Last Updated:

April 11, 2023

What Can Your Nonprofit Learn From the Best Animal Charities

What Can Your Nonprofit Learn From the Best Animal Charities

Today we’re going to explore five of the top animal charities in the U.S. What makes them so successful? And what can your nonprofit learn from them that will help improve YOUR work in animal welfare, rescue, or conservation?

In this article, we’ll break down what these best animal charities are doing right. Keep reading for some tips that can help your animal charity reach a wider audience and make a bigger impact!



Not everyone agrees with the organization PETA’s beliefs, but it is easily one of the most recognizable animal welfare charities in the world.

PETA stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and they work across a huge range of animal welfare issues across the globe. PETA is well-known for shock tactics in their marketing campaigns, but we want to draw attention to how they engage sympathetic people and potential donors throughout their website. Take a look at this section of PETA’s landing page:


PETA does an amazing job in these three ways:

You always have the option of donating.

Someone browsing PETA’s website thinking about donating or getting involved isn’t bombarded with requests for donations, but there is a clear DONATE NOW button in the upper right corner, blocked out in a bright color to draw the eye.

Clicking through a specific article or campaign will also bring up opportunities to donate. Make sure your nonprofit’s website’s donation link is visible and available in multiple places on your site.

They advertise their victories alongside their goals.

PETA’s successes are included on the same page as their campaigns for change. The best animal charities make potential volunteers or donors feel hopeful by showcasing their victories alongside information on the issues their work addresses.

Take a moment to talk up your animal charity’s work! Try placing stories of success next to action items or new campaigns.

There are clear opportunities to take action.

In the above example, and throughout PETA’s website, you can take action on a particular campaign or issue you care about. PETA runs dozens of campaigns simultaneously—they are the largest animal rights organization in the world! There is something for everyone, whether your passion is protecting marine mammals or preventing factory farming, there is a campaign to donate to, a petition to sign, or an event to volunteer for.

Depending on your nonprofit, you may not be able to keep as many projects in the air as an international charity like PETA, but make sure there are ways for people to engage in each of your programs or campaigns.

Think about appealing to the different aspects of your mission people might be drawn to. Make sure your website and promotional materials engage all of those different audiences.

2. Best Friends Animal Society

Pet sheter

Best Friends Animal Society is one of the best animal shelter charities in the U.S. They:

  • Run an animal sanctuary in Utah.
  • Operate a national adoption program.
  • Operate national education programs.
  • Operate a national spay-neuter program.
  • Manage a network of animal charities and organizations working toward no-kill policies.
  • Publish a popular general animal interest magazine.

Best Friends Animal Society does an excellent job promoting their ambitious campaign No-Kill 2025, which is working to make all U.S. animal shelters no-kill shelters by 2025.

Best Friends promotes their campaign in three particularly successful ways:

They state their goal upfront.

The very first thing you see on the landing page for this campaign is the campaign goal. The goal is specific, concrete, and time-bound. This is a great example of how to write your nonprofit’s campaign goals for your website or promotional and educational materials!

Best Friends Animal Society No-Kill 2025

They emphasize their data.

On the landing page for the No-Kill 2025 campaign, you can learn about key statistics on animal welfare, which includes information on how much the no-kill movement has achieved in the last few decades.

You can also read about Best Friends Animal Society’s impact on increasing the number of no-kill shelters in the U.S. This doesn’t just illustrate the issue they’re trying to address, it also gives potential volunteers and donors confidence that their contribution WILL lead to change. Use the data you’ve gathered on your nonprofit’s top issues to tell a story of hope and success—this will inspire action!

They include you in the campaign from go.

One of the best things Best Friends Animal Society does to engage visitors in their No-Kill 2025 campaign is to include you in the campaign before anything else.

Take this quote from the landing page: “Animal shelters, rescue groups, and individuals like you are working together to save homeless dogs and cats right where they live.”

When writing about a campaign or program you want people to get involved in (such as donors, advocates, or volunteers) invite the reader to imagine themselves working with your organization.

You can do this by highlighting the work individuals are already doing for your nonprofit (i.e. “people like you work with us every day”), by aligning your organization with their values (i.e. “we know you care about animal welfare”), or by giving people something to do right away (i.e. “how YOU can help TODAY!”).

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3. The Humane Society of the United States

Animal Welfare

The Humane Society of the United States does it all when it comes to animal welfare. They work across many animal welfare fields, including:

  • Rescue and direct care.
  • Education.
  • Legislation and advocacy.
  • Litigation for animal protection.
  • Scientific research.
  • Investigations into animal cruelty and testing.

The Humane Society really knows how to creatively engage their donors and supporters. They give their worldwide audience many different options to support their work. Here are some of the top innovative ways they engage supporters:

They have a car donation program.

The Humane Society of the United States runs Humane Cars, a program through which you can donate your old car to benefit the Humane Society.

Humane Cars has its own website, where there is a straightforward guide to donating your car. After you fill out a simple form, the Humane Society will reach out within 24 hours to schedule a pick-up. They arrange to pick up your old car and sell it at auction, with the proceeds going toward the Society’s important work. They also include helpful information for navigating your taxes after donating your car.

A car donation program can be a HUGE source of income for your nonprofit! It takes some planning on the front end, but the payoff may well be worth it. Donors may be intimidated by what seems like a complicated process, so remember to prioritize speed and clarity of communication.

They help you host a fundraiser.

The Humane Society makes it easy to host a fundraiser on their behalf. On their My Humane page you can select from a number of different kinds of fundraiser types (think “Celebration Fundraiser” or “Memorial Fundraiser”) which will link you to Tiltify, a digital fundraising platform. You can download an easy-to-use Fundraising Toolkit with DIY ideas for live and digital events.

You don’t have to just hope that interested supporters will request birthday donations or hold a school fundraiser for your organization! Provide tools for hosting a fundraiser in a visible place on your website, including links to helpful sites and ideas for events.

TIP: The Humane Society posts a “leader board” that ranks how well supporters’ fundraisers are doing. This creates a little fun, healthy competition to motivate people to raise more. Give it a try!

The Humane Society of the United States Leaderboards

They fundraise on Twitch.

Twitch is an incredibly popular interactive streaming service focused on video game streaming, along with esports, music, and other content. Users can create fundraisers on the Twitch streams and encourage their viewers to donate toward a goal.

The Humane Society of the United States includes the option of setting up a Twitch fundraiser, using Tiltify, on their website. This is an awesome and underused potential source of donations, especially since Twitch gets 1.86 BILLION hours of watch-time from users every month!

Alongside your other donation and fundraiser options, consider including information about how to set up a Twitch fundraiser for your nonprofit and see your donor base expand!

They encourage shopping with their corporate partners.

Many nonprofits rely on corporate partners for funding and make sure to thank partners on their websites and in their media. The Humane Society goes a step further by encouraging visitors to shop with their corporate partners and linking supporters such as AmazonSmile and Chewy. Some of their partners incentivize shopping with them by donating a percentage of each purchase to the Humane Society.

Your nonprofit can follow the Humane Society of the United States’ lead and create stronger relationships with your corporate partners and increase your donations at the same time!

4. Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee


The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee is one of the top endangered animal charities in the U.S. They operate a sanctuary for African and Asian elephants rescued or retired from circuses and zoos, in addition to advocacy and educational work around the world. The Elephant Sanctuary wants people to learn more about the incredible animals they protect, and they advocate for elephants in captivity.

The Elephant Sanctuary knows how to spotlight their mission and values! Sometimes nonprofits get caught up promoting new projects or trying to snag donations and forget to put the most important thing first: the mission. The Elephant Sanctuary prioritizes their mission and values in three successful ways:

They connect the mission to the elephants.

The first thing you’ll see on the Elephant Sanctuary’s website is their mission, accompanied by a photo of a rescued elephant on the preserve and two buttons beneath the mission statement: an option to donate and an option to “meet the elephants.”

Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee Mission

If you click the “meet the elephants” link, you can read all about each rescued elephant’s story and their life at the sanctuary. This is a compelling way to connect their mission to their impact. Help your audience get emotionally involved in your work by directly connecting your mission statement to stories of impact using specific examples and photos!

They break down their values.

The Elephant Sanctuary doesn’t just throw their mission statement up on their website and call it a day. They also include on their mission statement webpage a numbered list of their nonprofit’s values. This helps potential volunteers and donors quickly get a thorough understanding of the organization’s work, what drives it, and their philosophical and practical approaches.

Don’t let people browsing your website, pamphlet, brochure or fundraising campaign site wander around trying to figure out exactly what you stand for! Consider going above and beyond your mission statement with an outline of your nonprofit’s values, and share it widely.

And they stick to them.

It’s a pretty appealing idea to travel to the Elephant Sanctuary and see the rescued elephants in person, but the Elephant Sanctuary actually doesn’t allow in-person visits.

Even though it would probably be a big draw for supporters of their organization, they recognize that it wouldn’t be what’s best for the elephants themselves—and elephant wellbeing is their priority. They stick to their values and instead offer live camera feeds on their website where you can catch a glimpse of the elephants going about their lives.

When you can’t meet the desires of your supporters AND uphold your mission at the same time, stick to your mission and get creative meeting your supporters’ interests.

5. The Marine Mammal Center


The Marine Mammal Center is one of the best international animal rescue charities out there. They perform rescue and rehabilitation for marine mammals off the coast of California and Hawaii, scientific research on marine mammal health, and educational programs on marine science. The Marine Mammal Center has a strong approach to individual donations and legacy giving that we can learn from:

They connect donations to individual animals.

If you want to support the Marine Mammal Center you can do so by “adopting” a seal, sea lion, dolphin or sea otter. This symbolic adoption contributes to the care of injured and ill sea mammals at the center. When you donate you receive an “adoption” certificate with the name, story, and photo of your selected rescuee included.

The Marine Mammal Center

This is a great approach to individual donations for an animal rescue or shelter charity! This model makes donors feel personally connected, and also serves as a great gift for animal-loving kids and young people who might be future supporters.

If you run a rescue, shelter, or conservation animal charity, try an “adoption” model to get people excited about your work, share your success stories, and increase individual donations!

They incentivize giving with fun and informative benefits.

Memberships are a tried-and-true donation model for nonprofits of all kinds, the best animal charities included.

The Marine Mammal Center incentivizes membership purchases by including exciting perks at each level. The entry-level includes:

  • A store discount
  • Monthly newsletter
  • Discounted animal hospital tours
  • Access to virtual webinars with experts.

The highest level also includes invitations to private release celebrations for rehabilitated animals and a private tour of the animal hospital!

Membership models are most successful when they include multiple levels to ensure that anyone who wants to donate can—whether it’s a few dollars a month or tens of thousands a year. Memberships are also more appealing to donors of all kinds when they come with interesting, relevant, and fun benefits. Think about what you can offer sustaining donors that will get them engaged and talking about your nonprofit!

They demystify legacy giving by collaborating on will creation.

Legacy giving can be daunting for individuals and nonprofits alike, but it’s an often overlooked source of support.

The Marine Mammal Center helps ease any confusion or hesitation around legacy giving by collaborating with to provide free, fast will creation.

Whether or not your nonprofit already solicits legacy gifts, consider making legacy gifts less intimidating by offering clear, succinct information on the process, pointing people toward resources that can make creating or amending their will easy and pain-free, and including benefits! Connect with legacy donors and see your nonprofit’s long-term support skyrocket!

How Instrumentl Can Help Your Animal Charity

Animal Shelter

By now you should have a good idea of how the best animal charities made it to the top of the field. These same approaches—everything from your website to your donation model—can help your nonprofit thrive and grow! However, running an animal charity is hard work, and you can follow every tip listed here and still find yourself struggling to connect with the right funders.

Here’s the good news: There are thousands of like-minded funders out there ready to award your animal charity grant funding. How can you find them? With Instrumentl’s foundation discovery and grants search tools.

Instrumentl brings grant prospecting, tracking, and management into one easy to use and intuitive tool. Instrumentl’s Smart Matching feature makes it easy to find good-fit funders that align with your mission and funding needs. You can even use Instrumentl to gain insight into funders without websites or with invite-only processes, allowing you to easily expand your funding base!

Instrumentl foundation discovery and grants search tools

Not 100% convinced? You can try Instrumentl for FREE for 14 days! Sign up here and see how Instrumentl can help your animal charity today.

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Wrapping Up: Learning From the Best Animal Charities

Animal Shelter

There are some incredible animal charities out there making a big difference and now you can follow in their footsteps!

Your animal charity can thrive along with the best by:

  • Setting up many creative opportunities to donate and fundraise.
  • Clearly communicating your mission and values whenever possible.
  • Including fun benefits and incentives for getting involved in your organization.
  • Getting your supporters emotionally invested in your work through compelling stories and unique opportunities for fundraising and volunteering.
  • Diversifying your funding through grant applications!

Using these tips, and maybe a little help from Instrumentl, your animal charity can improve the lives of animals now and well into the future.

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