How to Rescue Animals: Seven Ways You Can Help

| 8 min read Financial Assistance

The thought of a companion animal in need of a home is heartbreaking, especially for those who have pets of their own. Millions of animals are either homeless, awaiting adoption in a shelter, or in need of rescue. Fundraising is a great way to make a positive impact and help animals, whether through raising funds to start your own animal rescue or fundraising for animal charity. Discover tips for how to rescue animals, including how to start an animal rescue or shelter. Learn ways to raise money for animal rescue, and see how fundraising can help you meet your goals.

Start a fundraiser

How to start an animal rescue

It is estimated that 80% of all dogs and cats euthanized in shelters each year are healthy and adoptable. By starting your own animal rescue, you can find companion animals a loving forever home and save their lives. And while starting an animal shelter is no easy task, it is incredibly rewarding for everyone involved.

Below are seven key steps to follow when starting an animal rescue.

1. Assess the needs of your community

Do some research to determine any gaps in your local animal welfare organizations. The goal here is to discover the mission of your animal rescue and the region which your organization will serve. Here are a couple of things to consider:

  • Do some research on the shelters and rescue groups that currently exist in your area. Contact each, and ask about their primary goal as well as their most pressing challenge. For example, you may find there are multiple rescue organizations focusing on the same dog breed, or that a local shelter is having difficulty finding homes for senior pets.
  • Research local statistics on homeless pets. You’ll want to find information on the number of pets each shelter takes in, whether these are strays or surrenders, and the adoption rate.
  • See if you can join a network of animal rescue groups that support a common goal. Rescue networks are typically regional or national and offer resources to help your own animal rescue succeed.

Through your research, determine the specific need your animal rescue will meet. Identify how best you can serve your community, and how your organization can make the biggest impact.

2. Create your business plan

Once you have a clear objective, it’s time to think about how you’ll achieve your goals. Even as a nonprofit, you’ll need to think about the budget your animal rescue needs to operate successfully. And if you’re looking to raise funds to start your animal rescue, having a thorough business plan will also inspire confidence in donors and make giving easy.

3. Find your team of volunteers

Animal rescue organizations operate through the generosity of volunteers, who offer their time and skills to support the organization’s mission. Based on the goals of your animal rescue, determine how many volunteers you will need and in what roles. Experience working with animals is a must.

Most volunteers are foster parents, who are needed to house pets until they’ve found a permanent home. Other helpful skills could include marketing to promote adoption events, veterinary experience, simple website maintenance, community outreach, or tax preparation.

4. Decide on a location

Some animal rescues operate exclusively through the homes of volunteer foster parents, while others also have a shelter and small office. Decide which option is right for you, your goals, and your budget. Depending on your jurisdiction, some animal shelters are allowed to operate out of a private residence. Check with your city or state to see what laws apply.

5. Take care of paperwork

The next step is to decide how to incorporate your animal rescue. Keep in mind that it can take up to one year to obtain tax-exempt status through the Internal Revenue System, and some cities may require both a business license and kennel license.

6. Start an animal rescue fundraiser

Start a fundraiser to help bring your vision to reality. You’ll want to show potential donors how your animal rescue serves the community, what urgent need your rescue meets, and how you plan on fulfilling your rescue’s mission. Below are some tips for successful community fundraising:

  • Host a fun community fundraising event. Some ideas include a walk-a-thon, a barbeque or banquet, or a charity sporting event.
  • Keep donors in the loop about your animal rescue. Offer to send a monthly email newsletter with important updates.
  • Give back as part of your fundraiser. Popular fundraising ideas for nonprofits include offering a class in exchange for a donation. For example, your animal rescue could offer obedience training as part of a fundraiser.
  • Share your fundraiser in unexpected places. Create a professional post on LinkedIn, hang posters at your local farmer’s market, or write your fundraiser link using sidewalk chalk.
  • Partner with local businesses. Ask if they can display flyers or a donation jar, or even accept physical donations on your behalf—such as pet food or medical supplies.

7. Prioritize your outreach efforts

A marketing strategy is essential to generating support for your animal rescue. Consider creating a website, and promote your rescue using social media fundraising tips. As your rescue grows, partner with other local businesses or animal shelters to further raise awareness about your cause.

Additionally, keep a lookout for opportunities for publicity through your local media. Reach out to newspapers and local television stations to ask about being featured in an interview, and contact any animal-related podcasts looking for guests.

To fundraise without social media, you can also create a simple online store on your website. Sell small items printed with your rescue’s name and logo, like t-shirts and stickers. This is an easy way to freely advertise for your animal rescue, while also raising funds in the process.  

How to raise money for an animal rescue

Whether you’re raising funds for an existing animal rescue, or need funds to launch your own, crowdfunding is your solution. With a 0% platform fee for organizers, fundraising through GoFundMe means your favorite animal rescue will get the most out of every donation. See some ideas below for starting your own animal rescue fundraiser.

1. Host a dog wash

Post fliers in your community for a dog wash to sponsor your favorite animal rescue. Decide on suggested donation amounts, and enlist the help of your friends and family to give neighborhood dogs a bath.

2. Organize a doggie dash

A fun event for canines and humans alike, a doggie dash is a way to get some exercise and participate in some friendly competition. Require a small entry fee, and set a short course route—usually one to two miles is appropriate. Award prizes to the winning teams, and donate the proceeds to help rescue animals.

3. Start a community bake sale

Involve a local school, community center, or church to sponsor a bake sale with proceeds benefiting an animal rescue. Include treats for pets, and make sure ingredients are listed for all baked goods in case of allergies.

4 Share on social media

Sharing on social platforms is among the top fundraising tips to ensure a successful fundraiser. Generate momentum for your fundraiser through social media, and encourage others to spread the word about your cause. Tell the story behind your animal rescue, and let your audience know why your mission is so important. Include a clear call to action and link to your fundraiser at the end of every social media post.

Successful fundraisers to help rescue animals

Donating time or money to help rescue animals is a cause worth celebrating. Take a look at what others are doing to raise money for animal rescue using GoFundMe.

Finding a new home

Almost Home animal rescue had less than two months to find another location, or face closing their doors. Volunteer Linda started a fundraiser to collect donations for a new space, as well as to cover the ongoing cost of medical treatment and pet supplies for the animals in their care. Lisa was able to raise more than $13,000 through her fundraiser, and secure a new facility for Almost Home.

Shelter for abused animals

Angels for Mistreated Animals is on a mission to bring to safety those animals who have been abused, neglected, or otherwise mistreated. Initially focused on foster animals, the organization started a fundraiser to build a dedicated no-kill shelter to rehabilitate and rehome their rescues. So far they have raised nearly $10,000 toward their goal.

Help raise money for an animal rescue today

Countless animals spend their lives either homeless or in a shelter. All of these animals deserve loving, permanent homes. There are many ways you can help rescue animals, and starting an animal rescue fundraiser can help you meet your goals. Sign up to create your fundraiser and start raising money for animal rescues in your community.

Start an animal fundraiser