Rachel Shehane Wilcox
I organized a fundraising and adoption event for The Rexburg Animal Shelter. It was held on July 8th, 2023. This event raised needed funds for the shelter, supported multiple small businesses in Rexburg, and involved the community in local animal rescue.
The purpose of this fundraising and adoption event was to raise needed funds for The Rexburg Animal Shelter, support small businesses in Rexburg, and get the community involved in local animal rescue. I worked closely with the shelter directors, Officers Chapman and Outlaw, and their goals for this fundraiser were for it to create community awareness that the shelter exists in the community and for it to increase their chances of receiving more adoptions. I kept their desires in mind and this fundraiser for all of us became a way to bridge the Rexburg community with the city’s adoptable animals.
This is a link to an article written by Lisa Smith with The Standard Journal about this fundraising event: https://www.rexburgstandardjournal.com/news/local/rexburg-animal-shelter-fundraiser-scheduled-for-saturday/article_7ef2ccf0-1959-11ee-8183-63867280d8c7.html
A BYU-Idaho student studying video journalism covered the event. His name is Flederico Silveira. This is his news package about the event that he created.
The Rexburg Animal Shelter is a subsidy of the Rexburg Police Department and it is directed by Officers Chapman and Outlaw. I proposed to them a plan to organize a fundraising event for them at no cost to the shelter. I explained that I would get all supplies and raffle prizes donated from the community and that vendors would sell food and pet related items where a percentage of their proceeds would be donated to the shelter. They agreed to be my participating non-profit organization for this community project and Officer Chapman explained to me that they had been wanting to hold a fundraiser for a long time, but didn’t know where to start. I worked with Officers Chapman and Outlaw every step of the way, but I fully advertised, coordinated, and organized every aspect of the event independently. I had a goal to get local businesses and community members involved, so I did step back and allow them to participate where they could. I received raffle prizes from local dog groomers, dog trainers, art shops, non-profits, and even larger businesses such as ACE Hardware, C-A-L Ranch, and Walmart. The graphic design team at the local hospital, Madison Health, also reached out to me and offered to design and print large signage and find volunteers for the event. The local newspaper, The Standard Journal, reached out to me as well to write an article about the event. Multiple community members donated needed supplies, so we received everything from plastic cups to yard games from people who wanted to get involved. Businesses even began to offer needed supplies, such as Broulims, who donated us multiple balloons filled with helium. Allowing these businesses and community members to step in and serve was a way that I could connect the Rexburg community with the animal shelter.
Organizing this event posed unexpected challenges. Since the Rexburg community frequently holds events such as The Farmers Market, The Rexburg Craft Fair, and social events filled with vendors selling products from their small businesses, I assumed that it would be an easy process to find vendors to sell items and food at the fundraiser. Typically, vendors pay booth fees for their spot at these events with the prices ranging between $25-$50. I decided to set a booth fee as well, with the profits going directly to the shelter, at $15 each. Along with the booth fee, each vendor would pledge to donate at least 10% of their proceeds from the fundraiser to the shelter. In exchange for this, they would receive tables and chairs from us, a spot at the event, and have the opportunity to sell products from their businesses and keep all earnings outside of the 10% donation fee. I am not sure if it was from the pledge to donate at least 10% of profits or a perception that this fundraiser may not receive much traction from the community, but I only ended up with three vendors at the event when I had originally been hoping to have ten.
Another challenge was navigating the best ways to advertise the fundraiser. I began with social media advertising through popular community Facebook pages and by creating a Facebook event. I was unable to tell from that who may be coming to the event, because I did not receive much interaction on those posts. I then decided to advertise throughout the city with signage (such as on the City Hall digital display in the attached photo). Again, I knew that I now had more advertising available to the public, but I was still left without a guess on how many people may attend my event. This made it challenging to keep vendors updated on how much product they should bring, how many volunteers may be needed, and if we would have enough supplies. Despite this, as the event came closer, I also coordinated with the local hospital, Madison Health, to receive more signage, interviewed with The Standard Journal in Rexburg for a newspaper article, and handed out flyers the day before the event at the Farmer’s Market. I at least knew that it wasn’t a bad idea to advertise more and I ended up estimating the turnout well.
There are many steps involved in organizing a fundraiser like this and it was a learning process as I went along. The first step was getting in contact with the Rexburg Animal Shelter and having them agree to be my participating non-profit organization. I then needed to coordinate crucial details with them, such as the date that worked best for them to hold the event and the best location. We decided to hold the event on July 8th at the Rexburg Animal Shelter. Once these details were secured, the city needed to approve the event through a Public Gathering Permit. I submitted the permit and it was approved. At that point, I could then begin advertising the event and searching for vendors and raffle prize donations. I reached out to both small and large businesses over social media, email, the phone, and in person. Finding donations for raffle prizes became an easier process than finding vendors to sell items and food at the event. I created a google form for anyone interested in participating to fill out, and I individually reached out to each of them to discuss details and their needs. I ended up receiving multiple raffle prizes, three vendors, and volunteers. Once I had those details secured, I began to reach out to the community for donations for supplies (decorations, lemonade, yard games, etc.). I received donations for all items needed and extra items as well. The week of the event, I picked up all supplies and set up the event the morning of July 8th with the volunteers. I directed it as it went along and called all raffle prize winners to coordinate when they would pick up their prizes. The event was successful and the shelter ended up with a large profit and a few animals were sent home as “foster-to-adopts.”
This fundraising event was special to me because it was the first time that I had undertaken a community project of this size and organized it myself. It was a chance for me to mix my passion for activism with my creativity in a way that served my community. At seven months postpartum, it gave me a way to find myself again in a new way outside of being a new mother. My husband and baby came to my event and it made me proud of myself to be an example to my baby of how anyone can make a difference in their community if they set their mind to it.
Families came to this event looking for new animals with their children and enjoyed yard games and free lemonade with them outside. Watching them arrive together and their children enjoying the animals showed me how the public awareness that this event brought was also setting an example for younger generations on how their communities can take care of animals and they can participate in that. It helped them to see how animals can become part of their families and their homes.
The volunteers who attended this event from the local hospital, Madison Health, kept the event functioning and helped it to become successful. I was surprised that so many employees of the hospital wanted to be involved in a fundraiser for an animal shelter and volunteered their time on a Saturday to come out. After having points during the planning of this event where I felt discouraged trying to receive community involvement, my gratitude for those who showed up eager to help was was heightened. Every participant in this event from the shelter directors, to the volunteers, to the vendors, to the businesses who donated caused the fundraiser to be more successful than anything that I could have done on my own.
This event showed me that it just takes one person’s will to make a difference in their community for their goal to come to fruition. Community members want to serve, but they need a push sometimes and they need opportunities to do so. The Rexburg Animal Shelter is small, but it works diligently to rescue the animals of the area and place them in loving homes. Animals are part of communities and families. Without even adopting an animal, I was able to support those animals. It is possible for those in the City of Rexburg to use their creativity towards a good cause, and this fundraising event was a testament to that.