Pet Emergencies

I would venture to guess that many people you ask who have a pet (or once owned one) will say that they are like family members. I know that sentiment is true for me and the two wriggly critters that are sitting near my feet as I write this piece. They are one of the reasons I find joy in this world, and I am thankful for their daily reminder to take each moment as it comes. I would do anything for them to help ensure they have the happiest, healthiest and most enriched lives possible. But what happens when a veterinary bill exceeds our means to be able to provide the care needed for the unexpected? Sure, pet insurance could help, but what if it’s too late to go down that road? For Bean, our older dog, she’s already had cancer once, tumors and excess gum growths removed from her mouth, allergy issues, and anxiety. Her laundry list of prior medical diagnosis contribute to the collection of items viewed as “pre-existing conditions,” making her ineligible for coverage. I would be remiss to not mention that, the reason why we canceled our pet health insurance was that we couldn’t afford the monthly payments due to increased cost of living expenses. 

It’s not surprising to me that the increase of crowdfunding to help pay for medical expenses, veterinary bills, unexpected emergencies, etc., are much more prevalent these days. I guess it’s refreshing to know that we’re not alone. Many people are struggling financially but they also have a strong network of friends and other support networks that are willing to help when they can. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably heard of crowdfunding resources like GoFundMe and the now non-existent YouCaring (it’s merged with GoFundMe). You may not have heard of a resource that helps to provide 100% of the funds raised to the veterinary costs needed for a specific animal or for an animal rescue organization. If you haven’t heard of Waggle yet, and you’re a pet owner or someone who works closely with animal rescue, it’s time to save it on your computer’s favorites ASAP. 

We received compensation to in exchange for an honest explanation of how Waggle works. We only share information about brands we support and would use for our own dogs. Our opinions are our own.  

I’m not going to spend a ton of time here talking about how Waggle works, their site does a pretty amazing job of explaining everything, but I will give you some helpful starting info. First, while you help to spread the word about a campaign, the money goes directly to the veterinary office providing care or to the animal rescue organization. That means, your donors have 100% assurance that the money is being used for the medical needs of the animal, and not for paying for someone's vacation. Not to imply that you'd be behaving in a fraudulent way, but other sites don't have this security measure. The other great piece is that there are no fees, which means ALL of the money raised will be used for medical expenses.  

Let’s dive into some key ways to help ensure your fundraising efforts will be a huge success! 

Gather Your Team

Your message and cause will have a lot more power if you’re not the only one shouting it from the rooftops. It’s not to say that you can’t be successful on your own, but your potential to be more successful increases with each additional person and voice you have joining you. Each individual you bring under your wing has their own network of friends, colleagues, and other contacts. They also have their own unique take on how to share information. Some people may be Facebook wizards, while others may know how to be Twitter rock stars. 

Be direct and open when speaking with possible team members. Share with them why you think they are a valuable asset, what your expectations are for how much time and effort will be expected of them, provide a timeline (to the best of your ability), and ask them to commit. “So, after hearing this, do you agree with helping me to share my message with your readers/followers/friends at least once or twice a day for the next seven to ten days?” If they say no, ask them what they are comfortable committing to, and developing a strategy.  

Create your Superhero Den 

Every superhero has a space they go to to get their equipment together, and come up with a plan. I’m guessing that’s also where copious amounts of coffee would be consumed, but I’m not exactly sure. For you, and your cause, that may be a shared google doc with other members of your team, or a private Facebook group. It could also be a couple conference calls, or gatherings at coffee shops, it doesn’t matter really. What’s important is that everyone is on the same page, and knows the plan of action. I’ve had a lot of success with private Facebook groups and scheduled calls (either video or conference calls). It can allow you to work with people who are close and far, and can account for time differences as well.  

Craft your Message 

First, and important to note, the team of writers at Waggle will help to craft your message that's on their site based on the information you provide. That said, you still have other channels like social media and emails where you putting your own twist on the message will be important.   

You want to be able to share a story. One that captures attention, but not in a way that makes people feel icky. You can compel people to act, without posting photos of gaping wounds and medical equipment, like tubes and tape. In fact, if you post photos that are potentially triggering, it could turn possible donors off. Once you have lost their attention, it’s a lot harder to gain back their trust for future calls for help, if the need should come up again in the future. Here are some basic rules of thumb. 

Keep it simple.  

Too much information can be overwhelming. You should be able to tell the important pieces in a short paragraph. Having a few sentences first followed by some bullet points can help a person process what they’re reading.  

The story isn’t about you it’s about the animal in need.   

What unique things about the animal’s personality do you think would bring a smile to the reader’s face? Do they have a favorite toy? Food? Place to snuggle? What’s one of your favorite memories you share with spending time together? How did you meet? What was your most embarrassing moment you shared together? You don’t need to (and shouldn’t) answer all of these questions, but a few little nuggets that will shed light on the uniqueness of the animal in need and the bond you share, which can be huge in making the reader feel like they are a part of the story, too. Think of the little boy who was reading the old book in “The Neverending Story.” The character’s stories relied on the reader, and the reader’s story relied on the characters.  

What medical expense would a donation help fund?  

People need to know where their money is going to be used. You don’t need to share a ton of medical jargon, but you do need to be forthcoming in what the funds would help to pay for.  

Create a Deadline 

There’s a reason why coupon codes and online sales only last for a certain amount of time. It creates a sense of urgency. Even if this is a non life threatening situation, if you keep a fundraiser going for months at a time, people will lose interest and you’ll lose their attention.  

Here’s an example: 

“The first day I saw Tigger, she was a tiny brown ball of fur curled up in the corner. She heard me come in, and I saw her ears prick. She didn’t move much more than that, though and I knew I needed to show her that she had nothing left to worry about for the rest of her life.   

Now, she’s a senior dog, with some flecks of white hair on her muzzle. I noticed she had some difficulty going potty last week, we went to the vet, and tests commenced. After a full day of testing, we learned about the blockage that will need immediate surgery. When we got the estimate for the surgery, plus the cost of tests, we realized we needed to swallow our pride and ask for help.  

Will you help us raise the necessary funds to help Tigger live the rest of her life healthy and pain free? Nothing is too small, and everything is appreciated. If you can’t give financially, you can still give by sharing our story with your friends. The more people who hear about Tigger, the more lives her little fierce spirit will have touched.” 

A Picture is Worth 1,000 words 

Photos can make all the difference in the world. They help to share your story and they help to make people feel connected to the pet who will benefit from donations. Try to use high quality, well-lit, photos. They don’t have to be professional shots, but a photo of a dark dog, on a dark couch, with tons of knick knacks in the background, take away from the viewer’s ability to see the subject and feel like they connect with it. Do you have a shot of the pet when they are smiling? In action, like playing, or running? How about a clear shot of their face so you can see deep into their eyes? Those are the images that will pull at the hearts of those who are reading. I mean, look at this guy below. Wouldn't you throw money at a fundraiser if it meant helping his cute face?! 

Be Transparent 

While you don’t have to share every detail of the medical treatments, you do need to share where the money will be going and for what cause. In the hypothetical scenario I created with a dog named Tigger, I shared the fact that medical tests were needed to determine the cause of the ailment, and a subsequent emergency surgery was needed to address a blockage. I didn’t share where the blockage was located, what had caused it, and the surgery details but I shared enough for the reader to know how their donations would be allocated if they decided to contribute. 

Providing regular updates on how fundraising is progressing, and thanking those who have already contributed, can help to keep people in the loop but can also help to maintain an upward momentum. Notes like “Huge thanks to Casey C., who’s donation just bumped us over the 50% mark on our fundraising goal! It would be awesome to add x amount to what we’ve raised today before I head to bed. Will your donation be the one that gets us there? I hope so!”  

Post Often & Post Everywhere 

You may think you posting something more than once will seem like overkill, but chances are, the algorithm on social media channels, like Facebook, mean that not everyone in your list of friends see everything you post. Posting at different times of the day and on different social channels, will help to ensure as large a base as possible will see your message. ALWAYS encourage readers to share your message with their followers and be sure to recognize and give thanks to those that do. They’re more likely to do it again if they know you’ve noticed and appreciate their time and effort. 

Give Thanks 

If someone contributes, please thank them. A quick email saying how much you appreciate their donation, a link to the donation site where they can find updates, and ways they can share the message with their friends, can help to keep your story moving forward while also acknowledging the kindness of the person who gave towards your cause. I also recommend asking for their mailing address so you can send a formal thank you letter at the conclusion of your fundraising efforts that share an overview of the story, the money raised, the outcome, and future plans. 

Set a Timeline  

I know, a pet’s medical needs may span over a long window of time. There may be elements in play that prevent medical providers from fully knowing a timeline and final outcome. That said, medical providers can provide a best guess for estimated costs associated with the pet’s needs. If you feel additional funds may be needed for issues that arise that you haven’t accounted for yet, add a buffer of funds to the balance that needs to be raised.   

People don’t have much of an attention span any more. In addition to a short attention span, there are tons of stories that pull at our heartstrings each day. It’s hard to keep people dedicated to any single cause, so it’s important to be respectful of everyone’s time and energy.  

Less than five days, is too short to really get momentum and to spread your message. More than two weeks, and you’ve lost people’s attention. There may be exceptions to these windows of time, but that’s a good rule of thumb to at least begin with as you develop a strategy.   

Pay it Forward 

People are much more likely to share your message, contribute towards your cause, genuinely care, if you do the same for them. Help in whatever way you are able to help for other causes that you are impacted by. For example, the Waggle site has a list of pets in need of financial contributions to help fund medical needs. Read through the stories, and help to share with your followers or provide encouragement. If you are lucky enough to have raised more than what you need to pay for veterinary bills, please consider contributing to the medical needs of another animal in need. If that happens, in the interest of transparency, please be sure to share with your followers and donors how contributions have been allocated.  

Time to Stop Talking and Start Doing PLUS a Free Download 

I hope this has helped you plan for a fundraising campaign using Waggle. You now have some useful tools to start your planning for pets in need. Be on the lookout for another post soon on unique ways to get your fundraising message out there so your voice isn't lost in the crowd of other voices asking for money to help fund a different cause. In the meantime, feel free to use and share the download below to organize your Waggle campaign planning. 

Click here to download a PDF. 

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