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.

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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 free 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 free 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, free fundraising through GoFundMe means your favourite 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 favourite animal rescue. Decide on suggested donation amounts, and enlist the help of your friends and family to give neighbourhood 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.

Help shelter with vet bills

The Mae Bachur Animal Shelter in Whitehorse was short of funding. With 10 animals in need of immediate vet attention, the shelter launched a fundraiser to support their vet bills and keep the shelter running. Hundreds of donors and animal lovers donated to raise $33,000 for the shelter and protection of animals in the North.

Emergency support for shelters

London Ontario’s SALT rescue was devastated by a fire. Faced with protecting their foster cats and rebuilding their shelter, a GoFundMe was launched to help them get back on their feet. 

Launch a shelter

Parachutes for Pets launched a campaign to start a pet-friendly homeless shelter in Calgary. With no shelters in Calgary accepting pets, they recognized an important need within their community. $10,000 was raised to help the homeless and their pets stay warm and safe.

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 free fundraiser and start raising money for animal rescues in your community.

Start an animal fundraiser