How to Rescue Animals: From Fundraising to Starting a Shelter

two dogs in a cage
| 8 min read Financial Assistance

The thought of a companion animal needing a home is heartbreaking, especially for those with pets of their own. Millions of animals are homeless, awaiting adoption in a shelter, or needing rescue. 

Fundraising is a great way to positively impact and help animals, whether raising funds for starting an animal shelter or fundraising for an existing 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

 Rescuing animals is easy with these ideas

1. Host a dog wash 

Post fliers in your community for a dog wash to raise money for 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 race

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

3. Have fun with a pet photo contest

Great for both cats and dogs, a pet photo contest is an effective way to raise awareness for your animal rescue fundraiser. You can host the contest on social media. Increase the sharing potential of your contest—and fundraiser—by allowing the public to vote for their favorite photo.

4. Run 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.

5. Share on social media

Sharing on social platforms is among the top fundraising tips to ensure a successful fundraiser. Generate momentum for your animal rescue fundraiser through social media, and encourage others to spread the word about your cause. Tell heartwarming stories about rescuing animals, 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.

6. Start an animal rescue fundraiser

Whether you’re raising funds for an existing animal rescue or want to help a few specific animals in your community, online fundraising is an ideal solution. In the US, starting or managing your fundraiser on GoFundMe is free. 

However, one small transaction fee per donation covers all your fundraising needs. Everything else goes directly to your cause because that’s what matters most. Use these tips to create a successful animal rescue fundraiser:

  • First, look at these simple steps for success regarding online fundraising. Then, create a winning fundraiser title to draw attention to your cause.
  • Don’t forget to share your fundraiser far and wide to increase donations.
  • Keep donors in the loop about your fundraiser by sending them updates. It could be a monthly newsletter with important updates or something simple like a basic email.
  • 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.

Successful fundraisers to help rescue animals

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

Finding a new home

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

Shelter for abused animals

Angels for Mistreated Animals is on a mission to protect 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.

How to start an animal rescue

Each year, approximately 920,000 shelter dogs and cats are euthanized. By starting an animal shelter, you can find companion animals a loving forever home and save their lives. And while starting an animal shelter and rescuing animals is no easy task, it is incredibly rewarding for everyone involved.

Ready to learn how to rescue animals? Below are six 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 is to learn more about how to rescue animals in your area and the region 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 and most pressing challenge. For example, you may find multiple rescue organizations focusing on the same dog breed, or 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.

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 significantly impact rescuing animals.

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 fundraise for starting an animal shelter, having a thorough business plan will inspire confidence in donors to help raise money for animal rescue.

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. Remember 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 a kennel license.

6. 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

  • Partner with local businesses or animal shelters to raise awareness about your cause on their social media pages.
  • Share adoptable pets on TikTok, Instagram, or Facebook to showcase their personality traits and tricks.
  • Host in-person events at local pet shops, breweries, or at the shelter for meet-and-greets and promote on social media.

One way to fundraise without relying on social media is by setting up a basic online store on your website. You can sell merchandise such as t-shirts and stickers that feature your animal rescue’s name and logo. It serves as a means to raise funds and provides a platform to promote your rescue for free.

And don’t forget about popular fundraising ideas for nonprofits. Some of these ideas include offering a class in exchange for a donation. For example, your animal rescue could offer obedience training as part of a fundraiser.

Help raise money for animal rescue today 

Countless animals spend their lives either homeless or in a shelter. All of these animals deserve loving, permanent homes. You can help rescue animals in many ways, 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

Written by GoFundMe