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How Do Animal Sanctuaries Make Money? [Revenue Sources]

Starting an animal sanctuary and offering ethical and compassionate lifelong care to every resident requires a substantial amount of financial resources, often tight budgets, and a commitment not to profit from the residents.

Note that this type of adventure is ideal for anyone who loves animals and has good business sense. A heart for animals is imperative when starting this business because it focuses on helping animals. Business acumen helps owners transform a traditionally non-profit model into a for-profit business.

Ideally, for-profit animal sanctuaries can make money when animals are dropped off and when they are donated. However, sanctuary owners who want to open a for-profit sanctuary are expected to believe in their business.

Always remember that most people expect sanctuaries to work as non-profit organizations, therefore it always falls on the business owners to explain that pets have value – and people should be willing to pay for that value. If they can’t explain this, owners will struggle to justify their higher fees.

In this business venture, an animal sanctuary owner will have to spend time taking in animals and caring for them. Caring for animals includes feeding them, offering veterinary care, brushing them, cleaning their cages, and playing with them.

Owners will also have to get pets adopted. This involves going to events, promoting adoptable animals, and interviewing potential adoptees. Also during slow times, business owners pay bills, manage volunteers and employees, and promote their business.

Have it in mind that some organizations, out of necessity, dedicate themselves to one species or breed. The needs of dogs will indeed vary from the needs of horses. And some animals have breed-specific behaviors – which can be made worse by inbreeding or abusive conditions – that are best handled by specialists. Some organizations further specialize in rescuing animals from specific situations.

Animal sanctuary profitability isn’t widely known, maybe because most sanctuaries are run as non-profits. Note that these non-profit sanctuaries often employ a director, vet tech, and other staff. However, a for-profit sanctuary can earn enough to pay for a team’s salaries, which often total six-figure sums, and still provide a profit.

However, it is believed that an animal sanctuary may charge or ask for a few hundred dollars when an animal is dropped off and when it is adopted. Some sanctuaries have reported asking for about $200 – $370 when a dog is dropped off.

This amount increases to around $1,800 for dogs over seven years old. Some sanctuaries have also reported charging around $400 -$640 to adopt a puppy. However, most adoption fees are determined by the market.

15 Smart Ways Animal Sanctuaries Make Money

One very common misconception among animal adopters is that animal sanctuaries are funded by tax payers’ dollars and adoption fees. However, unless the sanctuary is managed by, or has a deal with the municipality, most don’t even get government funding.

As for the adoption fees, those are meant to cover the cost of care animals receive in the sanctuary. Nonetheless, here are how most animal sanctuaries make money;

  1. Grants

Most sanctuaries are sustained through acquired grants either for a specific purpose or to bolster their overall budget. However, it is indeed more challenging than grant-searching for other types of non-profits organizations.

Have it in mind that a sanctuary is expected to do some diligent searches on grant databases, as well as seek out region-specific opportunities, in order to find applicable grants that they may be eligible for. Although local grants may be less enticing, many sanctuaries have had good luck getting them.

Some organizations that occasionally distribute grants to certain sanctuaries or micro sanctuaries include The Micro sanctuary Resource Centre’s micro-grant program, the ASCPA’s grant opportunities,

  1. Memberships

Memberships is also another way sanctuaries encourage recurring givers or those who give a predefined amount of donations in a certain span of time, or even those who donate a certain amount of time volunteering for the organization.

Some sanctuaries offer members certain perks like special updates, discounted sanctuary events, preferential access to activities, or even private visits.

Some sanctuaries in the United States have set up membership programs that grant individuals discounts through businesses who wish to support the sanctuary. Even though this requires a fair bit of coordination, it can be an excellent tool for Sanctuaries to widen the organization’s appeal to potential donors in their community.

  1. Community Support

In this industry, there have been cases of supporters asking for donations to a sanctuary in lieu of birthdays or holiday gifts, or to help celebrate big events in their life. Note that some even set up their own off-site events for their friends to help spread the word about the sanctuary.

Another valuable form of community support for sanctuaries comes from attending other organizations’ events (with their prior permission, of course!) and tabling or speaking. This helps folks sympathetic to similar causes learn about the sanctuary’s mission and the complementary solutions it brings to the community!

  1. Fundraising

One of the key responsibilities of an organization’s board is to help in fundraising. Many sanctuaries make it each board member’s responsibility to contribute a predetermined amount to the organization, either through a donation or through fundraising efforts.

Some sanctuaries also make use of major social media platforms with fundraising tools built into their services, or an easy ability to link to a crowdfunding or donation platform. This social media fundraising has proven to be an effective tool because supporters can share the sanctuary’s appeal easily with their communities.

Social media fundraising has proven to be more effective once a sanctuary has a specific, detailed reason for the fundraising, such as improvements to your sanctuary, resident medical care, or a need for funds to facilitate a necessary rescue. Impactful photos and videos and transparent updates are also very important elements of social media fundraising.

  1. Sponsorships

Also note that some companies, especially those who serve populations have for long been more sympathetic to sanctuaries in their region, and some tend to be interested in providing one-time or ongoing financial support to the organizations.

Some sanctuaries have benefited from corporate sponsorships in exchange for displaying the sponsor’s name or logo on events, sanctuary merchandise, or even in the naming of certain structures on the property.

Some businesses may even create products or dishes that publicly guarantee a percentage of the sale back to a specific organization! In addition, many sanctuaries have sponsorship programs for individual residents, allowing donors to support those that they particularly resonate with.

Sanctuaries that have resident sponsorship programs often provide perks for individual sponsors, such as special updates, photos, videos, and visits with the supported resident.

  1. Donation Jars

Donation jars onsite for cash or checks are highly popular for a reason: it is easy to leave a donation jar out at a sanctuary, especially in strategic locations such as near the exit of visitation areas, or at major sanctuary gatherings and activities.

In addition to keeping donation jars onsite and during events, some sanctuaries also find areas in their community to leave donation jars! Grocery stores, restaurants, and independent establishments of all kinds are all included. Sometimes, to capture donations from folks who may not have a dollar on their person, some sanctuaries leverage services that offer a digital alternative to the donation jar.

There are text-to-give services that allow anyone to send a quick donation via a text message, and there are services like DipJar, which for a fixed fee, offer a device that securely accepts a set credit card payment when a card is inserted.

  1. Crowdfunding Websites

Also note that some sanctuaries also use crowdfunding websites such as GoFundMe and others more specifically geared towards nonprofits to raise funds for major projects, rescues, or during emergencies.

Howbeit, they have to be specific as to why they are trying to raise the funds, providing transparent updates during and after the fundraising, and it is also important they don’t oversaturate their community with crowdfunding requests! Also, note that some crowdfunding websites deduct a certain amount from each donation and some services’ fees are as high as 10 percent!

  1. Thrift Store

There are some animal sanctuaries in the United States that have found tremendous success fundraising by operating a thrift store in a nearby community whose revenue directly supports the sanctuary.

Since thrift stores sell donated items, once the overhead cost of operating the location is covered, quite a substantial amount of income can be generated. For sanctuaries, operating a thrift store is a huge commitment in terms of setup, personnel, and policies, so this may not be realistic for organizations still finding their footing.

  1. Visits & Tours

A good number of sanctuaries offer visitations and tours as a way to spread their mission and garner additional financial support from compassionate members of the public.

For some of them that charge a fee for visitations or tours, they do this by offering a suggested donation basis rather than a fixed cost; this way, anybody who wants to hear the organization’s message but may not be able to afford the cost of the visit can still attend. Visits and tours also include a gentle request for funding at some point in the experience!

  • Off-Site Tabling

Some sanctuaries have found success by tabling at community events such as farmer’s markets, nonprofits conferences, and festivals that promote compassionate living.

They do this by having staff or volunteers show pictures or videos of the residents, offer merchandise or promotional materials, and keeping a donation box prominently displayed to provide a decent revenue source, depending on the crowd size and disposition.

This revenue generation means is also a good way to increase awareness of the organization in the community, either for bringing in new visitors or potential volunteers.

  1. In-kind Donations and Services

In some situations, individuals or companies may not be able to provide a cash donation, but would still want to contribute to a sanctuary’s mission. They do this by providing in-kind donations such as supplies, food for residents or visitors, tools, or other resources.

This is a highly valuable way to free up some of the sanctuary’s budget, and once the organization is a United States 501©(3) nonprofit, this also offers tax-deductible donation receipts as an in-kind giving incentive. Most animal sanctuary’s website includes a donation appeal and an accompanying donate button that is always easily accessible across the site to facilitate donations whenever a visitor may feel compelled to give.

  1. Direct Mail and Newsletters

Some sanctuaries leverage physically mailed requests for donations and support. Note that even though this can be an expensive and regulation-heavy way to solicit for funds, many individuals still prefer to receive communications and give donations through mailed campaigns.

Online or physically-mailed newsletters of a sanctuary’s updates and events have also proven to be a good platform to raise some funds. Most sanctuary newsletters include a request for financial support, especially to help out with the residents, activities, and updates outlined in the publication.

  1. Special Events

Sanctuaries have also found success through special events, held either at the sanctuary or held off site. These are a great opportunity to combine many fundraising avenues in one place, to help maximize giving by attendees in whichever way they feel most comfortable.

They use events as an opportunity to collect more contact information (especially from first time guests) for future fundraising down the line.

  • Merchandise

Some animal sanctuaries have found success in the form of merchandise they can offer to the public. Merchandise that does typically well includes t-shirts and other apparel, stickers, and other small items with the sanctuary’s logo, and even artwork of the residents.

Also, note that this has the dual benefit of generating revenue as well as getting an organization’s name and message out into the wider community. And folks tend to feel good paying for merchandise if they know it is supporting a good cause!

  • Plaques, Bricks, Benches, and More

Have it in mind that some organizations incentivize giving at certain levels by offering donors the opportunity to have their name or even a statement inscribed somewhere on the sanctuary grounds.

Some organizations have donor walls, plaques, and names on benches, donor brick paths, or even names emblazoned on stakes in tranquillity gardens. Some organizations solve the donor honor space issue by offering it as a perk that must be renewed with additional giving on a set schedule, rather than a permanent honour.


A heart for animals is imperative when starting this business because it focuses on helping animals. However, the avenues mentioned above are some of the few ways animal sanctuaries leverage to generate funds, starting from those that can be accomplished by founders alone or a few volunteers, up to suggestions for organizations with a larger personnel and supporter base.