A Roadblock, or a Beggin’ Brigade, is a fundraiser where several members of your group stand at a major intersection with your donation jars and collect money from passing motorists. Some non-profit groups have raised $800 to well over $1,000 in a few short hours using this simple technique. This is not a novel fundraiser specific to animal rescue groups, since many fire departments hold a “Fill the Boot” campaign each year to benefit Muscular Dystrophy, encouraging motorists to fill up one of their firemen boots with cash donations. Church youth groups have also hosted this event, as have high school sports teams and cheerleaders, all with great success.
First, you’ll need to check with your city for any rules, laws or codes enforced in your area regarding soliciting funds. Check early, at least 2 months in advance, so you don’t waste any time planning a fundraiser that you can’t host. The town I lived in in TX did NOT allow people to do Roadblocks, unless it was the local Fire Dept for their fundraising on behalf of March of Dimes. If you DO want to do this, make sure you don’t need a permit in your area. You can contact the City Commissioner’s office and ask about permits needed for this type of fundraiser. Each city is different, it seems, and some towns only allow the firefighters to do this sort of fundraising, as they were ‘grandfathered’ in under the law since they’d been raising money for MD like this for years. Other towns I’ve lived in in both Georgia, Alabama and New York have allowed Roadblocks, provided a permit was obtained.
Any group considering this effective fundraiser should be sure to check with your local police department regarding traffic issues. If you’ll be interfering with regular traffic patterns, you may need their permission as well! You certainly don’t want to get complaints from the public about traffic backing up. The police department can also inform you of any specific rules to follow with regards to good signage, wearing reflective orange vests, how far back your tables (chairs and canopy) need to be from the road, how many volunteers can be on the corner at a time, whether you can stand in the middle of the road (in a yellow striped area), or if your group members need to wait until red lights only to approach cars.
You’ll want to host the Roadblock on a payday Friday afternoon, or a Saturday around lunchtime, as these are prime traveling times through major business and shopping areas. A popular corner with a bank may be ideal, since it would give you an area for people to pull in and park without interrupting traffic, and also provide an ATM nearby where people could get more money to donate to you!
Stand Out From the Crowd
Place a few posters at least half a block before your Roadblock announcing the activity, what money is needed, and who benefits. Having these signs well in advance of your collection point allows drivers time to fumble through their wallets and purses to find some cash for you. You may even consider putting another sign just past your corner with a cheerful Thank You note on it, making sure your donors see one last thanks from your group for their donation!
You most likely won’t have any rescued animals on the corner with you, since this could be quite nerve-wracking for the animal, and a panic for the rescuers if any animals were to escape! Instead of just having a few volunteers stand limply on the corners, drive your message home with a volunteer or two dressed up as one of your rescued animals. Costumes are plentiful around Halloween, and even a few basic costume pieces like the dog ear headbands or fake pig noses and tails make your volunteers stand out from the crowd. If you have a volunteer dressed as a dog, you can offer to do some simple tricks like beggin’ on their knees, rolling over, barking for biscuits, cartwheels, or any other fun tricks to make the motorists take notice, and delight any children.
Making It Happen
Make sure your volunteers are dressed appropriately for the weather, and provide a shade canopy, chairs and drinks for volunteers to use in between shifts. It’s a good idea to have shifts of volunteers so the same few aren’t running up and down the turn lanes every few minutes for an entire day. Ten minutes on, ten minutes off may make life easier for the volunteers, and then swap out the whole group after 2 or 3 hours, bringing in new group members to tackle the traffic. It may be easier to have several people staggered further up the street, from your first signs to the corner. This will make it easier for multiple people to collect money at one time from the motorists. If your group would like to make this a well publicized event, you can contact the media to inform them of your fundraiser, asking them to announce it on air in advance of the date, and to host a live remote from your site during the day.
Prepare your volunteers for the day by reminding them they may hear a few nasty comments, from people having a bad day, people who don’t like animals, or just people annoyed at traffic. Review scripts to use, and remind them to have a cheerful attitude and a smile! The money raised for rescue animals is certainly worth one or two negative comments.
Last, this is a ‘fundraising well’ that you can’t tap more than 2 or 3 times a year. It’s certainly not something you’d want to do repeatedly, but could be an annual thing in conjunction with a special weekend or humane holiday. This would be perfect as part of an annual adoptathon event held at Petco or Petsmart. Their parking lots are usually in major shopping areas, and the Roadblock fundraiser can help draw attention to your adoption event.