Saturday, January 19, 2013

Fundraising Ideas for a Service Dog

Trained service dogs can make a world of difference for people living with disabilities. My service dog, Isaac, allows me to be more independent, more productive, have less pain, and simply experience a better quality of life.  

Unfortunately, trained service dogs are expensive. Service dogs require about 18 months of intensive training, which can cost up to $50,000 to provide. Most programs that provide people with service dogs rely on donations and volunteers to help keep the cost to recipients down, but people receiving service dogs usually have to pay part of the cost themselves. I had to raise $6,000 for my service dog.
If you’re trying to raise the funds for a service dog, here are some ideas that might help you. These are the things that worked for me.

Change Jars

You’ve seen these jars on counters in gas stations, stores, and restaurants. Customers can drop in some change when paying for their merchandise. Use some old jars, like the kind pickles and spaghetti sauce some in, or buy some canning jars for this purpose. Using a sharp knife, carefully punch a hole in the lid large enough for quarters and folded dollar bills to be easily inserted. Make labels for your jars, explaining what you’re collecting change for. Put a dollar bill and some change in the jar to get things started. Visit local businesses and ask the owner or manager for permission to leave a jar on their counter. Visit weekly to collect the money from the jars.

Contact Local Churches

Churches often assist members of the local community with financial needs and you don’t have to be a member of a church in order for them to assist you. Of course, if you do attend church, that’s a good place to start, as are churches attended by family members or friends. Contact the pastor of the church by phone or letter, explain why you need a trained service dog, and ask if the church’s deacons’ fund can assist you. I received donations from churches ranging from $300 to $1,000. Be prepared to provide additional information if requested, such as a letter from your doctor verifying that you are in fact disabled and in need of a service dog or a letter from the program that will be providing your service dog verifying the cost.

Contact Local Businesses

Local businesses sometimes donate money to good causes, as well. Try to get the name of the owner of the business and address any requests for donations to him or her directly. I had less success getting donations from businesses than from churches, but one local veterinary practice did offer me free lifetime veterinary care for my service dog.

Hold a Raffle

Sometimes businesses would prefer to donate merchandise or services rather than cash. If they’ll donate a bike or a gift certificate for a day at the spa or whatever else they have to offer, you can sell raffle tickets for a dollar or two and raise money that way.

Hold a Yard Sale

Sometimes people also prefer to donate things rather than money. Almost everyone has old clothes, books, toys, or other items around the house, things they’ve been meaning to donate to Goodwill or sell at a yard sale that they never get around to having. Ask them to donate items and hold a yard sale, making sure to advertise the fact that all proceeds will be used to fund your trained service dog. You can also sell raffle tickets at your yard sale, if you’ve received donations of goods or services from local businesses.

Social Networking

If you have a Facebook account, post frequently there about your fundraising efforts. If you don’t have a Facebook account, it’s worth setting one up for this purpose. Consider writing a blog, as well, about your efforts to raise the funds for a service dog and how you expect your dog to help you. Post pictures of yourself with your service dog on your blog and on Facebook, if you can; the first time I posted pictures of my service dog Isaac, I received numerous donations. Pictures allow people to put a face to the story; they make the need seem more real.  If you’re just starting the process of getting a service dog, you may not have any pictures, but once a dog has been selected for you, you should be able to get some pictures.

Fundraising Websites

Post about your fundraising needs on websites like Go FundMe and WishUpon a HeroEmail links to your friends and acquaintances. Post links to these sites on Facebook and on your blog, if you have one, and put links to your blog on any fundraising sites you post on.