Getting Super Creative to Survive
I see it daily. Post after post, email after email, from a multitude of sanctuaries appealing for donations. While many, if not most, remain closed to visitors, animals in need continue to arrive, putting an even greater strain on crippled resources. When the country unexpectedly shut down in March of 2020, animal sanctuaries saw their main source of revenue suddenly dry up. But, the world of animal rights activism is accustomed to David and Goliath struggles. Today, there are more than 300 animal sanctuaries around the world. There is even a Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. Each is giving it their all.
Technology is a lifesaver these days and many activities can be done on the cheap and with minimal need for equipment.
Connect a camera or high-quality webcam to a laptop, then connect to a virtual meeting app like Zoom and stream out to Facebook or YouTube. This is a great way to engage the community in tours, volunteer Q&A sessions and virtual fundraisers.
Indraloka Animal Sanctuary, halfway between New York City and Philadelphia is a Pennsylvania animal sanctuary that is home to more than 200 animals, comprising 15 different species. Johnny Braz, Indraloka’s Creative Director, described the sharp turn he and his team took when the pandemic hit. Their virtual tours took off. “We have pivoted really well. Being a filmmaker, I went for cinematic style and quality on the virtual tours, which Indraloka conducted working in conjunction with Goat-To-Meeting and numerous platforms like Zoom and Google Meet. And, we’ve been recruiting volunteers to help.” Braz says the concept got mainstream media attention and brought in a blizzard of requests. “We were doing tours from 8 am to 5 pm, every single half an hour, to fulfill the demand. It was insane.”
Many of the customers were corporations. “CEOs of big corporations would write personal letters to us saying ‘you have no idea how much you uplifted our staff.’” The irony is the zoom visits have ended up connecting more humans to normally forgotten animals than ever before. “Virtual tours are here to stay,” says Braz.
Virtual Fundraisers and Galas
Susan Wagner at Equine Advocates in New York State had reason to be positive in early 2020: their vet students and residential student programs were booked solid and their annual fundraising plans were mapped out and ready to go. But that soon changed.
“When COVID came we had 3 international students who had to go home, we had to cancel all public events.” Susan Wagner, Equine Advocates
The cancellation included the annual gala, one of the biggest fundraisers of the year running since 2002. Luckily for Equine Advocates, a production company approached Susan and offered to produce the gala in a virtual format. The event was deemed a success! It featured Willie Nelson as an honoree and the silent auction brought in crucial revenue. Check out the highly produced virtual gala here.
“Every penny goes towards the medical care of the horses, many of which are older and have a higher number of needs.” Susan Wagner, Equine Advocates
Integrating technology into daily activities is key. Fellow vegan and head of Bridge City Media Erik Crosswell offers up a few tips to get the activity ball rolling during 2021 and continue to engage with followers.
Use Experts for Major Virtual Events
In the case of Equine Advocates, their virtual gala production partner took on the technical logistics.
One place to start is by doing a google search for virtual event or video companies near me. Make a list of companies that have good reviews. To find vegan owned production companies you can visit platforms like LinkedIn, vKind or list a job post on veganjobs.com.
According to Erik, virtual video event packages will typically range from $600-$2000 for small scale events. Cutting costs can be done by taking on some tasks yourself, like posting content. A quick rule of thumb for social media: image and videos of animals will frequently rank among high-engagement content.
A contest can generate buzz which becomes PR gold. There’s nothing like building awareness that brings in new supporters. Something as simple as a photo contest or teaming up with a local artist to create a curiosity magnet can yield great results.
Platforms like GoGo Photo Contest offer turn-key platforms. Note, they do use a sliding commission scale on money raised.
Check out Charity Auction Today’s list of Top 12 Charity Auction Software Sites – Complete Review 2021 for a list of platforms both free and paid to carry out virtual auctions.
We can collectively help animals continue to have a safe place to go. Supporting our sanctuaries this year is more important than ever.
I am all for more farmed animal sanctuaries but urge those considering starting one to always be receptive to learning how to improve. I strongly recommend learning more about the PAWS wildlife sanctuary where they have rescued numerous elephants and other wildlife from circuses and zoos. I visited there and I know of no organization who does a better job of implementing the highest standards of care for the animals and no one other than the late Pat Derby who helped start it who did a better job of communicating a more persuasive argument for the end of animals in captivity as well as an originator of stress-free hands on care when necessary to treat them medically or to transport them. Their website is www. PAWSWEB.org.