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Bird Welfare Organizations: Do You Know How To Fundraise?

How bird welfare orgs and tech savvy volunteers can work together during the holidays (and year around).

Margaret Maffai

Cockatoo
Joshua Rescue Foundation
Capitalize on your strengths by taking photos of your birds. People love photos and you can pair a great photo with a great message to help draw support in. 

Maybe it is because we are reminded of how much we have. Or because we are reminded of how dearly we love the little we do have. Perhaps it is because that other dreaded season — tax season — is just around the corner! Whatever the reason, the holidays are also the season of charitable donations.

Dozens of bird welfare organizations around the country, such as parrot rescues and bird therapy programs, have been struggling valiantly since the economic downturn to continue their important work. But often they lack familiarity with new tools and technologies to get the word out about the work they do and the help they need to continue the fight.

Candace Nonnenmacher, Manager of Joshua Rescue Foundation in Prineville, Oregon has had to reduce services in recent years. "When I first came here we probably had 10 birds, now we have 75 to 100," she said. "We had to stop taking large birds two years ago. We just don’t have the space anymore."

Now her group is just trying to stay afloat. "It breaks my heart when we have to say no to people. We can still take in smaller birds but the only way to go back to rescuing large birds is to expand.”

In the past year, to maintain the facility, the organization has drawn mainly on the support of family members and friends of the founder, also the creator of their website and Facebook page, who recently passed away. "She said she would take care of all the ‘get our name out there type stuff’ until she took her last breath, and she did.” Nonnenmacher said. It has been a steep learning curve as she has juggled managing the facility and learning about fundraising strategies. The organization has consulted a local professional grant writer, but a lack of grants that specifically target exotics means that they must compete for general animal welfare grants (e.g., such as these and these) open to all types of organizations.

Many bird welfare organizations rely solely on grants and volunteer and family donations for funding. The ASPCA even provides free grant-related webinars. However, a mix of traditional fundraising methods and social media campaigns can help ensure continuity of funding throughout the year and can also reassure grant-makers that your organization is making every effort to secure its own funding streams.

Here are some holiday fundraising tips for bird welfare organizations, and for those of us with some extra time during the holiday season who want to put our time and skills to work to support them.

For Organizations
Capitalize on your strengths: Birds are incredibly photogenic! Let your beauties strut their stuff! To put a professional face on your organization, you should try to put up high quality photos and videos (i.e. not blurry shots with the flash bouncing off cage bars). Use gorgeous footage of your organization’s feathered clients to spice up your social media or blog posts. Once you’ve caught your reader’s eye with some brightly-colored shots, capture their emotions by telling a sincere, captivating narrative about the bird you’ve featured to draw them in. Finish up with a call to action like "Share this!” or "Click here to learn more” with a link to your website (and your donation link). 

Reach out to your existing community of supporters: If you already have email addresses, Facebook friends or Twitter followers of people who you know are interested in your work, such as former volunteers or people who have adopted or fostered from your shelter, send them an end-of-the-year enewsletter update on your accomplishments. Also include your goals for next year with a link at the bottom to donate and a request to share the message with their friends. If you are a 501(c)(3), remind them their donations are tax deductible! You can hold a contest or a giveaway to generate interest and expand your community of contacts.

Include specifics: In addition to leading with powerful narrative, be sure to relate to your audience your specific goals, such as paying for a bird’s surgery, building an aviary or funding a therapy visit. Try to break down the impact of donations ("Every X dollars raised = X therapy visits) so your donors can appreciate the value of their contributions to your work.

Red-fronted macaw and severe macaw
Joshua Rescue Foundation
If you love birds, consider helping out at your local bird welfare organization.
Create shareable content: It isn’t enough to have a website with a link to donate electronically. You have to get word of your website out to new people and give everyone you reach a reason to keep coming back to your site again and again. Think of the social media universe like karma. What you put out comes back to you. So if you put out useful, positive, interesting social media content, others will follow you, friend you, re-tweet your news, and help spread the word about your work, projects, and fundraising campaigns.

Birds of a feather flock together, so create your own community of friends and followers by seeking out individuals and sites that are passionate about work like yours, and friending and following them! Forward on articles, videos, blog posts, etc. from elsewhere on the web that you have also found useful and interesting. Shape your own brand by putting careful thought into creating content your readers will want to share.

Get help when you need it: If you are too busy rescuing parrots, coping with their special needs, and finding them new forever homes to teach yourself social media fundraising strategies, you can find passionate, tech-savvy advocates to help you.

If you are a non-profit, you can advertise on Idealist.org for volunteers, interns or paid jobs. Expand your potential applicant pool by allowing your helpers to run your social media campaigns remotely, using photos and videos you supply them. If, like Nonnenmacher’s, your organization does have a small budget to hire professional help, you don’t have to hire local. You can find grantwriters, web developers, bloggers and every other kind of skill-set on sites like Craigslist, E-lance, and other freelancing websites, and you can learn more about freelancing from the Freelancers Union.

Freelancers can help you do everything from developing your organization’s brand to building your website and maintaining your blog. And once you’ve built all the content your heart desires, there are social media experts who can help you promote it to the parrot-owning readers who have been staring at their Twitter feeds waiting for something like you to come along.

To hire the right freelancer, be sure to do your research and get a number of bids to help figure out a fair price for your project. Don’t be afraid to ask for resumes, work samples and references. Before the work starts, agree with your freelancer exactly what tasks you want her to do for you, and exactly how you will compensate her for that work. You can draw up an agreement, or your freelancer might have a contract she regularly uses, in which case you might want to have a lawyer look it over.

For Volunteers
Try to think outside the box about which of the above skills you have to offer the animal welfare organizations in your community. Or, if you have a particular love, such as blue-and-gold macaws or exotics rescued from environmental disasters, do your research and find an organization that speaks to your passion. You can help organizations put together social media campaigns, write blog posts or even maintain their Twitter or Facebook accounts from wherever you are if you first build a level of trust with those in charge. Be ready introduce yourself by letter, on the phone, or in a Skype interview, and to supply references to establish that level of trust. Remember, you are representing that organization’s online brand so you should always have the manager or someone from the board of directors review material before you post.

If you plan to use material that you write for the organization’s blog, or photographs that you take or videos that you create as portfolio samples later, be sure to agree ahead of time with the organization about who will own the material, and what rights you will have to use it in the future.

If you don’t want to work for free, but your organization can’t pay you, get creative. Consider negotiating for a title, like "Marketing Intern,” and mentorship from the staff and board in aspects of non-profit management. Even if you are unpaid, you can gain valuable experience, a portfolio of work and references who will have your back with future employers.

For All Of Us
Even if we can’t donate dollars, we can all donate time, tech skills or even a few minutes to share posts on Facebook and retweet calls to action to help these valuable organizations continue the necessary work of serving the bird community.

Loved this article? Then check these out! 

Therapy Birds: "Emotional Support Animal” Or Merely a Pet?
Bird Custody: What Happens To Your Bird When You & Your Partner Divorce?


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Posted: December 2, 2014, 12:00 p.m. PDT

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