This holiday season, I wanted to do something meaningful for my dogs. Sure, they seem to always love their presents, but how many Hanukkah sweaters are really appropriate for California weather? With a creative idea and a wide social media outreach, you can make a significant impact on the lives of our furry friends — many who don’t have a family to give them unnecessary sweaters. First, choose a charity or shelter to support and confirm your plans, making sure the organization is on board. Then it’s time to get the creative juices flowing. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Set up a pet photo shoot

Hire a professional photographer to host a photo shoot and donate a portion of the proceeds to your charity of choice. Adam Goldberg of AGoldPhoto Pet Photography says he and his wife, Mary, raised about $270,000 traveling around the country, taking portraits of dogs and partnering with local animal shelters.

Choose a location that’s dog friendly and free of charge, says Adam, who typically shoots in breweries. Disclose details about other dogs who will be in the shooting vicinity, so people can plan ahead for anxious pups.

“Book early,” advises Adam, so the prints will be ready by the holidays. “September or October is your sweet spot.”

And although it might be tempting to include Santa, make sure the dogs are comfortable around strangers, especially if Santa isn’t experienced with handling animals, Adam says.


Create a T-shirt campaign

Raise money and awareness for your cause through an apparel campaign. Bonfire, an online apparel fundraiser platform, provides design templates, custom design assistance, retail price suggestions and other tips for launching a seamless animal rescue campaign. The company even prints and ships the T-shirts to all your supporters and navigates the proceeds to your charity.

“You can get a campaign going as fast as in 5 minutes,” says David Adley, Bonfire director of outbound sales.

The more specific and timely your campaign, the more it will emotionally resonate with your audience, says David. For example, Old Friends Dog Sanctuary created a presidential campaign for one of its adoptable dogs, Mildred, during the 2016 election.

“It was a very topical event … and they created a great story around it and a cute, fun design,” David says.

Host a Secret Santa event

Organizing a Secret Santa event for the foster dogs in your community or for the adoptable dogs at a local shelter can help offset some costs for foster parents, while giving kids a fun and actionable way to raise money.

Most shelters will already have a wish list, says Tricia McAuley, fundraising coordinator for New Hope Dog Rescue in central Canada, which hosts a Secret Santa event for its foster dogs on its website.

Often, the most needed items aren’t toys.

“It’s a lot of fun picking out toys and food, but sometimes some of the biggest needs are invisible ones,” says Tricia, of the high costs to cover medical needs that need to be treated before a dog goes up for adoption. Other popular gifts are laundry detergent for fosterers caring for puppies and special diet dog food.

Creating a virtual Secret Santa group on Facebook can widen your outreach by sharing pictures, wish lists and encouraging people to participate if they aren’t local.

Help offset the cost for foster caretakers by organizing or participating in a Secret Santa event.

After writing this month’s column, I learned that some of the most powerful fundraisers can be started solo. I also learned how I could make an impact without being affiliated with a larger rescue group or shelter. Let us know your DIY holiday fundraising ideas or events you’ve done by emailing us at


What else can YOU do?

Pick a rescue or other dog organization in your area and volunteer.
Spread awareness of the organization and its needs.
Volunteer your skill set. See how the organization needs help and if it’s something you can do.

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