4 Innovative Fundraising Event Ideas for Animal Nonprofits

The title of the article on the left with a photo of a woman kneeling to pet two dogs.

In 2022, causes related to animal welfare and the environment ranked ninth in total donations, raising $16.10 billion. This shows that many people are passionate about these causes and are therefore willing to give their hard-earned money to support them.

While this might make you wonder if your animal welfare nonprofit is doing all it can to maximize its revenue, tapping into new audiences and motivating supporters to donate is easier said than done. However, engaging fundraising events can go a long way in encouraging a supporter to click the donate button.

In this guide, we’ll explore four innovative fundraising event ideas that will be perfect for your animal-loving supporters. Let’s kick off with a twist on a fundraising classic: a dog-friendly 5K.

Dog-Friendly 5K

Charity races like walk-a-thons and 5Ks are tried-and-true fundraising events that attract skilled runners and casual walkers alike. Your animal shelter, rescue, or advocacy organization can organize its own laid-back race centered around your canine friends.

To hold a dog-friendly 5K, simply invite attendees to bring their dogs with them to the event. Whether they walk on a leash or ride in a stroller, this idea gives both the owners and their pets the chance to get outside and enjoy exercising together. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to ensure everything runs smoothly:

  • Ask that pets are restrained at all times. For the safety of your staff, attendees, and the other animals at the event, reinforce that pets must be on a leash or in a carrier at all times. This rule will also ensure you are complying with any local leash laws, which are usually put in place to prevent the spread of disease, injuries, and damage to wildlife.
  • Consider using waivers. Because these races are physical events involving animals, they involve a certain level of risk. It’s possible that one of your participants could get injured or suffer other losses or damages at the race. In cases like this, Smartwaiver recommends using digital activity waivers to help protect your nonprofit in the event of damages or accidents.
  • Offer refreshments for humans and pets. Make sure you have water and snack stations placed along your race route. Prepare tables with pre-filled cups and plenty of water bowls for pets. Make sure owners can look at the ingredients in any treats or pet food you give out in case their animal has dietary restrictions.
  • Work with local businesses. As with any event, holding a 5K can require a lot of planning and resources. Reach out to local businesses to see if they would be willing to provide donations or sponsor your event. For example, a local restaurant might make a donation in exchange for having their logo on your signs, and a pet business like a dog daycare could make an in-kind donation of spare leashes, treats, and dog bowls.

Depending on your organization, you may want to invite supporters to bring along other four-legged (or even winged) friends. For example, maybe one of your donors owns a leash-trained cat or has a pampered bunny that loves to be pushed in a stroller. This will make all of your supporters feel included and can help boost attendance.

Animal Art Sale

Schools often hold art sale fundraisers or auctions featuring art created by students. Parents and family members will then visit the school and purchase the student’s art pieces.

If you run an animal shelter or humane society, an art sale featuring pieces “created” by the pets in your care is a great way to raise money and increase adoptions. To get started, you’ll just need to collect supplies like:

  • Non-toxic paints
  • Brushes
  • Canvases
  • Pet-safe wipes
  • Plastic bags
  • Treats, toys, or other incentives (like xylitol-free peanut butter!)

There are so many different ways to create art with your animals. For example, you might follow the popular social media trend that involves adding paint to the canvas, putting it into a bag, adding peanut butter to the outside of the bag, and having dogs lick the peanut butter. Or, you might provide a little more assistance and create paw print flowers.

Once you have a well-stocked catalog of original artwork, start planning your nonprofit’s event, promoting it to your supporters, and preparing for the sale! Display the art on walls to attract buyers. Add labels with a title, price, and the “artist’s” name, and consider adding photos of the animal to entice potential adopters.

Pet Costume Contest

For this idea, you’ll give supporters a chance to make creative costumes for their pets and enter them into a contest for the chance to win a prize. While this idea is perfect for Halloween, you can hold the event at any time of the year.

Some helpful tips to consider are:

  • Setting a theme. If your event won’t be taking place near a specific holiday, give attendees some inspiration by selecting a theme. This theme could be anything from superheroes to book characters—just make sure it’s something that will resonate with your audience.
  • Getting kids involved. This event will likely attract families who want to view the other pet costumes (and hope to see their animal win!). You might give kids a role in the fundraiser like awarding the winning pets with trophies or medals. Or, set up crafting tables, obstacle courses, and other activities for children to keep them entertained.
  • Creating distinct categories. If you choose not to set a theme, there may be huge variety in the costumes. Pets may have excellent costumes that are difficult to compare against one another (think Sherlock Holmes versus a butterfly). Choose categories like Cutest Costume, Most Historically Accurate, and Funniest Costume to make it easier to judge them.

The day of the event can feel hectic, particularly for pet parents. If you plan on offering food or other activities for human attendees to enjoy, consider setting up a mini dog daycare at the fundraising so owners can enjoy themselves. You might task volunteers with watching over pets or even ask a dog boarding service or daycare to let you borrow crates or set up a puppy playpen.

Pet Adoption Fair

If your shelter or humane society desperately needs adoptees and funding, an adoption fair is the perfect event idea. Throw a mini festival, carnival, or fair focused on adopting out your animals. To raise money, charge a small fee for entry.

Offer seasonal snacks, sports activities, games, and more at the fair. For example, during a fall festival, you might serve caramel apples, offer football-themed carnival games, and set up a pumpkin carving station. Allow attendees to meet, hold, and play with animals that are eligible for adoption. If possible, reduce or waive adoption fees to encourage more supporters to go home with a new four-legged friend.

Remember that you’ll need the right technology to facilitate the adoption process quickly and efficiently. Just as a dog groomer might use Gingr’s software to manage bookings and track payments, your nonprofit will need to invest in a CRM or specialized adoption tool that tracks which animals were adopted.

So many people already own pets or have a special connection with animals that inspires them to support those in need. The ideas above allow them to get their pets involved, boost adoptions, and help your animal nonprofit spread awareness of its cause—all while raising money in an exciting way.