Dog Charity Walk

January is National Walk Your Pet Month, and we’ve been celebrating all month long by sharing useful information about walking your pets.

Just in time for spring, we thought we would share how you can start your own charity pet walk or run. This is a fun way to bring animal lovers in your community together to benefit pets in need. Here’s a rundown of what you will need to do to organize a walk or run in your community.

Get Organized

Choose a charity. This could be a local group or a nationally run organization. Once you’ve made your decision, let the beneficiary know what your plans are. They may want to send a representative to attend the event — and they may be willing to help you organize or promote it as well.

Enlist a team. You will need some serious help putting this together — don’t try to go it alone. Gather a core group of like-minded animal lovers to help you plan and organize your walk, and then divide up the labor.

Determine the date and time. Most fun runs and walks are held on the weekend, when people are off work and can more easily participate. Look for a Saturday when there’s nothing else big going on in your community. Depending on where you live, it may also be a good idea to choose a rain date, just in case.

Select a distance. Keep the course on the short side to prevent participating dogs from getting overtired. Consider offering both one-mile and 5K run/walk options, to appeal to both casual walkers and more serious runners.

Choose a location. Be sure to take parking and participant safety into account — both will be very important the day of your event. When putting together information about the race for participants, make sure all of this information is laid out clearly.

Get permission. Your town or city may require specific permits or fees for an event of this type. Check with the authorities well in advance, as sometimes this can be a timely process. You will also need to contact local police and emergency services to line up support for traffic control and aid stations.

Create a waiver. To protect yourself and your group from any lawsuits, participants will need to sign a general waiver that releases you from any injuries, etc., that may happen during the race. In addition, participants should provide evidence that any pets taking part in the walk have all of their vaccines. You may also want to prohibit aggressive dogs and dogs in heat from taking part in the walk. This will give you peace of mind and keep everyone safe and happy.

Look for sponsors. Reach out to local businesses and community groups and ask them to help you with your event. For example, you could ask a local veterinarian to cover the cost of T-shirts or bandannas for participating dogs; these items would have the name of your event and the vet’s name on them, which is nice advertising for both of you. Sponsors can also donate manpower rather than money and provide help with registration, set up and clean up, and aid and water stations on the day of the event.

Determine your fees. Participants should pay a flat fee to register (although you can offer discounts for seniors and students or any other group that seems appropriate). Make sure the registration fees will cover any out-of-pocket costs you may incur and leave you enough for a significant donation to the group you have chosen. In addition, you can encourage participants to do their own fund-raising by asking friends and family to donate to the designated charity.

Set up a system for registration. An online registration site like RunSignUp or Eventbrite is the easiest for participants, while Crowdrise is a simple way to track any additional participant fund-raising. If your race is going to be fairly small, mail-in registration may be a workable option; if you go this route, be sure that registration and fund-raising forms are easily accessible to participants (a printable form on a website is a good solution) and that you have a designated team member keeping track of registrations as they arrive. 

Promote your event. Be sure to start spreading the word early — at least 6–8 weeks ahead of race day — in order to give participants time to commit and register. There are a variety of ways to do this, depending on how much time and money you are able to put into it. A simple way to start is by creating a website and Facebook page for your event, with information on how to register and how to donate. If this is a neighborhood event, low-tech options like flyers and posters are also a good way to spread the world. For broader coverage, write a press release and send it to local news outlets (television and radio stations, newspapers and magazines) in your area. And finally, don’t forget about grassroots marketing! Send friends and family information about your event and ask them to pass it on.

Get Walking — or Running!

Recruit race-day volunteers. Be sure to line up plenty of helpers for your event! Volunteers can assist with registration and packet pickup in the days before the event, and with general setup and cleanup on race day. You will also need help setting up and manning water stops — for pets and people — along the race route, as well as handing out snacks at the finish. And be sure to line up aid-station volunteers who can treat both pets and people; consider calling local hospitals and veterinary clinics to ask for help with this. For something extra fun, look for volunteers to take photos at the start and finish, as well as on the course.

Create a registration packet. This should include information about the featured charity, as well as any relevant information about your group or organization. You will also need to provide a course map for participants. The map should clearly show both the start and finish, any water or aid stations, as well as available parking in the area. If you have organized other sponsors — local businesses, for example — you can include information about them, or any small gifts they may want to include.

Make your donation. On race day, present the benefiting group with a check for the money you’ve raised. The finish line is a good place to do this, so that all the participants can see how they are making a difference.

Still not convinced you should start your own walk? Do a quick search online to find previously established animal charity runs and walks in your community.