Sanctuaries always need additional support. In fact, for sanctuaries with websites, there is almost always a link for “volunteers” and often a link for a “wish list”. Check those out. And of course, one of the most important ways you can help a sanctuary is to donate funding. Be sure to read Before You Donate and make certain that the sanctuary you are going to support is a true sanctuary for the animals. In donating, don’t forget to consider a bequest. Long-term support for sanctuaries is vital.
Here are some additional ways you may be able to help a sanctuary of your choice.
Raise funds for the sanctuary
Before doing any fundraising in the name of the sanctuary, of course, be sure to clear it with the sanctuary. Besides the traditional rummage sales and bake sales, there are many ways to raise funds online. Try selling items on ebay.com and donate your profits. Or use one of the popular crowdsourcing sites to solicit donations online. This especially effective if you have hundreds of friends on social media sites.
Getting permission to set up a table with photos and donation cans in a busy urban store parking lot can result in your collecting a few hundred dollars to a thousand or more, working one busy Saturday, dawn to dusk.
GFAS offers free webinars on grantwriting, so be sure to check that out, and see if there is a GFAS sanctuary which would like help with that. If the sanctuary is located near where you live, consider contacting your city council members (again, remember to ask the sanctuary for permission to fundraise in their name!) about any discretionary funds they may have available for grants.
Using Your Real Life Connections
For those in the professional world, let your associates know how you are supporting the sanctuary and ask for their support too. Check out any matching gift programs your place of employment may offer. Hosting a party in your home, and introducing the sanctuary director who gives a short presentation, can be another effective fundraiser, depending on who you know! If you can offer the sanctuary a no-interest loan for an unexpected expense or special opportunity, let that be known, especially if you’ve already donated generously.
Tabling, Transporting, and Special Events
Sanctuaries may welcome volunteers for tabling at community events. This is a great way to do education and, of course, do more fundraising. Some sanctuaries also need volunteers for transport of supplies or donations. If the sanctuary holds special events for fundraising (such as hosting a golf tournament), volunteers are always needed and welcomed, both in the weeks prior to the event and for the actual event.
Offer Your Talents
There may be accounting, writing, copy editing, envelope stuffing, phoning, website development or other such tasks which you can perform for the sanctuary from your home. Ask!
Dirty Work and More
Usually, by policy, there will not be interaction with the animals, especially if the animals involved are wildlife, unless you undergo training and make a solid time commitment. But there are always areas to be mucked, mowed, cleaned, repaired, landscaped, constructed, painted and inspected; food to be prepared; items to be washed; files to be organized; data to be entered; mail to be opened, email to be answered and more. Depending on your skills, you can also offer to do a youtube video, write and submit articles for publicity, do plumbing, or complete some electrical wiring. In other words, whatever your skills, a sanctuary can probably use them.
Care of the animals always comes first
Don’t be offended if it takes a bit of time for a sanctuary to return a phone call or email, even when you are offering to donate or help.
Onsite, don’t expect a lot of handholding or small talk, especially from staff. Sanctuary staff are usually stretched thin in terms of their time, and often their emotions. Keep in mind that running a sanctuary often means having to care for sick and injured animals, dealing with death, and having to say “no” to avoid overextending the resources of the sanctuary, when the heart wants to say “yes”, and vacations are few and far between. Don’t add to the burden by being high maintenance and don’t take it personally if someone is a bit gruff, as you don’t know what crisis they may have just had to deal with.
Sanctuary folks, though, are in this work because they have huge hearts and great compassion, so mostly you can count on lots of smiles and thanks.
After you have spent some time helping at a sanctuary and are very familiar with its goals and personnel, you may also want to signal your willingness to serve, when the time is right, as a Board member or to serve on a Board committee as a community member.
Thank you for wanting to help the animals!