pug being held by someone in a white shirt that says Volunteer

14 Ways to Help Your Local Shelter or Rescue Organization Without Adopting

There are no words that fully express my respect and appreciation for everyone involved in the world of animal rescue.

Armed with a huge heart and limited resources, they make an immeasurable difference in the lives of animals around the globe.

Are you feeling the calling to help, but aren’t sure where to start?

Let’s talk about some different ways that you can help your local shelter or rescue organization without adoption.

If you are like me, you would willingly take in all the animals in need in a heartbeat if money and space weren’t a concern.

News stories about heart wrenching cases of abuse or neglect can leave us feeling overwhelmed and helpless, wishing there was something that we could do to make even a small difference.

Now, I’m not knocking adoption in any way (all 5 of my own animals are rescues), but not everyone is in a situation where adoption is an option.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t help! The world of animal rescue is a large one, driven by the efforts of animal lovers just like you.

Last Updated: December 23, 2023

14 Ways You Can Help Your Local Shelter or Rescue Organization:

#1 – Share on Social Media

We live in an interesting world today, where social media has quickly become a valuable tool to communicate with others.

While most people use their social media platforms to keep in touch with friends and family, those involved in the world of rescue see these sites as a great way to spread the word about upcoming events and adoptable animals.

You may have already seen these posts on your Facebook timeline or Twitter stream, introducing you to a pet in need.

Social media provides a free marketing opportunity for these organizations, helping them to reach thousands of people around the globe without worrying about how to pay for it.

However, this only works if we all do our part!

The next time you see a post sharing an upcoming fundraiser for your local shelter or a pet searching for their forever home, take a couple of seconds and hit the share button.

How does that help?

If your local shelter shares the story of dog A on their Facebook page, it will show up in the newsfeeds of those who are following and interacting with the page regularly.

Unfortunately, their reach stops there. BUT if you take a couple of seconds and hit ‘share’, it will now be shown to people in your friends list.

Let’s say your Uncle Joe sees that post you shared, and he feels moved, so he hits ‘share’ – that post is now reaching the people in HIS friends list.

It’s a ripple effect.

You may not have someone on your friends list actively looking to adopt a dog right now, but through the power of social media, that post can eventually reach the perfect home for that dog.

By dedicating just a couple seconds of your time, you can be part of the solution.

golden retriever dog on leash being walked by someone wearing jeans and a light blue t-shirt

#2 – Earn Money Using ResQWalk or WoofTrax

Another easy way that you can help make a difference easily, ResQWalk is a free app that was available to download from the Apple AppStore or Google Play.

Throughout the year, the ResQWalk team collected donations from their corporate sponsors. They then distributed those donations to rescue organizations based on the activity of the app’s users.

Unfortunately, ResQWalk has now been discontinued (as of September 2023) but an alternative that operates in a very similar way is WoofTrax.

It’s simple – Download the app, select your favourite organization from the pool of WoofTrax partners and then start walking, running or biking. The more miles users log for a specific organization, the larger their share of the donations will be.

Once again, donations are handed out based on the number of people walking for a specific organization and the distances that they are walking each day with the app.

The app can be downloaded from the Apple AppStore or Google Play.

#3 – Monetary Donations

There are many financial responsibilities associated with the operation of a shelter or rescue.

First, there is the obvious costs associated with the basic care of the animals in their care. Just feeding a single animal can add up, now multiply that throughout their organization.

On top of that, there are costs associated with veterinary care, transportation, the physical shelter itself (if they have one) and more.

If you’re in a position to donate, you can help your local shelter or rescue organization by donating to them directly.

Alternatively, if you know which veterinarian they are working with, many will accept donations directly to the veterinarian’s office for medical care.

#4 – Birthday, Wedding or Event Fundraiser

Another great way to help raise funds is to make your local shelter or rescue the recipient of the gifts for your next birthday, wedding or other special event.

There are two different ways that I have seen this done (and successfully).

Option 1 – Simply ask your guests to make a monetary donation to the organization of your choice in lieu of gifts. This is an option that I see more often at bigger events like weddings.

Option 2 – For smaller events, like birthday parties, you can ask your guests to bring supplies for the organization that you are looking to support.

This can include pet food, treats, toys or cleaning supplies, among other things. I have seen a number of children choosing to go this route with their birthday parties, which is great!

close up of a brown and white dog being held by a bride and a groom

#5 – Organize A Community Fundraiser or Event

Are you a talented event planner? Do you love organizing and throwing a big party? Why not organize a community fundraiser to help your local shelter or rescue organization?

There is a wide variety of different events you could choose from depending on your personality, interests and experiences.

On a smaller scale, you could organize a bake sale or pasta dinner fundraiser. Or you can plan something larger like a gala, charity walk or benefit concert with local musicians.

Don’t forget to not only identify your own personal strengths, but also those that are in your network and may be able to assist you.

#6 – Host an Online Fundraiser

Another big trend that we are seeing with the rise of social media is the online fundraiser.

There are many ways that this can be done and even sites that are specifically focused on these efforts such as GoFundMe, MightyCause and Fundly.

In response to the increased interest in online fundraising, Facebook launched its own Fundraisers integration allowing users to create a fundraiser within the platform.

#7 – Donate Necessary Supplies

Rather than donating money, why not look at providing some of the necessary supplies that your local shelter or rescue currently needs?

One great way to help would be to gather items at local garage sales or through online sales opportunities like Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace.

This is a great place to obtain bigger-ticket items such as cat carriers or dog crates. These are items that are needed to provide for the animals in their care.

If you are a pet owner, consider a BOGO approach to your shopping – Buy one item for your own pet(s) and, at the same time, pick up a second for the organization of your choice.

This is a great way to build up a collection of toys, canned pet food or cat litter.

If funds are tight, why not contact businesses in your area for donations of items that can be used to fill the needs of the organization of your choice.

A great example would be to contact local hotels and ask about any bedding or towels they may be discarding as ‘unusable’ due to a stain or rip. These items can be put to use for bedding.

Note: If you are going to contact companies asking for donations of items in the name of an organization, it is important to contact the shelter or rescue first.

Do NOT simply start advising companies that you are collecting on their behalf without permission to use their name first.

Reach out to a shelter/rescue organizer to discuss what they need, where they have already contacted and what you can do to help in these efforts.

Shed Happens Amazon Wishlist

In response to the current situation around the world, a new trend has emerged on Twitter. Users of the platform are using Amazon wishlists to show a little love.

The idea is simple – A tweet is started asking users to share their wishlists for others to see.

Those who wish to spread a little happiness are then able to surprise others by purchasing something off their list, having it mailed to them directly.

I love this trend and the joy that it has been bringing many online!

Of course, I had to find a way to do this in Shed Happens style, right?

I have created a wish list of items that are often needed. I will be donating any of the items purchased off this list to local rescue organizations right here in Ontario, Canada.

If you choose to support this, make sure that you follow Shed Happens on Instagram! I will be sure to share pictures from my donations so that everyone can see where the items they purchased are going.

Check out the Shed Happens Amazon Wishlist HERE!

person sitting on the hardwood floor typing on a laptop, with a grey cat sitting in their lap

#8 – Support Companies that Give Back to Animal-Related Charities

There are many great companies out there that are passionate about supporting animal-related charities.

Often these are products and services that you would still be purchasing otherwise, so it’s a way to support without a significant impact on your budget.

Some great pet-specific companies to consider are PrideBites, Pet Cube, Bark Box, Petco, and Dog for Dog.

Another company that I personally purchase from regularly is Arctic Fox, the maker of my hair colour.

The company carries a selection of high-quality semi-permanent hair dye colours as well as dry shampoo, bleach kits and all of the supplies needed to dye your hair at home.

#9 – Put Your Unique/Professional Skills to Work

Take a moment to consider your own unique and professional skills and how they may be used to benefit the shelter or rescue organization that you are looking to assist.

You may need to think outside the box a little. Here are some examples:

  • Photography – Take pictures of the shelter pets to share online. These pictures can be used to help showcase the pets and reach those who would be interested in adopting.
  • Graphic Design – Work with the shelter to design flyers, posters and other important marketing tools for their upcoming fundraisers and events.
  • Construction/Handiwork – Does the shelter itself need work to be completed? The cost of repairs can eat into the budget set aside for pet care. If you have the skills necessary to assist (woodworking, plumbing, electrical, etc.), why not reach out and see if there is a way you can help?
  • Lawyers and Accountants – As an organization, there is a lot of paperwork that needs to be done behind the scenes. Those who are running these organizations don’t always come from a business or law background.
  • Website Design/Social Media – This one is pretty self-explanatory but worth mentioning. If you are skilled at website design or social media management, you can offer your services to help improve the organization’s online persona.
  • Crafting – Do you sew, knit or crochet? Why not consider making some cozy homemade pet blankets?

#10 – Foster

While you may not be at a place in your life that you can commit to adoption (after all, adoption of an animal is for the long term), why not consider opening your home for a shorter period of time?

Through the involvement of foster parents, shelters and rescues are able to expand their efforts, assisting a larger number of animals in need.

For more information about fostering, check out my recent post ‘6 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Applying to Foster A Shelter Pet’

#11 – Transport

Another great way that you can give your time to help your local shelter or rescue organization is through getting involved in the transportation network.

What is rescue transportation? Animal transport volunteers give their time, gas and vehicles to extend the reach of local rescues.

This includes picking up animals in need of care, bringing them into the rescue as well as providing transportation to a forever home if one is found and approved outside of the local community.

Depending on the length of the trip, this may be completed by a single transport volunteer or it may be divided into legs, with a number of volunteers each taking one part of the trip.

If you are interested in assisting with transport, contact your local organization to discuss their specific needs.

small white dog sitting in a kennel with people around it, holding it's paw and petting it

#12 – Volunteer at the Shelter

Do you enjoy spending time playing with cats or walking dogs? Why not consider volunteering for your local shelter directly?

The day to day chores within most shelters are completed by dedicated volunteers including cleaning, feeding the animals and providing them with the love and affection that they need while they wait for their forever home.

If you are currently living in a situation where you’re unable to have a pet, this is a great way to get that animal fix! I know of many people who volunteered throughout college/university while they were living in the dorms.

If this sounds like something that you would enjoy, contact your local shelter or rescue for information about the volunteer positions that are available.

#13 – Get Involved in Education and Animal Rights Activism

While this point may not directly assist the animals currently in the care of your local organizations, it’s a crucial part of the rescue world.

Not only do these organizations work to protect and provide for animals in need, but they are working tirelessly to educate the public and facilitate important changes in the laws that exist to protect animals locally and around the globe.

Take some time to do a little research into your local laws in regard to pet ownership and care.

While some areas are taking a big step forward in a positive direction, there are often many areas of concern. This is your chance to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves!

If you feel passionate about animal rights activism, consider contacting your government officials to discuss the needs both in your city/town as well as your country as a whole.

Canadians, check out this great breakdown from Humane Canada about the changes that are needed here in our own country.

Another important piece of the puzzle is in the area of education. Specifically, this refers to educating the general public about the importance of topics like spaying/neutering your pets, pet care needs and the resources that are available locally.

In addition to that BIG task, there is also the education of the next generation, helping to raise them up with a respect for animals.

#14 – Thank a Volunteer

Finally, I think it is important to acknowledge the tireless work of the incredible volunteers involved in the world of rescue.

These people often give their time, energy, money and their hearts to animals in need each and every day. While they don’t ask for anything in return, it’s a nice gesture to show your appreciation from time to time.

Consider dropping off lunch or baked goods at your local shelter as a thank you to volunteers, writing a handwritten letter or card thanking these individuals for their efforts, dropping off a gift card for a local coffee shop or even just write a social media shout out thanking the volunteers for their work.

Remember, none of this would be possible without their dedication and sacrifice!

pug being held by someone in a white shirt that says Volunteer with the title 14 ways to help your local shelter or rescue organization

What ways do you personally help your local shelter or rescue organizations? Is there an option listed that speaks to you?

Did I miss something important? If so, make sure to share your suggestions in the comments!

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  1. What a great post! Yes there are definitely more ways to help rescue shelters aside from adopting since it’s not for everybody. I want to help our local shelters too. There’s also a university here that advocates cats adoption and they care for the cats while they wait for a furever home. They use social media too to promote the cause.

    1. Exactly! I LOVE our rescue pets – but after adopting 2 dogs and 2 cats, our house is full lol! That doesn’t mean that we don’t want to keep supporting the rescues in our area – so we have moved on to some of these other options.
      That program at the University sounds like a great one to support!

    1. Oh wow, that’s surprising! Have you tried reaching out to rescues at a distance? I know there are some limitations right now regarding travel, but many will work with transportation networks to make it possible. We adopted Indy from Ohio (we live in Ontario, Canada) and I was surprised by how easy the whole process was.

  2. These are all excellent ideas to help shelters & rescue organizations. I volunteered at a county shelter for around 8 years. I also shared adoptable pets on my social media & my blog. I love AmazonSmile, it’s fabulous! My shopping helps the small shelter my family adopted our first dog from when I was a child. I hadn’t heard of Resqwalk or Wooftrax, they sound great.
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    1. There are so many easy ways that we can help, most people just aren’t familiar with the options. I LOVE using Resqwalk when we’re heading out with the pups. I mean, we’re walking them anyway, so if it can help others at the same time, why not?