Ways to raise funds in addition to grants
- Direct mail campaigns
One of the most consistent and reliable sources of revenue for nonprofits is direct mail solicitations. Names and addresses of potential donors should be collected on a regular basis beginning on Day One. If you're just starting out or have a small mailing list, then good advice on how to organize and develop a direct mail campaign can be found in Getting the Word Out in the Fight to Save the Earth by Richard Beamish. This 1995 book published by John Hopkins University Press contains invaluable advice for grassroots organizations on fundraising and public relations. Chapter One is devoted to How to Recruit Members and Donors Through the Mail. Copies are usually available on Amazon.com.
If you're ready to take your direct mail campaign to the next level and have the budget to do so, then the support and guidance of professionals is essential. There is a science to buying lists of potential donors, targeting a geographic area, and refining the content of a mailing. A knowledgable direct mail firm skilled in these areas can greatly increase your revenue. It's important to be very careful, however, who you choose to work with in order not to fall into the trap of only raising enough money from mailings to cover the direct mail firm's fees.
Neighborhood Cats, based on our having worked with them, highly recommends the Grizzard Communications Group and their Animal Care department. Grizzard has extensive experience representing animal welfare organizations in general and has recently developed mailing materials unique to nonprofits focused primarily on TNR. Note that there is a minimum annual financial commitment required to sign on as a client.
See The Fundraising Authority for an event primer, The 10 Steps to a Successful Fundraising Event. You can find other useful info on the site too, like how to build your prospect list.
One word of caution - unless you're a large organization with staff and budget to dedicate to fundraising events, you want to stay away from events which require large upfront costs and a lot of preparation time. If you spend a great deal of money and time to put the event on, it's possible you'll be disappointed with the return on your investment. Look for events which require little upfront expenses and a moderate amount of prep time. Also seek out donated space and food so you don't have to shell out much in advance in the way of funds. So, for example, if a local restaurant or bar provides space for a couple of hours one night, then you can charge admission, do a silent auction or raffle, get a share of the proceeds spent on drinks and food, have a singing contest, etc.
- Municipal Funding
Over the past few years, an increasing number of municipalities have provided funding, especially for spay/neuter costs, to TNR groups. It makes sense because TNR, when done effectively, serves an animal control function by reducing the number of homeless cats and the nuisance behavior associated with unneutered felines. Before you attempt to secure municipal funding, you should first educate local officials about TNR and gain their understanding and support for the method. If you do gain funding, be aware of issues surrounding your state's Freedom of Information Act (read more here). For sample municipal contracts, see our Forms page.
- Program Service Fees
One way for a TNR group short of funds to keep operating is to require that people being assisted bear some or all of the costs of doing the work, especially the veterinary costs. Ideally, payments would be optional because not everyone who needs help can afford to pay a fee. But if your organization is out of money and charging fees is the difference between fixing some ferals or fixing none, it's an acceptable practice in our view.
Even if you don't charge mandatory fees, you should get in the habit of always at least asking for financial assistance if your organization is doing most or all of the work. One approach is taken by Long Beach Cats, a program of Neighborhood Cats, which lists suggested donations on its Request Assistance Form.
- Donation cans & boxes
A simple and easy way to raise funds is to place donation cans or containers near cash registers at popular retail locations. In our experience, you'll actually do better with the more expensive plexi-glass donation boxes than with cardboard cans. Something about seeing money already in there (so start it off with a ten-spot!) If you order a box, be sure to get one that can be locked.
If you enter "donation cans" or "donation box" on your search engine, you'll get a ton of listings for sellers. Usually, it's cheaper to buy in bulk. Churchsupplier.com is one site with all the different products.
- In general
For advice on creating an overall fundraising plan, check out Best Friend Animal Society's guide, Getting Your Paws on More Money: Overcoming Fundraising Phobia, by Bonney Brown (1999, pdf).
Bonney also wrote a brief guide on how to find funds to TNR a single colony: A Few Neutered Cats: Five ways to raise just enough money to get the job done!
Hewlett Packard offers useful tools to help grow your organization. There are articles on brand strategy, creating marketing materials and more, plus you can sign up to receive email tips via the HP Daily Idea. Materials you'll need for events and public outreach like logos, posters and signage can be found here.
$50 Goes A Long Way
A gift of $50 will spay one cat and help prevent many feral births.
Please donate to Neighborhood Cats and help us improve the lives of homeless cats!