Greetings Haberdashery friends!
I hope you and your pets are staying cool during these dog days of summer. As August rolls in, many of us are looking forward to end-of-season barbecues, squeezing in those last few beach weekends, or -- dare I say it! -- shopping for back-to-school supplies. For many of us, these activities can put an extra strain on our wallets. Luckily, that doesn’t have to stop us from helping out our local animal rescues during a busy time of year.
This month’s blog post explores some of the many ways we can contribute to our local animal rescues without giving money. Of course, monetary donations are greatly needed year-round for food, supplies, veterinary services, transportation, and a myriad of other uses, but if the vacation season has got you pinching your pennies, we’ve got some great alternatives that won’t break your piggy bank.
Please feel free to comment or provide additional ideas in the comments section below.
One of the best ways we can help out our local animal rescues is by volunteering. This can be as simple as sitting with shy shelter animals to help comfort them; you can even bring a good book to share! You can also have fun with the animals outside for leash walks and playtime. Bring your whole family and make it a rewarding experience for everyone. Most rescues also welcome volunteers for special events, fundraisers, and meet-and-greets. These can be great ways to meet new people and promote a very special cause.
And if you’re taking time off from work to volunteer, consider asking if your employer has any special programs for charity organizations. As one volunteer from the Great Dane Friends of Ruff Love rescue in North Carolina shared with us, some companies will actually donate money to a non-profit rescue when an employee takes time off to volunteer, which is doubly advantageous! Some large corporations also offer to match employees’ monetary donations to select non-profits. It never hurts to ask what programs your employer has in place to help out local charities.
Another way you can volunteer your time is by offering your services and special talents. Do you work in graphic design, website development, or marketing? Many rescues rely heavily on volunteers to help maintain their online presence. Do you have some experience with grooming? Give a dog a new “do” and greatly increase his chances of getting adopted by a loving family. Are you a professional photographer looking to expand your portfolio? Rescues LOVE to have high-quality photos that capture their animals’ personalities, as these shots can more than double adoption rates. Are you passionate about creative writing? Put those literary skills to good use by creating captivating pet bios. The possibilities are endless.
If you have the time and resources, another way to aid rescues is to transport animals. A lot of rescues acquire animals from faraway places (some examples include taking in lost pets after natural disasters, relocating strays from foreign countries, and rehoming ex-racing greyhounds coming off the tracks). Longer trips are generally broken into smaller “legs"; drivers complete a portion of the journey and then transfer the animals to a new vehicle and driver. You don’t necessarily have to be equipped with a large trailer or van; you can volunteer to carry one or two animals at a time -- whatever you’re comfortable with -- or go along as an extra helper. And while driving long distances can use up a good bit of gas, which usually comes out of the volunteers’ pockets, don’t forget that you can claim mileage as part of your charitable contributions at tax time. Just be sure to keep accurate records.
Why not have a little fun while helping out some animals in need?! Next time your pet’s birthday rolls around, throw a little shindig in honor of your special pal. Invite friends to drop by -- with or without pets -- and ask them to contribute some items for your local shelter. These items don’t have to be expensive, and they can be picked up easily at your local grocery store. Inexpensive options include bottles of bleach, dish soap, sponges, paper towels, shower curtains, pill pockets, kitty litter, and unscented baby wipes. Office supplies like copy paper, pens, dry erase markers, tape, ink (if you know which type of cartridge your shelter uses), and post-its can come in handy too. The next day, relive the fun by sharing all the items you've collected with a local shelter or rescue.
An easy way to help out your local shelter is to go through your house and look for items that are no longer of use to you, but could be useful to a rescue. A lot of shelters and rescues post “wish lists” on their websites to let people know what they need. Of course, old towels and blankets are always in high demand (just make sure they’re clean). Those stacks of old newspapers you’ve been meaning to recycle are also very useful for lining the bottoms of crates; just be sure to remove the glossy circulars, as they contain nasty dyes and are less absorbent. Plastic shopping bags can also be used for clean-up. If you’re like me, you’ve probably got a collection of toys that your animals couldn’t be the least bit interested in (I keep trying!). There’s some little critter that would LOVE some new playthings. And of course, gently used collars, leashes, and coats are fantastic, too -- and you can always buy more collars and leashes for your own pets (I happen to known a gal…)
One of the easiest things we can do to help local rescues is to help spread their message. Most organizations now use facebook, instagram, and/or twitter accounts to reach the public. Whenever your local groups post information about upcoming events, fundraisers, adoptable animals, lost dogs, and even recent adoptions (it's fun to celebrate!), you can "like" and "share" the info on your own social media pages. (This article offers some interesting tips on effectively using social media to help local rescues.) You can also make a point to post your own efforts to volunteer, in the hope of inspiring others: "Just spent the afternoon reading to pups at the local shelter :)" or "I'll be helping out at the county humane society's yearly picnic this weekend -- stop by to meet some adorable adoptables!" And if social media isn't your cup of tea, make a point to share information at community gatherings, either in person or with printed media. Every little bit helps.
Okay, so this option definitely involves spending money, BUT it’s money we already spend on everyday purchases. By shopping with companies who offer donation programs to non-profit charities, we can direct funds to rescues we love. A great example of this is the Amazon Smile program, which allows you to donate a portion of your purchases to the charity of your choice. Just call your local rescue or check their website to see if they participate; if so, visit smile.amazon.com and search for your rescue’s name. Once you’ve selected your charity, your Amazon account will automatically save this information for all future purchases, and your chosen rescue will effortlessly reap the benefits.
Many small, "handmade" companies also offer special donation programs that allow you to direct funds to specific rescues. When purchasing handmade or specialty products online or in person, ask independent sellers if they have any donation programs that could help your non-profit organization. For instance, we have a program that earns rescues 15% of its members’ sales when members mention the rescue during checkout (contact us if you’re interested in enrolling your rescue). Lots of handmade sellers on sites like Etsy or Artfire do the same, so there's no harm in asking.