When inviting people to your events, especially your major fundraising dinners and auctions, the amount of money you make depends directly on who you invite and on who actually attends. Of course you should extend an invitation to everyone who has adopted an animal from you in the past. These people have first hand knowledge of your good works and are generally happy to support you in the future. But, there are other members of your community who can be a great asset to you as well. There are movers and shakers in your community who have the money, power or prestige to influence other people or help get your group’s name in the spotlight. Find these people, make them your friends and use them to further your cause! Here are a few things to think about when making your “A-list” of invitees:
Who are the “A” list people in your local community?
- Mayor, State Representatives, State Senators
- City Council members
- Local Politicians
- Business Owners
- Veterinarians and other animal-related businesses
- CEOs of corporations and their upper management
- Members of your Chamber of Commerce, JayCees and JayCee Senators
- Real Estate Agents
- Car Dealership Owners
- Restaurant Owners/ Managers/ Celebrity Chefs
- Media Personnel (Assignment editors, Editors of the newspapers, favorite news anchors, favorite reporters, weatherman, sports director, radio DJs and other personalities)
- Local sports teams and their managers/ owners
- Local celebrities (celebrated artists, famous chefs, local authors,
- Members of local civic/ service/ fraternal groups (Junior League, Rotary Club, Kiwanis, Lions, Masons, Elk, Moose, ABWA, Toastmasters, church groups, local chapters of fraternities/ sororities, etc.)
- Members of local country clubs or exclusive dining clubs
- Church leaders
- School board, superintendents, principals
- Doctor”s offices and private practices
- Local parks and museum directors and boards
- Other charitable foundations in your area (MS, Breast Cancer Research, Arts and Theatre groups, Children’s hospitals)
How do you get to know these people if you don’t already?
There is an idea that everyone in the world is connected to everyone else. One version of this is called “The 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon” where you can make a connection from any actor back to Kevin Bacon in less than 6 steps. This is the exact method that you need to employ in order to make friends with the movers and shakers of your community. Sit down with your volunteers and everyone you personally know. Ask them to start listing some of the community leaders that they know. Show them the list above! Ask them WHO they would feel comfortable talking to about your group. Remember, your volunteers have a vested interest in your rescue group, too. They are animal lovers and want to do the best they can to save lives. Even the shy volunteers really gain their voice when they talk to their co-workers about their new foster cat. You’d be amazed to know that your co-worker sings in the church choir with your town mayor. Or, your sister-in-law serves on the board of the PTA with the spouse of a CEO of your town’s biggest employer or major industry.
This may seem like a “shot in the dark” approach, but it is the same method that people who sell Avon, Tupperware and Mark Kay use to find customers. They list every single person they know or have had contact with in the last 5 to 10 years. Of course you may not strike gold with every name you write down, but it is a great way for you to find some friends who are like-minded about saving animals. Contact a local civic group and ask if they’d appreciate one of your board members/ your president giving a presentation on your services to their members. They may give you a donation for speaking, but more importantly you will be educating the public as well as making friends and winning over some influential members of your community. “People give to people” is a popular fundraising saying, so make your plea convincing and heartfelt.
If there is someone you’d like to get to know but just can’t find the avenue to meet them, then set up an appointment to introduce yourself to this person. Call their office and set an appointment, be on time, dress nicely and give them your winning presentation. Bring along photos, brochures, flyers and other items from your group to show them. Be sure to express that their presence at a function or their endorsement would mean a lot to your group and make it more successful. And, state what compensation you can give to them, such as public recognition of their good deeds in helping your group.
How do you get these people involved in your group?
Ask your well-connected volunteers and friends if they can arrange a casual meeting between your board members/ president/ campaign chairperson/ fundraising committee or other rescue representative with these high profile individuals. Be sure to know why you are going there: you want to ask this person (we’ll use the mayor as an example) if they know about your group, introduce them to the services you provide, give them a little presentation on what you’ve done in the past and ask the mayor if there’s a way he could help your group in the future, particularly by declaring a proclamation for spay/ neuter day, or publicly recognizing your group.
Have a well-connected friend host a pledge dinner party at their home where your president or other senior member of the rescue can introduce the dinner guests to your rescue and talk about the good works you’re doing in the community. Your point here is to make friends and possibly some donations. While at this dinner, ask your new friends if they can make a pledge to your group as well as give you some names of a few of their other friends who would be like-minded in saving animals. You’d be hard pressed to find an animal owner who can’t make the comparison between the lives of their precious pooch with the one in a shelter. Ask your volunteers if they know anyone in charge of finding speakers for events. Your group president/ board member/ “spokes-purrson” can give a short visual presentation and speech on your rescue, your good works, introduce the listeners to a day in the life of your animals and how they can help.
Attend other civic meetings of which you are a member and spread the news of your group’s mission and successes. Ask members of a civic/ service group if they’d be willing to adopt your rescue for a year, to assist in fundraising, volunteer hours and promote adoptions. These service group members can become ambassadors of your group for a full year. You may make a lot of friends this way. And, even after the service group moves on to help another charity, you may retain many of your friends from that group as your new members.
Ask respected members of the community to be involved with your rescue by being on a committee or on the board. This lends an air of respectability to your group. These people cannot just be figureheads, and must be active in the duties of the board. Once you’ve made contact with your new friends, include them in your mailings for your newsletter as well as sending appeals and especially invitations to events. The more you keep your name in front of them, the more likely they are to donate and continue to donate to your rescue. For example, many donors will send in another donation upon receiving a thank-you note from the first donation! Keep your friends updated on your successes. Follow up! Even if someone just glances through your newsletter 4x a year, the more they see you and read about you, the more interested they become in your group.
What can these movers and shakers do for your group?
Politicians and elected officials can help you by creating a community friendly to animals. They have the authority to ensure that spay/ neuter laws are enforced and alter zoning laws to prohibit pet stores that sell animals from coming to your area. They also have the power to require and enforce pet licensing, and breeder’s tax or other penalties placed on those who recklessly breed animals for a profit. Requiring a breeder submit documentation frequently, limit the number of animals to be sold in a year, require certain high standards for proper care that would make it barely profitable are also ordinances that could discourage breeders. The politicians also have the capability to assist with funding for new animal services buildings, more enforcement officers and generally making the shelter more state of the art.
Local celebrities have the public exposure angle working for them and can use it to your benefit. If you have a local chef who has their own cookbook, be sure to ask them to dedicate a few recipes to the animals in your next cookbook, or donate a portion of the proceeds from a dinner to your group. Media personnel can champion your cause on the air and in the printed form and lend an air of respectability to your group. Just by having a prominent member of the media mention your group during a TV news broadcast, you have effectively entered a home where you can’t place a flyer.
Many of your movers and shakers have deep pockets and probably have a pet at home on their bed. Encourage them to donate, but also encourage them to help you in other ways, by using their talents in marketing or public relations, by assisting with a fundraiser or by becoming a spokesperson for your group. This can be seen as both fundraising and friend-raising!
The most important part is just getting started! Try some or all of these ideas and you’ll be amazed at the results!