All across North America, I see animal shelters that are literally falling down. Many of these facilities were built years ago with wood construction. The water used for cleaning the kennel has worked its way into the structure of the building, which is now rotting it away, and money cannot stretch far enough to fix them.
For old masonry kennels, those walls may be cracked or broken or perhaps the finish has been scratched off by years of wear. This allows water and urine to get inside the hollow masonry blocks where it causes mold to grow. The need for proper housing is so great everywhere I turn.
Over the years, I have seen so many cases where, when it rains, water drips, or even pours into a kennel soaking the animals contained within. With such high occupancies, there is simply no dry place to keep them. Government funding is simply not available to replace these shelters.
I have seen kennel stalls that were so crammed with dogs that they could barley move, or sit, much less, lie down. I have seen exit corridors that were stacked full-height with crates–animals, literally stacked to the ceiling, simply because of overcrowding.
I frequently see where areas that once had been a bathroom, a food prep room, a reception room, a blanket storage room or janitor’s closet are now being used to house animals. Then those other spaces are pushed into a hallway or are done without entirely, making everyday tasks so much more difficult. than they have to be. The need for a major renovation, or an entirely new building, seems to be, and likely is, the only answer.
With these seemingly impossible conditions, it’s difficult to maintain a qualified staff of volunteers to tend to the endless daily tasks of cleaning the kennels, washing bowls, feeding and walking the animals. Sometimes the building design, or lack there of, makes the conditions even worse. The flow of the building simply does not work for the task intended.
So, What Do You Do?
Most often, I see shelters doing bake sales to raise money. If that is the only source of income, then they are going to need to sell a lot of pies for a new building. Then, they will need to sell a lot more pies to operate and maintain it. So, what are the other options to increase your building fund?
First, broaden your thinking. Ideas will come from the strangest places. I was having a hand splint made after my surgery. A young physical therapists said that she was also a graphic designer and had helped design a shelter fundraising calendar.
They used a local school gymnasium to photograph a pack of rescue dogs while young volunteer staff members were playing with the dogs. The set and photo-op was all donated. The printing cost was three dollars each and the calendars sold-out, right away, at ten dollars each. Calendars are great, because it is a reoccurring opportunity.
I saw a post where some school children created colorful artwork depicting pets that had been adopted. The art was sold raising several hundred dollars for the Maryland SPCA. Every dime helps.
Almost forty years ago, I was a volunteer paramedic. Occasionally, we held a dinner for raising money, but without fail, every single year, our organization made a deal with a local car dealership to raffle off a new car. The ticket sales generated well more than enough to pay for the car. The drawing took place on the last day of the Clearfield County Fair. I bet that drawing is still a big event when hundreds gather to see if they happened to be the lucky winner.
My point is this: Pies alone will not a kennel make! Fundraising must be an overlapping, never-ending and reoccurring effort. Turn that ‘table of pies’ into a fundraising event. Make it an event that the entire community will be talking about until the one next year. Doing so, like the car raffle, will generate continued interest and support.
Where To Get Started?
In some cases, clients may have a hefty nest egg or perhaps an inherited sum of money. I have seen projects where a single distribution had been several million dollars, but this is certainly not the norm.
For everyone else, it’s more likely that a would-be donor would more likely donate to some thing as opposed to some idea. To market your project to both the community and to any prospective donor, these drawings will show your vision clearly:
Regardless who designs your project, before you start, be sure you understand what your design fees will be. The highest design fee I have ever heard about was over ninety thousand dollars. Now, that would buy a lot of dog food! Know your costs up-front!
For my clients, we first prepare a conceptual floor plan and building elevations. These are designed based on the clients’ individual needs, and information that they provide. With these drawings in-hand, conceptual pricing can begin. This also allows you to start working with lending institutions, and even the city development and building departments.
Next, we can develop a rendering of the building. Renderings make wonderful marketing tools. Post a large picture of your project in your lobby or even out on the front lawn. Run a piece in the local paper with your vision graphically displayed. Now you can show the public your vision and how much it is going to cost.
This helps to generate excitement from the public. Most importantly, this design gives you a direction, or destination; and without that, you simply cannot arrive.
I know it’s not easy, because, I see it every day. It pains me to see it, but it gives me great joy when a project is completed and the animals are moved in. Build the plan, and you will soon be on your way to your new destination.
Helpful Links and Other Ideas
A social media thought: This is a powerful tool to market your fundraising and to share your adoption successes. Be selective in your posts. Remember that every charity is soliciting for the same dollar that you need—post accordingly!