Animal shelters are the unsung heroes of our society, working to provide shelter, care, and love to countless animals in need. However, limited funding and overcrowded facilities can hinder the important work they do. 

By teaming up with organizations in the for-profit sector, animal shelters can leverage their resources to create a more sustainable solution to animal welfare.

In this guide, we’ll provide four tips for animal shelters interested in cross-sector partnerships. Whether you choose to partner with a retail manufacturer or a doggie daycare, these insights will help you secure the support you need. 

1. Define Clear Objectives

Determine what you hope to achieve through the partnership, whether it’s securing financial support, gaining access to veterinary services, or raising awareness about animal welfare. Then, work with your team to create a goal that is:

  • Specific: Clearly defined and focused on a particular outcome.
  • Measurable: Able to be quantified track progress and assess outcomes.
  • Achievable: Realistic and attainable given available resources and constraints.
  • Relevant: Relevant to the broader mission or objectives of the organization.
  • Time-bound: Set within a specific timeframe or deadline to create a sense of urgency and accountability.

An example of a SMART goal for a cross-sector partnership might be: “Within the next six months, our animal shelter will establish a partnership with a local veterinary clinic to provide free monthly health check-ups for all shelter animals, aiming to reduce illness rates among our sheltered animals by 20% by the end of the year.” 

Use this objective to guide your decision-making efforts and help potential partners understand the value of collaborating with your shelter.

2. Research and Identify Potential Partners

Conduct research to identify potential partners who have a genuine interest in supporting animal shelters or whose missions align with your goals. Look for organizations and individuals with a track record of: 

  • Animal welfare: Look for partners with a demonstrated commitment to animal welfare and a history of supporting or engaging in initiatives that benefit animals. This commitment might be evident through past collaborations with animal shelters, participation in rescue efforts, or support for related causes.
  • Community engagement: Choose partners with positive reputations that actively engage with the community. A well-respected organization is more likely to enhance the credibility and success of the partnership.

After identifying a potential partner, initiate contact to express your interest in collaboration. Discuss and align your goals, expectations, and potential contributions to ensure mutual benefit.

3. Develop Collaborative Programs and Initiatives

Work collaboratively to create programs, initiatives, or events that leverage the strengths and resources of each partner. This could involve: 

  • Joint fundraising efforts: Joint fundraising involves collaborating with another organization to raise funds for a shared cause, like animal welfare. An example could be partnering with a pet store to run a fundraising campaign in which a percentage of sales proceeds from designated products are donated to the animal shelter.
  • Community outreach events: Community outreach events are a way to engage with the local community while promoting your animal shelter’s mission and services. Partnering with a veterinary clinic, for instance, could involve hosting a free or low-cost pet health and wellness clinic in a community center.
  • Educational workshops: Educational workshops provide an opportunity to share knowledge and resources with the community. Partnering with a local school or educational institution can be beneficial. The animal shelter and educational partner might organize webinars on responsible pet ownership, pet behavior, or wildlife conservation.
  • Volunteer opportunities: Collaborative volunteer opportunities can engage individuals from various sectors in hands-on support for the animal shelter’s activities. A corporate partner, for example, could encourage its employees to volunteer at the shelter during a designated volunteer day. 

According to 360MatchPro, cross-sector partnerships should be mutually beneficial ventures. That means your animal shelter will need to offer something in return for the business’s financial or in-kind support. A cost-effective option would be to promote the business across your marketing channels. 

4. Formalize Agreements and Partnerships

Once you have identified the right partners and established a collaborative plan, formalize the partnership through a written agreement or memoranda of understanding (MOU). These documents should outline the following items:

  • Parties involved: List the names and contact information of all participating parties, including legal names and addresses. For example, if your animal shelter agrees to partner with a dog grooming business called Shiny Paws, you would need to list their relevant information.
  • Objective and purpose: Clearly state the purpose, objectives, and intended outcomes of the partnership. Using the example above, Shiny Paws agrees to offer discounted grooming services to shelter dogs on a bi-monthly basis, ensuring that the dogs are clean, groomed, and appealing to potential adopters. 
  • Roles and responsibilities: Outline the roles, responsibilities, and contributions of each party in detail. In this case, Shiny Paws is responsible for providing safe and professional grooming services, including baths, haircuts, and nail trims. In return, the shelter will promote Shiny Paws across its marketing channels. 
  • Duration: Specify the start and end dates of the partnership or the MOU’s validity, including provisions for renewal or termination if applicable.

Consider consulting with a legal representative to ensure that the document complies with applicable laws and that it protects the interests of both parties. 

5. Establish Open Lines of Communication

Open communication is the glue that holds cross-sector partnerships together. It fosters trust, collaboration, and problem-solving, which are all necessary for achieving shared goals. 

Ensure that your communication plan accounts for: 

  • Regularly scheduled meetings: Host regular meetings to keep all parties informed about the progress of the collaboration. Discuss goals, achievements, challenges, and upcoming activities.
  • Shared documentation: Track and document key performance metrics and results related to the collaboration’s goals to promote transparency. To streamline the process, inquire if the partner has automated software in place. For instance, a business using Gingr’s dog boarding software can track and issue promotional codes to customers who were referred through the partnership. 
  • Accessible points of contact: Assign a member of your team as the point of contact for the partner organization. This individual should be able to communicate with urgency and provide insightful responses to inquiries. 

Throughout this process, be receptive to any ideas and input that the partner provides. Effective collaboration requires brainstorming and finding creative solutions together.

Remember that building cross-sector partnerships takes time and effort, and a collaborative spirit is essential for long-term success. With the right approach, you can ensure that the animals in your facility find loving homes and receive the care they deserve.