18 Effective Animal Shelter Fundraising Ideas

Animal shelters provide an important service to the communities they serve. They help care for pets without a home and connect families with their new best friends. But not all animal shelters receive adequate funding – and that's where some creative fundraising ideas can help. Read on to learn some effective ways to raise more money for your animal shelter.

12 minutes read
18 Effective Animal Shelter Fundraising Ideas

Animal shelters are very important because they care for abandoned or neglected animals. They also provide temporary homes for animals on the street. Animal shelters are invaluable to communities around the world. They work for a noble cause, helping those who have no voice.

Sadly, nowadays doing good doesn’t guarantee funding. Having good intentions and working hard doesn’t necessarily mean that your animal shelter will meet its fundraising goals.

Another thing to remember is that fundraising is not an outcome, it’s a process. There’s no one-shot solution! What’s needed is a combination of a sound fundraising strategy, creative fundraising ideas, and passionate staff.

This article covers 18 effective animal shelter fundraising ideas that can help propel your shelter’s fundraising to new heights.

18 Unique Animal Rescue Fundraising Ideas

1. Dog Walks or Runs

Dog walks or runs are the simplest animal shelter fundraising idea to start with. There are several ways to go about organizing a dog walk or a dog run.

You can mobilize your own staff or volunteers from your local community and have them walk the local dogs in exchange for donations.

You can also organize a morning run with the dogs. Design a running route that makes sense in your local community, and then have participants pay to enter the run. Pooches come along, of course!

Finally, you can opt for an ever so popular walk-a-thon. A walk-a-thon would take a bit more time and preparation than a morning run.

Example: Dogs Run Certified, an initiative dedicated to dog seatbelt safety, has set up a walk-a-thon to raise funds for their education programs. This campaign includes the story behind their cause, a simple yet suggestive donation form, and a goal meter to create urgency. They have concisely informed their donors why they need funds and how they’d be spending them. The donor wall helps them give automatic recognition to their important donors.

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2. Crowdfunding

Fundraising by using crowdfunding is a great way for organizations to grow their online audience and address their fundraising needs, and this is especially true for smaller organizations.

Crowdfunding refers to the collection of many small donations by a large number of people. The process is fast and simple, and it works well for animal shelters and animal rescue organizations since crowdfunding pages include photographs and videos of animals in need, and these create an emotional connection.

To start crowdfunding:

  • Pick a specific cause. For example, instead of crowdfunding for your shelter in general, try fundraising for a specific animal’s vet bills or for building a whole new shelter.
  • Create a crowdfunding page. Although there are many crowdfunding platforms out there, there are many advantages to hosting crowdfunding on your website. Having visitors donate on your website instills trust and allows donors to learn more about your nonprofit.

To collect one-time and recurring donations on your website, use a Crowdfunding platform like Donorbox.

  • Write a compelling story.
  • Brand the crowdfunding page.
  • Share the fundraiser and encourage friends and supporters to do the same.
  • Say thank you to every donor.

Example: Living Free has a crowdfunding to get sponsorship funds for one of their dogs. They posted updates throughout their camapaign and have received 76 donations so far! A crowdfunding example for animal rescue fundraising.

Start Crowdfunding

3. Dog Washing

A dog washing event is a fun and engaging animal shelter fundraising idea. Best organized in summer, it’s a great activity for the entire family.

To organize dog washing, source a suitable location, and get your local pet stores to donate dog-washing supplies (e.g. pet shampoo or brushes).

Similarly to a car washing fundraising event, owners can bring their pets over for a quick cleaning in exchange for a small donation.

Set up a station with drinks, tables, and chairs, so families and friends can relax and spend time together while their pups are getting washed.

This is a cheap, quick, and convenient option for washing pets – which is always desirable for pet owners. In addition to that, they get to spend time outside and support a great cause!

For a twist on this idea, offer a full pet salon experience (not just a wash). Offer grooming, paw massage, cutting nails. Naturally, for a full-on pet grooming process, you’ll need a professional’s help.

Pro tip: Collect these in-person donations with the Donorbox Live™ Kiosk app. All you need is the app, an Android tablet or iPad, and a card reader. You donors can pay with credit/debit cards, digital wallets, smartphones, and smartwatches.

4. Pet Photo Shoot

People love their pets. And everyone thinks their pet is the cutest.

To organize this “aww-filled” event, recruit professional photographers or a staff member to take pictures of these pets.

Source a location and start promoting the event. Post the event on Facebook and Instagram, outlining all the details, and include a link to your events page.

You can charge the owner as high as $100 for 5 unique digital photographs of their pet.

If you struggle to find a professional photographer who would photograph for free, try splitting the profit 50-50.

Donorbox Events is the perfect tool to sell tickets to your photo shoot. Set up your events page with as many ticket tiers as you need. Set ticket limits and deadlines to help you plan your event. Give ticket buyers the option to add additional donations to their purchase to boost your event success and show how much of each ticket is tax deductible to incentivize purchasing at a higher level. Then their tickets and receipts are automatically delivered!

5. Donation Stations

Identify pet stores and vet clinics in your area and ask them to set up a donation station in their space for your animal shelter.

The donation stations can range from simply setting up the basket(s) at every location, in which visitors and shoppers can donate in-kind supplies.

Donation stations can be set up in other places too – a small office, local school, or church.

To raise money, work with the above-mentioned partners, especially pet shops, for shoppers to donate a small amount at their check out.

Finally, you could ask your partners (vet clinics, pet shops, businesses) to highlight your animal shelter as “the cause they support” and have your “donate” buttons on their websites.

6. Pet Coffee Shop Day

If there aren’t that many parks in your area or you just want to switch it up a bit, get in touch with a local coffee shop. When selecting the coffee shop in which you’ll organize the event, make sure it’s spacious enough for pets and humans (ideally with an outside space).

Ask them if they would be open to hosting an animal shelter fundraising event. Make the event relaxed and casual, perhaps by having a board game competition or a trivia quiz.

Offer some snacks and drinks included in the price of the ticket.

And don’t forget about our furry friends! Set up bowls with water and food, and perhaps even pet-themed and pet-safe cookies.

Check out how Merrymac Farm Sanctuary created their event page to sell tickets to their coffee meet-and-greet with their rescued horses! This is a great way to raise money and build awareness around their mission.

Events example for raising funds for animal shelters

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7. Dog Fashion Shows

Dog fashion shows make for a great fundraising idea. Owners would love the idea of walking their furry babies down the ramp in cute, fancy clothing.

There are a few things to consider to turn a dog fashion show into a great fundraiser.

  1. A spacious venue – It’s not just about walking, dogs love to run around. Their owners would prefer an outside area or a big hall along with a playing field.
  2. A team of volunteers – You cannot run a dog fashion show alone. A good, energetic team of volunteers can help you manage everything with ease.
  3. Arrangements – Think of everything you need to run a well-organized show. Start with the smallest necessities such as dog water, dog waste stations, props, and costumes. Then move on to the bigger needs like marketing, judges, prizes, entree fees, sponsorships, etc.
  4. Entertainment – Break the show into different fashion categories – waggiest tail, most charming dog, friendliest puppy, prettiest eyes, handsome crossbreed, and many more. Select a host among your volunteers, who can rock the show with constant interaction among dogs and the owners.
  5. Raising funds – Plan to raise funds by charging an entree fee for each category. In addition, collaborate with local pet businesses (pet food, pet toys, beds, etc.) who may want to sponsor your event by advertising themselves. You can also serve refreshments in exchange for some bucks.

8. Sponsor a Pet

As mentioned in Idea 2 (Crowdfunding), people respond better to appeals targeting one animal than more.

To capitalize on this, start a “Sponsor a Pet” program. The “Sponsor A Pet” program is a way for people to help pets in need even if they can’t adopt them.

By giving a recurring monetary donation, pet sponsors will be working with your shelter to provide the best care to the pets while they’re waiting for their forever home. A recurring donation means the pet is safe and taken care of (usually for a full year unless the donor decides to renew).

Send your pet sponsors (at least) quarterly updates on how the pet is doing, what their personality is like, and offer a chance to visit.

You can also offer the opportunity for your pet sponsors to name the pet if they commit to a longer sponsorship.

Donorbox makes recurring donations easy for you and your donors. They can log in to their own Donorbox account to update or cancel their recurring donation at any time. All you have to do is choose up to four of the following intervals to add to your donation form: one-time, daily, weekly, biweekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually. Then you can set a default option and mark your preferred option with a heart.

Example: PittieLove Rescue has an online sponsorship campaign for the Pitbull dogs living in their shelter. The cost of each dog’s care (vaccination, neutering, food, medicine, treatment, etc.) needs constant assistance from donors or sponsors. Their simple donation form makes it very easy for people to choose the dog and make one-time/recurring donations. The donation FAQ on their page as well as the tax information add to the nonprofit’s transparency.

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9. Pet Raffle

Organize a pet raffle either online or during an event. This can be your great add-on for holiday campaigns like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and year-end campaigns as well.

Sell raffle tickets for $1-$5 (e.g. $1 buys you one ticket/entry, $5 buys you three tickets).

Prior to advertising the raffle, secure rewards. These can range from pet-specific gift baskets (e.g. a cat basket or a dog basket) to a cat tree or a dog bed, to a yearly supply of pet food at a specific pet store, to financial gifts and trips for the whole family.

Promote the raffle extensively and enjoy the donations pouring in!

10. Animal Art Festival

Organize a festival in your community gathering pets, pet owners, and animal lovers.

Contact local art supplies shops and ask them to donate art supplies. If you can, have an artist come volunteer for the event and hold an art workshop for pet owners. Organize and promote the festival.

Have pets make art with their paws. Pets can “print” on paper, mugs, or another medium you can get a hold of. Pet owners can also write a little biography about their pets.

You can also have the pet owners submit these to an online gallery created specifically for this purpose. Use the gallery to show off, ask for donations, and increase the proceeds! You can also have pet owners pay to join the art workshop.

For a twist on this idea, auction off the art.

11. Pet Calendar

Given how much people love their pets, it should be no surprise how wildly popular pet calendars are. It should also be no surprise that calendar fundraising is an extremely popular and effective tool for animal welfare organizations.

Wall or desk calendars are easy to create and sell. You can choose to either photograph animals in your shelter and add facts and quotes that help educate (and then sell them), or you can run a contest for pet owners to submit an entry in order for their pet to be featured (and charge for the submission).

Here are some general guidelines on how to create pet calendars:

  • Contact a variety of businesses and see who would allow you to take images at their locations and who would like to sponsor the project.
  • Use your Facebook page to ask who would be interested in having their pet on the calendar.
  • Run a “photo contest” on Facebook for anyone interested in having their pet in the calendar – the 13 photos with the most votes win the opportunity to have a photo session and be in the calendar.
  • Schedule all the photoshoots, take the photos, and edit them.
  • Print the calendars and sell them online.

12. Partner with Elementary Schools

This animal shelter fundraising idea requires more planning and investment in time from your animal shelter, but it might have some of the greatest return on the investment.

Partner with local elementary schools – having each classroom partnered with one pet at your shelter.

Kids can raise donations of pet supplies and spare change for “their” pet. This not only contributes to your fundraising goals, but it also makes a great case for PR and teaches students important lessons about animal care and responsibility.

13. Pet Care Classes

Sure to attract a crowd, this animal shelter fundraising idea combines education with fundraising.

To execute it, have your staff or local vets offer community classes for pet owners or animal lovers on topics of interest. For example, “Basic Cat Care,” and “Pet First Aid and CPR.”

Make sure to promote the event on social media and drop off flyers to local pet stores, other shelters and sanctuaries, and vet clinics.

Organize these regularly to ensure a consistent stream of money coming in.

14. Host a “Barkery”

Everyone loves treats, and everyone loves bake sales and bake-offs! So why not combine them with adorable four-legged pets?

To host a “barkery,”  find a pet-suitable cake recipe (a “pawcake”), and make big batches of it to sell it to pet owners.

You can make the treats specific to only one type of pet (e.g. dog) or you can make several different ones – one for every most common type of pet.

You can organize this in your local park or sell the treats online. If you have the capacity to take this idea to the next level, you can even accept custom orders for pet birthdays – and charge more for it!

15. Create a Membership Program

Animal lovers will appreciate the chance to join an exclusive membership program to support your animal shelter. Create member-only perks like time to visit the shelter, first dibs on adoption of any new animals, special merch, social media shoutouts, and more.

Membership fees should be paid either monthly or annually. Be sure to properly educate your audience about this opportunity so there’s no confusion and you get more interested participants.

Donorbox memberships are easy to set up and maintain. Simply create your membership page with as many tiers or levels as makes sense for your membership program. From there, your members can log in to their Donorbox account to make changes to their membership at any point. You can easily find your members in your Donorbox donor management so you know who gets these special benefits.

We love how Low Rider Dachshund Rescue of Florida made their simple and effective membership page so donors can easily give their annual membership fee.

Animal shelter fundraising ideas - membership example

16. Pet Sitting

Giving time is oftentimes the single best way to go about fundraising. Having pets is expensive, with 86.4 million cats and 78.2 million dogs in homes around the U.S, according to the Humane Society, so any help with pet sitting or pet washing is appreciated by owners.

Recruit volunteers in your community to help with pet sitting, and charge the owners less than a professional pet sitter or a pet hotel would – with all the funds going directly to your shelter.

The owners will feel good knowing their money will be helping other animals like theirs! Make sure to promote the service on social media and by handing out flyers.

17. Relax and Destress with Puppies and Kittens

This is a great fundraiser around stressful times of the year, like tax season for adults or finals for college students. Have participants page to interact with puppies or kittens to de-stress. Charge for “tickets”, making it very clear where the money is going to.

Of course, make sure vets give the green light, and that you don’t overwhelm the animals.

To hit two birds with one stone, you could try and make sure all puppies and kittens are adoptable. Maybe someone falls in love with one and you find them a happy home!

18. Host a Live Virtual Fundraising Event

With a virtual event, you can reach a larger audience than with an in-person event. And you’ll be able to share the recording of the virtual event afterward to continue to drive donations.

Your live fundraising event should be 45 to 60 minutes long. Be sure to include time for the special appeal when you ask people to make their donations via your Donorbox campaign page or via Text-to-Give. During the event, acknowledge your donors by name as they give and share your goal meter to create shared excitement with your audience as you get closer to reaching the goal.

Be sure to select an emcee who is great on camera and is passionate about your mission.

Bonus Resource

This bonus resource will help you add more warmth and meaning to your animal shelter fundraising campaign.

Animal Shelter Fundraising Slogans

Your animals need protection, good care, and treatment. But to be able to fund that, you need to touch the hearts of your potential donors.

A slogan is a catchy line that provokes thoughts and emotions in people. They’re used in advertising a product, service, and in your case, a cause. And sometimes that’s all you need to get kind people to give to your campaign.

Here are a few examples of animal shelter fundraising slogans to help you write yours.

   Animals deserve love, not cruelty.

A simple message like this highlighted on your fundraising page and social media posts can elicit empathy from people. You may use it for your campaign for rescued animals.

      We have the power to end violence against animals.

Sometimes people need to be reminded of their power of bringing about a change. And when done right, it can work wonders. Start your campaign appeal with a slogan like this.

     They dream of a better world; let’s give them one.

If you’re looking to renovate your shelter, tell your donors why – to give the animals a better world of their own.

    Dogs aren’t meant for racing.

Be direct with your message. Right at the beginning of your campaign copy, tell your donors what you believe in and are fighting for. Spread the message across social media.

Animal Equality does it brilliantly. Here’s an example.

Animal shelter fundraising example for slogans

  Abused and abandoned, kittens like ‘Minnie’ need a home.

Every animal at your shelter has a story from its past. Pick one, and tell it on social media and your fundraising page to show the possible impact.


Fundraising for an animal shelter isn’t easy, and coming up with effective ideas to fundraise can be difficult.

While effective fundraising takes time, energy, and passion, with a little creative thinking and planning, anyone can fundraise for animals.

We hope the 18 ideas got your creative juices flowing. Also, Check out some of the top animal charities for more inspiration.

Donorbox has you covered for animal shelter fundraising. From streamlined and attractive donation forms, crowdfunding and peer-to-peer functionality, memberships, event ticketing, and more, Donorbox has the features you need to grow your animal shelter so you can do more good.

For more tips on fundraising, check out our blog. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive the best of the blog to your inbox every month.

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Raviraj heads the sales and marketing team at Donorbox. His growth-hacking abilities have helped Donorbox boost fundraising efforts for thousands of nonprofit organizations.

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