Horse and animal advocates celebrate National Help a Horse Day annually on April 26th. It’s a national celebration founded by the ASPCA to raise awareness for abused and neglected horses across the United States. The ASPCA encourages equine rescues and sanctuaries to join their efforts by hosting an event highlighting horses and the work you do.

Equine Sanctuaries just like yours host Help a Horse Day events each year. Organizing an event is a great way to connect with your local community, increase awareness, and generate more money to aid in your daily mission. We’ve put together a list of necessary tasks to assure your event goes off without a hitch.

  1. Recruit an event planning committee.

Planning an event requires time and as a Director, your time is limited. Recruit volunteers to be part of the Help a Horse Day planning committee. These individuals will be responsible for planning, researching, and keeping you up to date on the event progress. The committee also becomes the go-to group for questions from other volunteers, sponsors, and attendees.

 

Assign each member an important role like sponsors, marketing, contract negotiations, and public relations.

 

  1. Decide on your goal.

Meet with the event planning committee to determine what your goals are for the Help a Horse Day event. Do you want to recruit more volunteers? Do you want to raise money? Do you want to educate community members on certain horses in your care?

 

Each goal requires different types of events and audience members. It is important your committee sets these first to make the rest of the event planning process seamless.

 

  1. Brainstorm event ideas.

What type of event do you want to host? Possible events include tours, mini-education sessions, picnics, or an outdoor dinner and auction. If you’re looking to increase awareness of your mission, hosting mini-classes on what you do paired with tours of the sanctuary will be more valuable than a dinner/auction.

 

  1. Research costs.

Have each committee member contact caterers, rental companies, speakers, and other businesses like DJ’s and photographers for event proposals. It’s a good goal to request two to three proposals from each category so you can compare and make the best choice.

 

  1. Put together a budget.

After you know how much your plan costs, it’s time to put together a budget. Include expenses in the budget as well as sponsorship and fundraising goals associated with the event.

  1. Create a call for sponsors.

A call for sponsors is similar to a donation drive but focused on businesses in your local community. Design three to five options including costs and benefits so businesses can pick one that best matches their budget.

 

  1. Contact your insurance agent.

Call your insurance agent to make sure you have the right insurance coverage in place. Some general liability policies include event coverage while others don’t. If your insurance doesn’t, you can purchase special event insurance to protect your equine sanctuary.

 

  1. Connect with the media.

Create a press release and send to local media channels including news and radio stations. The more press you get, the greater the turnout will be.

 

  1. Advertise on social media.

Get your community excited about the event on social media. Generating a buzz online is the least expensive way to gain awareness and attendees at the event.

 

  1. Show your gratitude.

Share your success and gratitude publicly at the event and after it is complete. Publish how much you raised, how many attendees, and what good will happen at your sanctuary with the support you received.

The very first thing that you have to take into consideration when you are formulating a press release is your audience.  For large corporations, the format is going to be quite different than for smaller groups.  The big companies are generally well known, so it doesn’t take much to grab the public’s eye, and for the most part it isn’t necessary for them to have to give the public an overview of the things that they do.

For smaller organizations, it can sometimes be necessary to get some information about the things that you do out to the public within the body of the piece, and not just focus on the specific topic of what the press release is based on.  You have to make sure that people know what it is they are donating their time or money to, because there is such a plethora of smaller organizations, that it can become very overwhelming for the common person to really have a solid idea of what the goals of each one are.

Once you get past that back story, what your organization does on a daily basis, and you move into the press release itself, you want to approach it almost like an advertisement.  It is always going to fall back onto how large and how well known the organization is when you are deciding how to address the target audience, but the absolute best advice is, the smaller the organization, the more personal you want the release to be.  You want to feel like you are selling yourself to the audience, because you are.

When you are reaching out to people about the fundraisers, or pet adoption events that you are hosting, you have to make them feel like they are a part of it before they even arrive.  For most pet parents and possible adopters, animal rescue is more than just a charity, it’s something that strikes them closest to home.  When a person not only believes in the cause, but knows that it is something that has effected them personally, their response to your organization will be much greater.  Your press release should not only educate, it should also welcome the reader in as a friend and an ally to the cause.

Every animal shelter needs a little help sometimes, and successful adoption events can really raise awareness and money for your animal welfare organization.  But the keyword there is “successful”.  How do you take an event from average to extraordinary?

Here are some tips to help you along the way:

  • Decide on the Feeling.  Are you planning on having this adoption event in conjunction with a black-tie affair?  Will this be a casual day at the park?  Before you can proceed with the rest of the planning, you need to know what kind feeling you want your event to produce.
  • Find a Venue.  It’s not impossible to have adoption events without the animals present, but it’s certainly a lot easier to pull on potential adopters’ heartstrings when they can look into the eyes of those furry friends.  This can cause difficulty when it comes to finding a venue, however, as pets aren’t always as welcome as their human counterparts.  Sometimes venues will make concessions on their animal policies if you explain that you’re a nonprofit and let them know the purpose of the event.  If you’re having difficulty finding a venue, reach out to other organizations in your area that have similar causes for suggestions.  Often, they’ll be more helpful than not.
  • Get Help.  Adoption events can be huge undertakings, and you’ll probably be glad to get any extra hands that you can get.  Reach out to your donor base and your regular volunteers then spread the word via social media.  Often times you can find volunteers for one-time events that don’t otherwise have the time to volunteer on a regular basis.  Have a list of “occupations” on-hand before you ask for help, and as people start to offer themselves up, fill in that list so everybody has a concrete position and knows what they’re responsible for from the very beginning.
  • Have Your Event.  It’ll probably be a bit chaotic, but make sure you take a breath during your event to step back and smile and look at the magic you made happen!  Try to mingle and say hello as oftten as possible because donors and volunteers tend to respond well when they have a name and a handshake to put with the organization.

If you have other tips for planning successful adoption events, please share them with us in the comments section below or talk about it on our AWOIP Facebook page!