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Virtual Fundraising Ideas For Animal Rescues & Shelters

Raising Money 06.30.2020
By Jill Caren
raising money virtually
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COVID19 has changed our world! Sadly, with the inability to host in-person fundraisers many animal shelters and rescues have been struggling financially. But many nonprofits are coming up with creative virtual fundraising ideas that can help ease the struggle.

The ideas below are not just from animal rescues but different types of nonprofits. I wanted to share ideas that rescue organizations could be inspired by and turn into something animal related!

  1. Art Paws Virtual Fundraiser
  2. Virtual Relay For Life
  3. Virtual Fishing Tournament
  4. Night Without A Bed
  5. Bad Hair Day
  6. Virtual Walk
  7. Sit In For Shelter Dogs

As we find more great fundraising ideas that have gone virtual we will post them here!

1 | Art Paws

art paws virtual event
image credit: Virtual Art Paws

Art Paws is an annual live event that takes place in Reno, NV and proceeds from the event typically help 3 animal organizations and 1 art organization. It is a community festival and free dog-friendly event where approximately 40 local vendors, artists and animal organizations come together to celebrate animals.

But for 2020 they have decided to take it online as a live streamed event! We admire their ability to flex their creative muscles to make this happen!

Some of the virtual features include:

  • Online silent auction
  • K9 contests to submit best trick, lookalike owners and best dressed (which can now include all pets – not just dogs!)
  • Online sponsored vendor area in a powerpoint exhibit hall format
  • Live demonstrations from sponsors

If you have a really strong bond with your supporters – a virtual event is a great way to not only entertain and raise money – but to further enhance that bond! This one will take a little time and effort and website know how – but if done well, this could be a really successful event.

2 | Relay For Life

luminaria for virtual fundraiser
image credit: Relay for Life

Relay for Life in Norfolk successfully raised their goal of $30,000 with their first virtual fundraiser!

The event ran for a week and each day featured a variety of activities that were both online and offline to engage the community.

Below is a rough outline of the daily activities they offered!

  • Day 1: Supporters place signs in yard and a drive by to recognize frontline health care workers took place
  • Day 2: Shout outs on on social media for teams
  • Day 3: Team members post pictures on social media with hashtag and raise money by getting pledges from friends and family
  • Day 4: Throwback Thursday where vintage relay t-shirts are shared on social media as well as stories and pictures from prior years.
  • Day 5: Fight back Friday where people share what they are doing to fight back against cancer
  • Day 6: A Facebook live for the luminaria ceremony and houses decorated to promote awareness

I love the luminaria idea! You can make a donation and get a bag that can be written on to share a special thought.

There are a lot of ways to amend these activities to make them more animal friendly!

3 | Virtual Fishing Tournament

virtual fishing tournament

Love this one! So unique and appeals to a different type of animal lover – men!

Hope’s Wings, a domestic violence shelter, is the creator of this event idea. They host an annual “Fish-On” fundraiser every year – and of course could not do a live version – so the still “hosted” it but did it with COVID in mind!

The virtual Fish On tournament event takes place over the course of 3 days and registrants could fish anywhere they would like.

When they catch a fish they need to post a picture with the length of it on their social media page.

There is an entry fee and registration is required to take part in the event. This is perfect for a family fundraiser!

4 | Night Without A Bed

This is a really great one for homeless animals! Since we try to remind people that our homeless animals need a soft comfy bed to lay their weary heads – this fundraiser concept is a perfect play on that.

Family Promise in Phoenix, AZ assists families- including pets who are homeless and helps them get back to an independent life. They hosted Night Without A Bed and at last count had raised over $21,000!

The idea is that supporters are challenged to “give up their bed for a night” – and to get friends and family to do it as well. Their event had 250 participants with 50 of those pledging to give up their bed.

This could be a great way to raise money or to even try and get people to donate bedding for shelter pets!

5 | Bad Hair Day

bad hair day fundraiser

Originally done by the Children’s Charity of Queensland and called Bad Hair May to play on how bad hair was looking since the COVID lockdown!

The fundraiser encouraged supporters to grow out their hair and on May 29th they would do some crazy hair do and share photos on social media to raise funds. Seems silly right?

But this fundraiser has successfully raised over $37,000!

I think this one would be fun to do with your pet! Even though salons are partially open now – why not do a “crazy hair” fundraiser where pets and people have matching crazy hair?

The fundraiser required registration and each person would receive their own page on the platform to share and promote to raise funds.

6 | Virtual Walk

The Animal Humane Society of Minnesota created a historical first ever virtual walk that raised more than $600,000 to help animals!

This annual event typically sees thousands of people but this year that was out of the question – but that did not stop them from changing course to create a virtual walk.

They had a set date for the walk – and on that day you would share a selfie of you and your pet on social media with specific hashtags. Then the organization would share those images on their own social media.

Registrants would create teams and share their goals with friends and families to raise funds for the walk! Prizes were offered for different fundraising goals as well.

7 | Sit In For Shelter Dogs

The idea comes from One Tail At A Time in Chicago, IL and they raised over $80,000 with this initiative beating their goal!

Similar to a virtual walk, but instead you sit! You register yourself or your team and you will be provided a page to promote your sit in to help raise funds.

The sit in features a Facebook live with interviews and stories and more to keep the community engaged and encourages creativity by using signs to tell the world who you are sitting for.

Sit-in for Shelter Dogs 2020

Join us LIVE for our virtual Sit-in for Shelter Dogs on June 14th @ 10am. Visit sitin2020.funraise.org to sign up or support this year's participants!

Posted by One Tail at a Time on Sunday, June 14, 2020

Final Thoughts

Coming up with creative online fundraisers can be challenging! I hope this list has offered a little inspiration for you. Some fundraisers are easier than others and I highly recommend you reach out to your community to see if anyone can donate some of the their technical skills for a good cause to help you!

Thinking outside the box will help you set your organization apart! Evaluate your traditional fundraisers and look at it from all angles to see how you can make it work in the online world!

The more you prepare now – the more ready you will be if something like this happens again. The more doors you can open to reaching people far away to learn about your mission and maybe become supporters!

Have you seen any fantastic virtual fundraising events that belong on this list? Leave a comment and let us know!

Jill Caren

Jill Caren Bio Logo

Jill Caren

Jill is the owner and creator of CharityPaws and has been involved in animal rescue for over 12 years as a volunteer and board member for Jersey Animal Welfare Society. You can read all of her articles here.

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