compete for these dollars?

Since animal shelters represent the difference between life and death for so many homeless pets, that in itself may put shelters ahead of other groups. I’ve heard many people say they have suspended giving to nonprofits relating to the arts, for example, since they believe needs relating to life itself such as human and animal hunger and shelter are critical in this economy.

It's so important that every shelter convinces potential donors that their donations will be well spent to save pets' lives, to provide medical needs for abused animals, etc. You've got to build confidence and credibility and "sell" your shelter to donors. Following are a few ideas to compete for nonprofit dollars:

cat photoIf you don’t work for a shelter but would like to help homeless pets, offer to volunteer in ways that would help your local shelter get more donations. If you’re a writer, a website designer, a photographer, etc., you can help! You don’t have to be a professional to offer your services; turn your hobbies into a meaningful accomplishment.

Publish the history of your organization including when it was started, who started it, details on different facilities you’ve occupied, etc.

Outline your achievements. How many animals have been rescued, how many adopted, how much money raised, how many animals spayed/neutered, etc.

Tell your story in pictures. Show photos and stories of animals placed into their forever homes, of animals rescued from cruel and inhumane situations, etc. A photo which shows the animal when it was rescued and a photo of the now healthy and adopted pet along with a well written story can go a long way in telling donors what you do. Or a video on your website showing your pets at an adoption event could be a very powerful selling tool.

Specify your goals. What is the mission of your group? Is your shelter a no-kill shelter? Are you trying to reach the goal of being a no-kill shelter by a certain year? Are you expanding your facility? Do you have a goal of establishing a mobile spay/neuter clinic in your area? If you’re raising money for a specific goal, explain the goal and give information on how you plan to use the money. Are you providing humane education to your local schools? Be very specific.




Provide a secure website to accept donations online so donors they feel their personal data will be safe.
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Offer options to donors on how their money is used. For example, offer a way to donate in honor of or in memory of, for a spay/neuter clinic, for the medical care of a specific animal, etc.

Be specific on what a dollar will buy at your shelter. How much food will $50 buy? How much does it cost to spay a dog?

Publish the names of corporate sponsors, retailers, or businesses that you partner with. This will enhance your credibility since these businesses believe in your organization.

Add to your board of directors or permanent staff people who have expertise you need. Folks with a marketing background can help develop fundraising ideas and ways to involve the community. Don’t be hesitant to purchase accounting software or database programs to make your group more effective.

Pursue a continuing goal of making your website professional and appealing. You can probably find a web design firm in your area to volunteer for this. Give the firm credit on each page with a link to the firm’s website.

Archive your press releases. Maintain a page on your website under the name of “press” or “media” to archive press releases you’ve submitted to local news media and/or stories written about your organization. These stories provide potential donors a history of past activities and fundraisers you’ve sponsored and show you’re active in the community. Often the stories will include names of local business sponsors and what was achieved in terms of animals adopted, money raised, etc.



Archive your newsletters. If you publish newsletters (print and/or email) archive these on your site. Anyone looking for details on past activities, how money is spent, what you’ve accomplished, etc., can get a lot of information from these.

Publish names of board of directors. Publish these names to further show that many individuals are actively involved in your shelter’s operation. Also include the names of your advisory board if you have one. Often board members are prominent names in your community and can help establish your group’s credibility.

Be prepared to send a professionally prepared financial statement if requested. Many potential donors, particularly wealthy individuals who could donate substantial sums of money, ask for this information. They want to be sure a group is well run and spending money on the cause rather than administrative costs. If you’re improving your balance sheet and accomplishing more with less, show this in your statement and highlight  the improvement you’ve made.

cat photoRun the shelter’s operation like a business. Apply laser like focus to your financial statements and cut costs wherever you can. Use technology whenever possible to streamline your accounting process, donor database, email newsletters, website, etc. Tell your story in a professional and appealing way. Plan yearly fundraising activities and learn from each one to constantly improve how you raise money. What works and what doesn’t? Do more of what works and eliminate less successful activities.

See Finding Volunteers for Your Animal Shelter for ideas on reaching volunteers.

For animal lovers visit Ways You Can Volunteer to Help Homeless Pets.

Research Where to Find Grants for Animals.


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