May 7, 2019
Categories: Budgets and Financial Development
Cat yoga

Have you struggled with coming up with new events to draw your community in and raise money? Julie Barger, Director of Development at Lynchburg Humane Society (LHS) has some ideas for you.

We attended her session, Unique fundraising events to engage your community at Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) Animal Care Expo in April. She had a ton of ideas and thoughts, many of which we’d like to share.

Barger started off her presentation explaining that at LHS, everything is filtered through happiness. For example, instead of a stray dog, they say lost dog. They’re a center, not a shelter. They use “pets,” not “animals,” when describing their dogs and cats.

Something that LHS has a lot of, says Barger, is cats. So they use them as much as possible: Cat bingo, cat yoga, cat ping pong, cat movie night… you get the idea.

As for promotion, all of their events get a Facebook post, press release, a Facebook event (which they also boost), a mention on their website and the event is included in their weekly newsletter.

She stresses that the return on investment is low, but the real purpose is to bring the community in. That said, she recommends getting sponsorships to secure a profit.

As for sponsorship tips, Barger shared, “For new events, I would seek out businesses that are tied in with the particular event. For example, our home tour event [attendees toured historic homes in the area] had sponsors such as decorators, realtors, mortgage companies, insurance agents, landscapers, garden supply companies. Make everything you do a sponsor opportunity and offer various levels of sponsorship – each house on the tour could have its own sponsor, is there a pre or post event party? Sell bar sponsorships, dinner sponsorships, music sponsorships, cocktail table sponsorships, silent auction sponsor, signage sponsor, etc. We publish sponsor opportunities on Facebook, email businesses, call businesses. I use Alignable and Facebook Messenger to reach out, form committees and ask committee members to reach out for sponsorships.”

Some of the events they hosted at their adoption center include:

Art Show

  • Local artists show off their creations and donate 30% of sales to them. They served beer, wine, had a food truck come by and appetizers were donated. They had live music (which they paid for. Not a lot, but they wanted to thank them for donating their time), which made it very social and they stayed open later.

Cat yoga

  • Participants love to post the cats on social media
  • Barger suggests letting the cats out two hours prior to the event so they aren’t hiding


  • Their most popular event. Prizes include leftover donations, dollar store goodies and candy.
  • Tip: Use bingo blotters because cats are known to play with bingo chips

Food Truck Pow Wow

  • They brought in several food trucks which in-turn brought in office workers

Other events mentioned were: Painting class, dance-a-thon, dodgeball, game night, adult date night and scavenger hunts.

Barger also asked, “What do people like to do? What do you want to do on the weekend?” So, do that! She said people want to eat, drink and be outside. Breweries, she said, have been very reliable and helpful. They host “yappy hours” and bingo.

With an Innovation Grant, they had custom tap handles and pint glasses made with their logo. Anytime a beer is ordered with the LHS tap handle, proceeds from that sale were donated to LHS. Bartenders really get into the events, naming drinks after their own pets. Barger said one bartender ended up adopting one of their dogs they brought to an event! Part of their promotion strategy includes custom coasters. Bars and restaurants have to use coasters, so they might as well be yours.

Custom tap handle and glass

Even if you don’t have an extra room or a lot of space, you can host events in your community. “Schools, restaurants, breweries, churches, retirement homes that come with a built-in group of participants and even volunteers,” says Barger. You can offer to bring animals to these events.

She said one of their best offsite events was a Santa Paws event at a bank on a Sunday. Santa perched himself near the drive-thru, people drove up, took their pet out for a photo, and then drove off.

One fundraising idea she suggests everyone should do is an adoption banner sponsorship. This banner includes the company logo of said sponsor. Every time a pet is adopted, a photo of the adopter and pet gets taken and it’s often posted on social media. For LHS, the banner is changed out monthly.

Give some of these ideas a try and let us know how it goes!

If you’d like to see the full presentation from the conference session, email us at and we’ll send it to you!