Spring and summer are kitten season at Dallas Animal Services (DAS). Beginning in April and continuing through the summer, thousands of community cats have litters that are taken in, cared for, and ultimately adopted. At the heart of the operation are a dedicated medical team, a professional staff, and hundreds of volunteers. They manage this annual spike in intakes with grace, good humor, and a little help from their friends.
The “friends” in this case is the Friends of Dallas Animal Services (FODAS), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides ready financial assistance to Dallas Animal Services. In the case of kitten season, FODAS funding provides support for mothers and their kittens, taking care of orphaned kittens, purchasing incubators, and the fostering/adoption process. But the history and relationship of these two organizations goes back further - and is broader - than this one important program.
A Critical Mission for Animals and the Community
Dallas Animal Services, a department of the City of Dallas, is one of the largest municipal animal shelters in the country. Each year, tens of thousands of dogs, cats, and other animals find themselves in the care of DAS. More than ninety percent of them will have positive outcomes. A rate this high is rare for municipal shelters and a well-deserved source of pride for the organization.
This city-supported lifeline for animals and the community that cares for them has demonstrated its value and meddle over and over. This past February, Texas was hit with some of the worst weather in generations. The shelter’s doors remained open, its field service units responded to a huge increase in the number of pets left out in the cold, resulting in a large number of stray and displaced animals needing shelter.
The ability to deal with issues like this - and the unexpected resulting demands - require agility and flexibility that can be rare in a municipal department, but DAS has demonstrated it again and again. Rapid access to ready funds is difficult and this is where the Friends of Dallas Animal Services shines.
As a city department, Dallas Animal Services can accept donations, but strict rules dictate how funds can be accessed and used. The result is often a time-consuming process that doesn’t lend itself to the quick action needed in the face of an emergency or other pressing need.
How FODAS Helps
The Friends of Dallas Animal Services started in 2019 when its founders Stephanie Fox and Wendy Reiner were volunteering at the shelter. They noticed how few toys were available for the dogs and decided to get some Kongs - a lot of Kongs. The price tag was $5,000, but with some research, Wendy learned there was a discount available to nonprofits. She approached the DAS leadership team about a partnership and they helped Wendy and Stephanie with the creation of the FODAS as a 501(c)(3). But Kongs were just the first step. Since its inception, FODAS has raised more than $500,000 - dollars that have supported DAS in a number of ways.
These crucial funds help make up for any gaps, shortfalls, or budget decreases - all too common a reality for most municipal agencies. Similar in structure and purpose to library Friends groups, the Friends of Dallas Animal Services creates opportunities for the community to support an essential institution.
Since its founding, Friends of Dallas Animal Services has been a critical lifeline. In April of 2021, FODAS helped fund a new Dallas Animal Services program: the Community Pet Food Pantry. In partnership with three human food pantries, DAS is supplying pet food to families struggling with food insecurity. This kind of support helps keep pets, their people, and the community safer and healthier.
Engaging the Community
Caring for the community - not just its critters - has been a central theme for both organizations. Both organizations focus on education for pet owners, spaying and neutering pets to manage the number of uncared for animals in the city, and microchipping animals to make them easier to identify and return lost pets. Even the simplest of steps - like informing the public on what to do if someone finds a stray - have positively impacted Dallas Animal Services’s connection to the Dallas community.
That connection has been a two-way street, even in trying times. Shelter tours were on hold until the pandemic restrictions were recently lifted; instead, virtual adoption introductions took place to connect people and pets. Fortunately, corporate partners play a key role in supporting the shelter during times like these. PetSmart hosted a series of “Pup-up” adoption events in their stores to help shelter animals get exposure and adopted. Other local businesses, too, have demonstrated their support for the missions of both Dallas Animal Services and the FODAS. American Airlines has been a generous donor and Tito’s Handmade Vodka provided grant funding to FODAS in the wake of the winter storms.
Social media has become a mainstay for keeping in touch with fans both near and far. It’s helped create funding opportunities that extend well beyond the Dallas area. That reach has also resulted in adoptions for pet owners in other parts of the country. Sometimes, the funding and adoptions merge, as was the case with a couple from Alabama who made the drive to Dallas to pick up a pet, and who has continued to donate to FODAS (to the tune of $3,000 through a series of gifts!).
While wonderful, this type of giving isn’t the norm - but then what has been over the past 18 months? What fundraising will look like in the future is still to be determined. The monthly “Shelter Society” happy hours have paused. The in-person adoption events (which typically led to donations) are only slowly coming back. And a visible presence for the Friends of the Dallas Animal Services is also ramping back up.
A DipJar “pooch” nicknamed Phoebe has been an effective part of the FODAS fundraising team since 2019. Phoebe’s portability allows it to be set up wherever and whenever FODAS hosted an adoption event or other programs in the community. During the pandemic, when these events were on hold, Phoebe visited coffee shops, pizza parlors, and clothing boutiques.
While folks continue to contribute using Phoebe in these passive situations, Fox explained that the DipJar performs best when someone is by its side to explain the work of FODAS and how contributions support the cause. As things return to normal, she expects Phoebe to resume its place in the FODAS fundraising mix!
Friends of Dallas Animal Shelter is a great example of a nonprofit using DipJar as part of an integrated fundraising program. If you want to learn more about Friends of Dallas Animal Services and its mission, be sure to visit their website. If you would like to learn more about DipJar and how it can help increase donations and improve donor engagement, please contact our sales team.
Be the first to know about solution updates and receive fundraising tips before everyone else. Subscribe to our newsletter!