Prior to starting CharityPaws, my side gig was photography. I owned a portrait studio for several years but then left and began doing shoots for homeless pets with various shelters and rescues.
One year, with the support of my local animal shelter, I attempted the big task of creating a photo calendar for the shelter that would act us a major fundraiser.
They had never done this before so they were skeptical and not 100% on board at first.
I had never done a photo calendar before either and had no idea how to make it work or what the heck I was doing for that matter! But I jumped in like I always do – and actually had a great time doing it.
Update: 2019 Cat Calendar
Just wanted to share our 2019 Calendar Fundraiser we did for a cat rescue in NJ called Karma Cat + Zen Dog. This was MUCH different than the dog calendar so you may want to take a peak to see how different doing a cat calendar is than a dog calendar! Hint > cats are harder, much harder.
Let’s Get To The Calendar Planning Details!
First, we did it in a very unique way and utilized our local community businesses as partners in the fundraiser. I was inspired to do this by another photographer who had some great success in this area.
1) Getting Local Business Support
I contacted about 20 local businesses to see who would allow us to take images at their locations and who would like to sponsor the project. Only 1 was not interested, that is a pretty good response! We chose the businesses simply by what we thought would get us the best images and offered the best “variety”. We had a yoga studio, landscaper, historic art center and so many great businesses involved.
Every business that joined us was talked up on social media, had a mention in the calendar and had the option to include a coupon code or special deal in the calendar as well.
2) Gauging Participant Interest
The shelter reached out to its Facebook Fan Page followers to ask who would be interested in having their dog in the calendar – the response was pretty overwhelming.
We had interested business. We knew we would have plenty of models – we were ready to roll!
3) Getting The Models
I ran a “photo contest” on my Facebook Page for anyone interested in having their dog in the calendar – the 13 photos with the most votes won the opportunity to have a photo session and be in the calendar.
For the photo contest we just created a special photo gallery on our page. We let potential models upload images for 7 days – then the next 7 days they would use to get the most votes.
The 13 images with the most votes made it into the calendar.
4) Scheduling Photo Sessions
Then the hardest part started – the scheduling. I wanted to get all sessions done within 2 weeks and had to juggle 13 busy people with 13 businesses that had specific availability.
How I did it to avoid the “I want my dog shot at that specific locations” issues I knew would arise.
- I asked the businesses for dates and times we could shoot at their locations.
- I emailed all the models with the available dates and times.
- It was first come first serve – so they let me know the date and time that worked for them and their dog – but they DID NOT know where their session would take place until the schedule was complete.
This was by far the biggest challenge in the whole calendar – but thankfully I had some amazingly flexible people and even when 1 business owner did not show up to open the store, we still made it work!
5) Editing Images
Once all the sessions were complete, the editing began. This was more time consuming than the sessions – but that is probably my Type-A kicking in. I wanted to give them a bright vibrant look for this calendar because of the way the images came out and what my vision was for this project.
But I have seen black and white only calendars and even vintage inspired calendars that looked amazing. You should consider the style you want prior to shooting your sessions for the best cohesive look.
6) Calendar Design
Once the images were edited and selected, the formatting and layout of the calendar began. The center page was reserved for the dogs that were “runner-ups” in our voting process.
Since we could only take in 13 for the sessions, we wanted to thank the others for their interest, so we thought a dedication page of all the animals that were adopted from the shelter was a nice touch.
7) Off To The Lab For Printing
This one took some research! We wanted quality – but at a good price. We did try to source locally but could not find any company that could do it for the cost we found online. We have outlined some printing resources below for you.
8) Selling Calendars Online
I set up a page on my website to take pre-orders only.
We did this to get a feel for how many we should order – we did not want to order 500 and only sell say 250. This was a great way to order appropriately! Once the pre-order was done we closed down online sales.
9) Local Sales
We also delivered photo calendars to the local businesses that wanted to help even more.
Each business that asked would also receive 20 calendars and sell them to their customers on our behalf! Some purchased the calendars at just above cost and gave them to customers as gifts too which we thought was a great idea!
The shelter also sold them at their events and at the shelter.
10) Social Media Outreach
We made sure to tag the local businesses on social media outlets to engage them and thank them for their involvement and in turn they would share our calendar and bring us new exposure.
It was definitely a lot of work – but since they raised just over $5K with this calendar it was well worth the time and effort put in!
We also received some local press in various newspapers as well!
PLAN ENOUGH TIME!
If you want to do a photo calendar fundraiser – start early! We started the production of this in Spring of 2013, had all sessions completed by August and had it to the printer by early September, and honestly – I probably would have done it all even sooner. It is a big project that will take you a lot of time, especially if you work full time!
1) SPONSORSHIP PAYMENT: Ask the businesses who want to be involved to make a sponsorship payment. In our calendar they had a page with their name and were allowed space for a special deal, we did not charge them but next time I would. It is exposure for them – and the money goes to a great cause.
2) TAKE CONTROL: I had people who wanted to request where their dogs would be shot and times etc. I had to be a little stronger than I am used to and let them know that this was something they could not request.
3) WEATHER BACKUP: One of our outdoor sessions happened during a complete rainstorm – and there was no inside shelter to shoot in. The mom was amazing and we all wore “garbage bags” as rain coats – and the dog was a total trooper, the images were wet, but amazing!
4) DESIGN MATTERS: Create a design that is enticing and people would be proud to have in their home. If the calendar has a design that is professional in look and feel, your chances of selling more increase! Same goes with print quality!
5) HAVE FUN: Is it work? Absolutely, but it was also amazing to see the community come together for this one fundraiser. The response was amazing, and the calendar received a lot of praise.
1) If your group is not working with a photographer – you can visit HeARTsSpeak to get a referral in your area. They are a community of artists that use their artistic abilities to help animal shelters.
2) For the printing of the calendar there are many options out there for you to consider. If you have a local printer, you can see if you can engage them in being a sponsor and see if they will give you either a discount or donate the printing.
For our project we went with Printingforless.com. I have to give them a thumbs up for quality, service and turnaround.
Although we have not used them personally, we have also hear wonderful things about 48hourprint.com.
If you are in the UK then you can get some samples from Colour Calendars. We have not used them but they reached out to us and we figured we would add them for our UK friends!
3) There are some resources for finding calendar templates if you are not up to designing or formatting your own. You can check on Etsy, Creative Market and some digital scrapbook websites to see what is available.
Other fantastic photo fundraising calendar examples!
1) Sheryl Sellards Mann created a fantastic calendar for Brother Wolf Animal Rescue. She was my inspiration for this calendar. They took the extra step of creating an IndieGoGo campaign where you can see some of her images on the gallery tab. You can also view the 2015 calendar at 2015 Who Rescued Whom Calendar.
2) Sherry Stinson also created a very unique looking calendar for Destiny the Pibble which Custom Fundraising Calendar for Destiny the Pibble.
Think outside the box!
There are so many ways to expand this fundraiser. We of course sold images from these sessions where all net proceeds went back to the shelter. There are also so many other products available that you can use from various labs and resources. You can try to up-sell to the parents of the dogs in the calendar with some custom products, like a magnet calendar with their favorite image or other various calendar options. There are desktop calendars and note style calendars and so much more! Be creative!
If you are looking for more animal shelter fundraising ideas, Fundraising Ideas for Animal Shelters and Rescues!