By Tatiana Garrett
Businesses are made up of people—living, breathing, caring people. The end of the year is a time when our minds go to the holidays, togetherness, helping the less fortunate, and yes, the closing of a fiscal year. Whether business-minded folks are looking to make a charitable contribution for tax purposes or just looking to spread some cheer, here are 15 ways that businesses can make a difference for animals in need.
1. Lunch & Learn. Give staff the opportunity to learn about local pet-related initiatives by asking someone from your local shelter to present to staff at a luncheon. Some organizations even have their own Humane Education department with topics you can choose from.
2. Staff Appreciation. People that work at animal shelters can deal with some pretty traumatic cases and face burn-out and compassion fatigue. Local businesses can show their appreciation for the people on the front lines of animal welfare by donating a pizza lunch, dropping off some movie tickets for an employee raffle, or simply saying “thank you.”
3. Man Power. Have someone at your office coordinate with a local shelter to see what needs they may have that could use some good old elbow grease. Mobilize a small team of volunteers from your office that can give a room a fresh coat of paint, scrub some kennels, or even plant some flowers (non-toxic to pets, of course) outside the shelter.
4. Social Sharing. Most shelters utilize social media to help animals find loving forever homes. Every business can tweet and share posts of profiles of pets available for adoption (perhaps even a bulletin board or newsletter that highlights “pets of the week”). It’s a great way for businesses to show their social network that they have a heart for animals.
5. Foundations. It’s not uncommon for companies to create foundations. For example, Cathy Bissell (of the vacuum and floor cleaner manufacturing namesake) created the Bissell Pet Foundation in 2011 to help homeless pets. Successful businesses could follow suit to provide increased funding opportunities for animals in need.
6. Gift Matching. Corporate gift matching programs are a great way for employees to take an active role in the company’s philanthropy. A company can create their own policy and simply agree to match any documented donations that their employees make to nonprofit organizations, or they can partner with several chosen charities to give employees a few options. If the concept seems a little daunting, you can learn more at doublethedonation.com/
7. Proceeds. From events to jewelry to pet products, many companies partner with animal welfare agencies and donate a portion of their proceeds to help animals in need. Agreements can include donating a percentage of profits from an event, a dollar amount for every sale during a time period, or utilizing coupon codes to track per sale donations for multiple charities. The nonprofit and the for-profit both benefit from the cross-promotion.
8. Be Pet-Friendly. Restaurants, hotels, hospitals, and offices—pet-friendly businesses are everywhere! Creating a pet-friendly environment further promotes the human/animal bond. We also know that petting an animal lowers blood pressure and triglyceride levels so it can make for a healthier work environment, too. When property managers of apartments and retirement communities allow families with pets to stay together, it can save lives and keep animals out of shelters.
9. Adopt. This option doesn’t work for every business, and not every shelter or rescue group would adopt an animal to this scenario, but sometimes an office cat or dog can be a great idea. Tasks can be shared, but a single person has to claim ultimate responsibility. The Chicago shelter I work at has adopted dogs to a pastor at a community center, an employee at a retirement community, and we even had a pup recently go to live at an aquarium. You can read about the aquarium’s adopted dogs here.
10. Craft Party. Gather up some crafty colleagues and set-up a fun night of making do-it-yourself items for animals at your local shelter. Cat scratchers, dog beds, and more—The Anti-Cruelty Society offers some great tutorials here.
11. Transaction Donations. There are lots of options for this category. Point-of-sale systems can allow people to round-up a purchase to the nearest dollar for a donation, some businesses display a donation box on their check-out counter, Investing In Communities has even found a way to turn real estate transactions (including corporate leases) into giving opportunities.
12. Wish List. Many people have items lying around the home or office that could be put to good use helping animals. Old cell phones, stained (but clean) towels, newspapers, and cameras are just a few items that most shelters would love to have. Find out the items that your local shelter needs (many post wish lists online), send the list around the office, collect, and then deliver the goodies.
13. Sponsor Education. Humane education is about teaching empathy and compassion—truly a proactive way to teach non-violence and foster community building. Children reap tremendous rewards from humane education programs. Find a local shelter with education offerings and sponsor a meaningful program in a classroom or pay for a bus to bring a group of kids to the shelter.
14. In-Kind. There’s always something to give: print invitations for the shelter’s next event, donate a piece of jewelry for an auction item, give some corporate sporting event tickets to be used as a fundraiser…. Every business can find ways to lend a helping hand to animals in need.
15. Cashola. Animal shelters invest staff time, organization resources, and lots of tender loving care to help the animals that pass through their doors. Donations of any kind are appreciated, but every charitable organization can always use good old dollars to help pay wages, buy vaccines, and keep the lights on.
If your business gives back in a way not included on this list, be sure to post the idea for others in the comment section below.
Tatiana Garrett grew up with Borzoi, rescued dogs, cats, hamsters, parrots, rabbits, guinea pigs, and an iguana… just to name a few pets. She began her professional career with animals in 1995 at Brookfield Zoo. She has studied wild dolphins in Australia and rescued wildlife in Florida, but people are truly at the heart of her work. If it walks, hops, or slithers, Tatiana cares about it. She currently oversees the Humane Education programs at The Anti-Cruelty Society, hosts “Chicago Tails“, and writes “Tatiana’s Tails“. Twitter: @TatianaTails312.