• Donate wish list items: Every shelter has a wish list of items, whether it’s food, toys, bedding, litter, crates or cleaning supplies. Pick up a couple items next time you’re shopping to drop off at the shelter.
• Scan Craig’s List, Freecycle, eBay, and other resources for items being sold or given away, and collect them to donate to a shelter.
• Call local hotels to see if they have any unusable bedding, towels or cleaning supplies that they will donate to a local shelter.
Bust out your special talents:
• Crafty folks: Create homemade toys and bedding using old T-shirts, jeans or blankets. Or sew up “Adopt Me” vests and bandanas for adoptable animals to wear while they’re out for walks or at events. A quick search for “How to make [insert dog bed, dog toys, cat toys, etc.]” will bring up loads of patterns and ideas.
• Carpenters and DIY whizzes: Help out with carpentry or other skills needed to repair and improve shelters. Anything from renovating parts of a facility to building a new cat tree will be hugely appreciated.
• Lawyers: Shelters need lawyers too. Lend your knowledge and skills to help shelters stay on top of legal forms, contracts, copyright on videos or brochures made for advertising, and so on.
• Accountants: Shelters definitely need to stay on top of accounting paperwork. You can help shelters keep organized about fees paid by adopters, donations and grants, as well as balancing expenses for caring for the animals.
• Dog trainers (or trainers in training!): Take a dog to obedience class. Often dogs need some training before they’re ready to be adopted. You can help shelters by volunteering your skills as a trainer and working with the dogs. Or if you’re a novice, take a dog to obedience classes where you both can learn. Basic commands like sit, stay, lie down, and loose leash walking all make a dog more adoptable.
If you have experience with dog or cat behavior, volunteer to do behavior evaluations for new arrivals, and help the shelter determine each animal’s personality, social skill level, find any triggers for behavior problems, and other important information that’s needed for determining how adoptable an animal is or what kind of home they need to thrive.
• Website designers: Shelters need to constantly update their websites as animals are
adopted or are made available for adoption. Everything from maintaining upcoming events information, calls for donations, blog updates, designing a professional look and other aspects of a great website are things you could help out with.
• Writers: Shelters do a lot of writing. They need adoption profiles for each pet put up for adoption, newsletters must be written and sent, ads for events and fundraisers must be crafted, grant applications must be written, and so on. Your skills as a writer could make all the difference for a shelter’s success.
• Social media experts: Social media is a must for getting the word out on adoptable pets. Shelters need to post updates constantly on who is looking for a new home, who was adopted out successfully (everyone loves hearing success stories!), requests for much needed supplies or donations, and other news. Someone skilled with the etiquette and best practices for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other platforms, including skills for writing and scheduling updates, can mean a big uptick in successful adoptions.
: High-quality photos for adoption profiles
make an enormous difference in how quickly animals get adopted. Volunteer your skills with a camera to photograph animals, showing off their personality and making them look their best so potential adopters will click on their profile and, with luck, visit to meet and adopt them. Check out HeartsSpeak
, an organization that helps photographers partner up with shelters.
Fun fundraising ideas:
• At work: Put up a glass jar with a sign on your desk or countertop, and send out an email to coworkers asking for donations for a week. Or take it a step further by organizing a supplies donation drive, bake sale, raffle or other fundraising drive for a week or more.
• At school: What better place to learn about animals in need than at school? Enlisting the help of teachers and classrooms full of students could mean major donations to a local shelter. Talk to the faculty and staff at a school about ideas, from donation drives to raffles. The shelter you’re helping could bring in a couple adoptable pets to the school to show kids how (and who) they’re helping. It’s the perfect opportunity not only to raise funds and goods for the shelter, but also to raise awareness at an early age about caring for pets.
• Say “thank you”: Shelter workers give their whole hearts to their jobs, and are usually buried under never-ending to-do lists and urgent tasks. They usually are overstressed and under-paid. So little things like someone showing how much they appreciate what they’re doing goes a long, long way in restoring the energy and drive they need to continue to help animals. You can do something simple like sending in a thank you card or a bouquet of flowers. Or maybe deliver cupcakes or cookies, or order pizza or sandwiches for the whole crew one day. Anything that shows just how much their efforts are appreciated will make a big difference. When the staff are encouraged and energized, all the animals in the shelter benefit from that positive energy.