10 Efficient Fundraising Ideas for Animal Shelters

An animal rescue shelter does hard and noble work to save poor animals that would otherwise perish. These animals have no voice of their own but are given life and hope.

An animal rescue shelter does hard and noble work to save poor animals that would otherwise perish. These animals have no voice of their own but are given life and hope. No matter if the shelter rescues dogs, cats, or exotic animals like elephants, it almost always needs the generosity of the public to stay in business. 

When you run a shelter, fundraising is a necessity. Experts at the Select Committee for Animal Welfare say that fundraising is a reliable way to build an entire animal shelter. If you have a few wealthy donors that is one thing but if you need to cast a broader net, you need to come up with successful fundraising ideas. Here are a few that we suggest. 


Fundraising with T-Shirts

A T-shirt with your name, logo, or cute photo of an animal from your shelter can be an excellent fundraising vehicle. These can be displayed at your shelter, offered for sale at occasional fundraising events, or be available online. Put your name, phone number, email address, and a compelling message on the T-shirt and you not only raise money by selling it but send your advertising out into the community as well. If you use an online business like Bonfire, there is no overhead expense and it will be easy to set up. 

When you use this kind of online approach, the online business handles the business, and gives you part of the profits. You don’t need to do any shipping or storing of merchandise either. They will typically have templates to work from for animal shelters so you won’t have any design costs. 

Wash Your Dog Fundraisers 

Giving you pooch a bath can be a challenge, especially if you have a big, shaggy dog that loves to romp around in the dirt and then return to your clean home. Set up an event to wash dogs and even provide tips for washing your dog. Run this event in or next to your facility and either charge a small fee or do the dog wash for free and ask for donations. 

Sponsor a Pet Story Contest 

People love to tell cute or even heroic stories about their cats, dogs, and other pets. provides a big list of animal shelter fundraising ideas that have proven to work. You can set up a Facebook page and give out prizes for the best stories. You can either choose the best ones yourself or have others vote by “liking” the stories.

You will gain donations by charging a fee for entering the contest or ask for donations in return for posting their story. This approach can be a good fundraiser, can be repeated again and again, and increases the awareness of your operation in the community. 

Fundraise with Charity Boxes 

We have all seen the small boxes by the checkout at our local grocery store and other places. Put your charity box with a cut pet photo plus your name and message in local convenience stores, grocery stores, and other businesses. Many people who would not send a check or make a large donation will leave their charge from a purchase time and time again. Put out enough of these in the right locations and right message and you can have a steady fundraising source. 


Treadmill Relays for Fundraising 

This is a unique idea that gets people off their couch and doing a bit of healthy exercise. And, you can ask these folks to chip in for every minute they run and post the results! Set this up so that people sign up for a time slot (thus the relay). Partner with a local gym or health studio to have access to several treadmills and an appropriate location for working out. Your partner will get free publicity and you will raise money. 

Bake Sale of Doggie Treats 

Bake sales are always a popular food fundraising idea and this is a new wrinkle. As more and more pet owners have started to make their own treats, this is an opportunity for them to show off. Each owner will donate treats and let you keep the profits. If you want to take this a step farther, ask for the recipes, put them in a book or eBook and sell that too. 

Animal Calendars Are Great Fundraisers 

This can be a heartwarming and even humorous fundraising idea. Besides loving to tell stories about their pets, owners love to share pet photos. Ask for donations of photos and take the twelve best for a calendar. You can also include your animals that are up for adoption. Sell these from your location and at retail locations throughout your community. 

Because this is a calendar, you need to get everything ready in time to do the printing and make it available in the fall or at least before the Christmas holiday shopping period. 

Silent Auction Fundraisers 

Here where you host an event where people donate items for you to sell via auction. The Toronto Humane Society provides an example of an animal adoption fundraising events and many other types of campaigns. They’re not an auctioneer but rather a list by each item where people can put their bid, name, and contact information. As with the calendars, you need to start setting this up well in advance or the event. 

Often, celebrities or sports starts will donate a personal item that may sell very well. Be sure to include this sort of info when you send out invitations and advertise. And, be sure to have a space that allows for display of everything you are auctioning. 

Beginner Dog Training as a Fundraiser 

Some people who are thinking of adopting a dog from your shelter may need help with dog training. You can offer this service for a fair price and see a steady stream of money coming in. Because you have lots of pooches on site, you can even offer training before someone takes one of your dogs! 

Dog Run Events for Fundraising 

Walking or running with your dog is often a social event when you go to a park or other commonly used area. You can take advantage of this by sponsoring a dog walk and run from your shelter. Ask pet owners to bring their own dogs and also help to walk the dogs from your facility. You can ask for donations or charge a token entry fee. Here are some ideas for dog-friendly events. 

Choose a Fundraising Idea That Excites You 

Fundraisers can be a lot of work on top of your normal routine. Even when you have a t-shirt fundraising website or platform, it’s up to you to promote your cause. You will be happiest when you choose an inspiring or funny fundraising idea that inspires your workers, your patrons, and you. The Humane Society provides an updated list of active animal shelter fundraisers and causes that you can draw inspiration from as well. 

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