This pet food drive action kit explains how communities can gather food for pets to help families in need keep the pets they love. It includes information on finding a finding a partner, deciding your strategy, building a support base and more.
Table of Contents
1.) Why do a four-legged food drive?
2.) Find a food pantry partner.
3.) Decide your collection strategy.
4.) Build a support base.
5.) Get the word out.
6.) Ready, set, collect: A few more details.
In the past few years, the number of pets who became homeless via relinquishment and abandonment has increased because of the economic downturn, foreclosures and joblessness. Providing temporary assistance with pet food removes one potential reason for families considering relinquishing or abandoning their pets, and will help people keep the pets they love. Every day that these families can feed their pets is one more day those pets stay at home.
The general goals of a four-legged food drive are:
- To collect donated pet food to help stock the shelves of a local food pantry that acts as a distributing organization to those in need
- To assist individuals and families facing economic difficulty by providing pet food to help them keep their pets
- To increase awareness about homeless animals, adoptable shelter animals, and community resources such as low-cost spay/ neuter and other veterinary services, such as microchipping
Setting your local goals
When planning your project, it is important to set goals and milestones. Having a clear idea of what you want to achieve helps everyone involved stay focused on the project. Consider setting some simple goals. For example:
- To collect a total of 10,000 pounds of pet food at one large event
- To collect 500 pounds of pet food every week for a month
- To have five collection sites for one month
- To hold a collection event once per month for a year
Remember to set realistic goals that reflect the resources and demographics of your community.
Although the Best Friends four-legged food drives have been targeted at helping provide pet food to food banks that work with individuals and families in need, a food drive could also benefit animal shelters or rescue groups. If your goal is to help a rescue organization or shelter, most of the information in this action kit is still applicable.
Working with an existing food pantry helps support the community network and allows food to be distributed by an organization that has experience and expertise in this area.
Some food pantries are large city or statewide organizations, such as the Three Square Food Bank in Las Vegas (threesquare.org) or the Oregon Food Bank (www.oregonfoodbank.org). Most large food banks do not distribute food directly to the public but instead work with smaller partner agencies by supplying food to them for distribution.
Some communities have numerous smaller food pantries that operate in conjunction with animal rescue groups or shelters, or small organizations that provide human social services.
Before undertaking a food drive, identify and contact an existing food pantry in your community and establish that they will be willing to take the pet food you collect.
Questions to ask them:
- Do they provide collection bins?
- Can they pick up the food you collect? When? How often?
- If not, what are the drop-off hours?
- Are there any other requirements or guidelines to follow?
A one-day event held in a prominent location with colorful signage and manned by enthusiastic volunteers generates excitement. Retailers that sell pet food or provide pet services are often eager to host an event and being at a location where people can easily purchase food to donate will increase collections.
On the other hand, an ongoing effort with un-manned collection bins available provides flexibility and allows you to collect food for a longer period of time. Retail or service businesses may like to have a collection bin, and some businesses may want to hold an inhouse employee pet-food drive.
A combination of an event and ongoing collection bins is your best bet!
One person sitting at a table collecting pet food can make a difference, but if you want to gather a lot of food, you’re going to need help. Ideally, you’ll find allies who will commit to the cause. Church groups are often willing to help. Schools or parent-teacher associations may like a community service project. Scout troops or service clubs are often willing to get involved. Realtors know all too well what happens to pets when families are forced to move.
You can also consider partnering with rescue groups, nonprofits and other animal lovers who are dedicated to helping animals stay with their families.
Here are some other suggestions:
- Ask your friends and family, neighbors and co-workers. Start with the people you know; they might know others who want to get involved.
- Use free, popular social networking sites to get people involved. Be sure to include the pertinent details (when, where, contact information) and a compelling description of the project that will make people want to join you. Try Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.
Getting the word out about your efforts to collect pet food will help ensure the success of your project. Start by creating a flyer that provides the details of who, what, where, when, how and why. Post your flyers all over town (with permission, of course). E-mail copies to everyone you know and ask them to post the flyers in their workplaces and the businesses they frequent.
Create smaller versions of the flyer to use as bag stuffers for retailers, especially if you will be holding an event-style collection there.
Create a press release to send to local TV, radio, newspapers and bloggers.
Sometimes staging a promotional event and inviting the media can be helpful. For example, find someone who has received – or would like to receive – pet food from the food pantry and who is willing to talk to the media. Then invite the press to meet you at the food pantry to interview the client and the food pantry coordinator. You can talk about what it means to get help with pet food.
Word of mouth is also very effective – and free! Encourage the members of your fourlegged food drive team to spread the word to their friends, family, neighbors, co-workers and fellow animal lovers.
Keep the momentum going by posting pictures online and/or doing a follow-up story about the success of the project. To show how the food drive is helping keep pets in their homes, consider telling the story of a particular family and their pet.
If you’re doing an event, use signage – such as posters, sandwich boards and banners – that will call people’s attention to your four-legged food drive. Streamers, flags, balloons, special T-shirts or costumes also can add a festive touch.
If you’re setting up un-manned collection sites, make sure your containers are clearly marked and post flyers nearby that explains the project, including the name of the food bank or pantry you’re working with.
Create a list of shelters and rescue groups in your area. Include each organization’s location, website, e-mail address and phone number. Make copies to hand out to people at the food drive who want to get a pet and are interested in adopting. You can find organizations in your area by visiting Petfinder.com.
Tracking the food donations
Some food pantries will weigh the food for you and report the total. (We recommend that you only use pet food that is sealed in the original manufacturer’s packaging and is not expired.) If they don’t weigh the food, you’ll need to keep track yourself.
If you’re doing an event, some people might want to donate cash, so be prepared to accept money. Have a donation jar or cash box handy. You can use this cash to purchase additional pet food. If you’re going to be buying a large volume of food, talk to the store manager about a discount.
If you’re having an event, no matter how many volunteers you have, it’s a good idea to designate roles so everyone feels comfortable and has a plan. You should have someone designated as the leader to keep things going smoothly, one or two people to greet the public and explain the project without being pushy, someone responsible for the donation jar, and one or two detail-oriented helpers to keep track of the quantities of food being donated. If the food bank is not able to pick up the food at the end of the day, you may also need help with moving and transporting.
If you’re setting up collection sites, be sure to have someone check the bins often and take away enough of the food to prevent an overflow, which could create a problem in the place of business.
Finally, thank your volunteers sincerely and often.
Pets at the event
Although bringing your well-behaved pets to an event may generate interest in what you’re doing, having pets at your food drive could also create a distraction. Some people may crowd in to see the animals and keep you from interacting with potential donors.
Having your pet present also creates a possible hazard to him or her. If you’re doing the event in a parking lot or in front of a store, traffic and exhaust fumes may be a danger.
Some pets become stressed by meeting so many strangers. The weather may also be a problem (too hot or too cold), depending on the time of year and location of the event. You’ll also need to be careful that your pet doesn’t wander away while you’re not paying attention.
In short, consider all potential hazards before deciding to bring your pet along and have a plan for someone to be able to take him or her home if necessary.