Grant Seeking 101 For Small Nonprofit Animal Rescues

This is an introduction to grant seeking for small nonprofit animal rescues prepared by Patty Larson, Grants Advisor and Board member. It includes an overview of grants made to animal welfare organizations, steps in the grant seeking process, items to consider before embarking on grant seeking, tips on preparing a grant request, and additional resources.

An Overview

Grants are awarded by a “grant-maker,” usually a nonprofit foundation. In 2020, nonprofits overall received 69% of their funding from individuals. Nineteen percent came from foundation grants, 9% from bequests, and 4% from corporations, according to Giving USA (


In the animal welfare field, different funding sources are suited to different rescue activities. While individuals are often moved to help individual dogs whose stories and progress they can follow, foundations want to make an impact on the root causes of a problem and support programs that are aligned with their mission. Foundations seek to fund innovative programs and share successful program models with rescues across the animal welfare field.

A foundation grant can provide a larger amount of funding than an individual but is more restrictive in how the funds can be used. Grants are a good source of funding for starting a new program or expanding a successful program.

Grant Seeking Need Not Be Scary

Leaders of small nonprofits are often intimidated by the prospect of grant seeking, often viewing it as too complicated and something they’re not equipped to do. They assume they need a “grant writer” to prepare a grant. Applying for a grant consists of answering a series of questions about your organization’s mission, goals, programs, structure, budget, and achievements. It is important to have these elements in place before pursuing a grant, but once you have answers to these questions, the grant application will be easy to write. In fact, one foundation recently said in a grant presentation, “We don’t care if your request is well-written. We just want to know specifically what you plan to do and how many animals will be saved.”

Once you have compiled the information for one grant, you can adapt the same information for other grant applications. Grant seeking does require time and effort but is worth considering if your rescue has the key elements in place – a clear mission, strong leadership, sound financial reporting, and the person power to prepare the application. At the same time, be aware that grant seeking is competitive; it may require submitting a proposal to the same funder more than once to get noticed and funded.

The Process

Obtaining grants to support your work is much like successfully matching animals and adopters. Rescues need to research and carefully identify grants where there is a match between the foundation’s goals and those of your rescue.

Grant size and what is funded. Numerous animal welfare foundations provide small, one-year grants for program activities that range from $1,000-$5,000 to rescues in each state. Many of them are foundations created by pet businesses, such as Petco, Pedigree, and Petfinder, who want to support animal rescue. Grants are awarded for program activities including spay/neuter, adoption, foster programs, transportation, emergency veterinary assistance, and other needs. Some grant-makers fund capital projects (buildings and equipment). Foundations do not fund operating costs unless the costs are associated with the program for which you seek funding. This can include staff time, supplies, rent, transportation, etc. A handful of foundations provide larger, two-year innovation grants of up to $50,000 per year for programs that can be replicated by other rescues. Examples include Pedigree’s “Dogs Rule” grant and Rachael Ray’s “Save Them All” grants.

Common grant requirements. Some foundations require you to become a member or partner of the foundation to be eligible for a grant and require grantees to submit an annual report on the number of animals saved to be eligible for funding. The Bissell Foundation, one of the largest rescue foundations, requires rescues to be a partner for six months prior to submitting a grant request. Most foundations require a brief annual report on the number of animals saved. A few foundations require a site visit as part of the grant approval process.

Letters of Inquiry/Intent. Certain foundations, like the Doris Day Animal Foundation, ask that you submit a one-page “letter of inquiry or intent” (LOI) that summarizes your request and, if approved, you are invited to submit a full grant application.

Grant deadlines and receipt of funds. Most grant-making for animal welfare is done once or twice a year. A few grants are given on a rolling basis, meaning that you can apply at any time during the year and decisions are made several times per year. Emergency veterinary costs or disaster assistance are examples. Be aware that it can take several months for you to be notified about whether you’ve been awarded a grant. For example, Petco’s “Animal Welfare Organization” grants are due each year on August 31. Notice of grant awards is made on February 1 of the following year.

The application. Applying for a grant is a simple online process in which you answer questions and attach supporting documents. You may need to set up an account in the foundation’s grants portal. Grant applications include the following. (See a sample grant application from Athletes for Animals in Attachment A.)

  • Mission statement (clear and succinct)
  • Program goals and activities for which you are seeking funding (specific and measurable)
  • Program budget (by line item)
  • Number of animals your rescue saves per year and number that will be saved through the proposed program
  • Board of Directors list (including their role in organization and professional affiliation, if applicable)
  • Annual financial report (income and expense report, profit and loss statements or Form 990 for the past 1-3 years; in most cases, a third-party audited financial statement is not needed)
  • IRS Determination letter

What to Consider Before Investing in Grant Seeking

Deciding to apply for grants should be made in consultation with your board and key volunteers. One of the first questions to ask yourself is: Do you have someone who can compile the necessary information and prepare the grant request? This person can be the director, a board member, or a key volunteer. You don’t need a “grant writer,” but you do need someone who can explain clearly what you want to do and has access to the financial and program information requested, including number of animals saved, budget, financial reports, board list, etc. 

Be realistic when deciding who will take the lead in preparing the grant request. If your director is 100% consumed with day-to-day operations and emergencies, a board member or volunteer needs to take the lead in grant seeking. You can also reach out to your community to find a volunteer who has grant preparation experience or is willing to learn. Note: Who Will Let the Dogs Out is available to provide advice and training. Feel free to contact us.

Other questions to discuss:

  • Is the grant consistent with your mission and strategy or are you stretching yourself to fit your rescue to the grant criteria?
  • Can you meet the grant conditions, for example, spending the funds in the allotted time, tracking the number of animals saved, and preparing a final report?
  • How will you sustain the activity after the grant funding ends? This is a common question in grant applications.

Tips for Preparing a Grant Request

  • Do careful research before starting an application. To begin, sign up for several animal welfare foundations’ mailing lists and check the grants section of their website periodically. Attend the foundation’s annual grant guidelines webinar and ask questions.  Review their areas of interest, eligibility criteria, types of activities funded, deadlines, average grant size, and whether they’ve funded an organization like yours in the past. Most foundations list prior grantees on their website. Read the fine print to ensure that your rescue is eligible in terms of your areas of work, nonprofit status, and budget size, etc. Some foundations only support nonprofits with a budget under $250,000 or $500,000. Most foundations require that you have 501c3 tax exempt status to apply.
  • Follow application guidelines and requirements to the letter. Read grant guidelines and FAQs carefully! Answer every question. If a question doesn’t apply, put “not applicable” or a “0” in the budget line item. Include exactly what they ask for, and don’t add extra information. Note that many applications have a word limit on each section or question. Most applications have a checklist of required documentation, attachments, schedules, financials, signature pages, etc. Check it! Have a colleague review your request to make sure it’s complete. Note that some funders require the Executive Director to sign the cover page, so make sure they’re available. 
  • Carefully consider the amount to request. Check to see whether the foundation has a funding threshold. In general, it is not advised to request more than 25-30% of your annual budget. Some foundations only allow you to request up to 10% of your annual budget. Don’t request an amount you don’t have the capacity to spend in the allotted time. Tell them how you would spend lesser amounts if your application were not fully funded. Don’t sound desperate and say things like “if we don’t get this money, we will have to shut down.” 
  • Collaborations/partnerships are important to funders. Make sure to highlight collaborations and partnerships in your proposal, including fellow rescues or shelters, community organizations, local government, or businesses. If grant guidelines allow it, submit letters of support from your partners. Help them write the letter, if needed.
  • Spend time crafting your “pitch” on why they should fund you:
    • Write in good, crisp, readable language. Have one or more people read the body of your application to see if it is clear and compelling.
    • Focus on how your organization is unique, successful, and well-managed and why they should support you.
    • Use emotion to tug on the heart strings a little (but not too much).
    • Don’t take up too much space talking about the dog overpopulation problem since foundations are aware of it.
  • Reporting. Funders normally require a brief final report on how the money was spent and the number of animals saved as a result. Some funders have their own reporting format. If they allow it, submit great pictures of the dogs helped. Do your own press release on your success!
  • Documents or information to have on hand, up to date and accessible to the person preparing the grant application:
    • IRS determination letter.
    • Board list with names, addresses and professional affiliations.
    • Form 990 for the last three years.
    • Annual budget.
    • Demographic information about your city, county or region, including number of people/households; race/ethnicity; per capita income or poverty rate (You can find at this at
    • Complete and up to date GuideStar profile.
  • Contacting the funder with questions:  If you have questions, particularly about your organization’s eligibility for a grant or if you’re applying for the correct grant category, contact the foundation to ask. Most foundations provide an email for their Grants Coordinator. You may not get a response, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.


Many animal rescues with whom Waldo partners have overcome the fear of grant seeking and successfully obtained grant funding. Getting that first grant is a big confidence-booster and grant seeking gets easier with experience. We at Waldo are here to support you. Don’t hesitate to contact Patty Larson, Who Will Let the Dogs Out Grants Advisor and Board Member ( to discuss your readiness for grant seeking and how to get started. 

If you decide to take the next step, review the Athletes for Animals grant application in Attachment 1 and the animal welfare foundation websites in Attachment 2. A comprehensive list of animal welfare foundations and other resources can be found on the Waldo website under the Resources section, or you can use this link:


  1. Sample grant application – Athletes for Animals
  2. Where to Begin:  A Sampling of the Largest Animal Welfare Grant Makers

Attachment 1

Sample Grant Application – Athletes for Animals

Since 2013, Athletes for Animals has successfully connected athletes with a shared passion for animals, educated the public about responsible pet ownership, promoted pet adoption, raised funds, and distributed grants to support best practices in animal welfare. For more information on the organization and grants made, visit their website

Athletes for Animals provides funding to animal welfare organizations that meet our criteria and are chosen through a semi-annual grant process. If your group needs support, please review the guidelines, and complete the application below.

Grant Guidelines – Spring 2022 Cycle

  1. Must be a non-profit organization with proof of 501(c)3 status or a pending application for exemption with the IRS.
  2. Organization must be based in the United States or Canada.
  3. Preference is given to organizations that do not euthanize adoptable animals.
  4. All adoptable animals must be spayed/neutered prior to adoption.
  5. We operate on an 18-month cycle. Organizations must wait two completed grant cycles before re-applying.
  6. Organization must provide a follow up report on grant usage and funded program results within one year.
  7. Being matched with an athlete ambassador does not guarantee funding.
  8. A4A does not fund organizations for startup costs, general operating expenses, fundraising campaigns, building expenses or extraordinary veterinary procedures.
  9. A4A does not fund individuals.
  10. Our grant funding is designated for adoptable companion animals (canines & felines) only.
  11. Typical grant funding ranges between $500-$2,500.

Grant applications are considered semi-annually. Applications must be received by March 15 (SPRING cycle) and September 15 (FALL cycle). If an application is received after a submission deadline it will be held for the next funding cycle. Please note – do not send certified mail as this causes delays at our PO box and your application may be held after the received by date. Completed grant applications should be mailed to: Athletes for Animals, PO Box 50345, St. Louis, MO 63105

Attachment 2

Where to Begin:  A Sampling of the Largest Animal Welfare Grant Makers

This list includes some of the largest animal welfare foundations that award dozens of grants of different sizes for a variety of needs. You will notice their logos on the Facebook pages of numerous rescues. Many of these funders present webinars at the beginning of the grant year to review their priorities and guidelines and answer questions. For the latest information and updates, follow their Facebook page, monitor their website, and sign up for their mailing list.

  1. Athletes for Animals (A4A) (smaller than the other foundations, but an easy application to start with)

An organization of professional athletes with a shared passion for rescuing and protecting the welfare of homeless pets nationwide. A4A provides grants to shelter and rescue groups for spay/neuter/vaccination funding, adoption, enrichment and retention programs, community outreach & education efforts and extraordinary vet expenses. Since 2013, A4A has awarded $917,916in grant funding. Grant range: $500-5,000. Applications are considered semi-annually with deadlines on March 15 and September 15. To apply, go to “About Us” on menu; click on Apply for Grants.

  1. Pedigree Foundation

Provides grants to nonprofit shelters and rescues to improve quality of care and adoption rates for dogs only. Since 2008, the foundation has made 5800 grants. The grant window for 2022 is not yet open. The three types of grants awarded in November 2021 were:

·     Dogs Rule grants: For new, creative, and innovative initiatives that could serve as a best practice model to help increase dog adoption rates. Two grants were made in this category, each one a two-year, $50,000 per year for a total of $100,000.

·     Program Development grants: 35 grants of $5,000-$10,000. Priority areas are transportation, programs with matching funds and foster expansion programs. Capital campaigns will not be funded.

·     Operation grants: 175 grants of up to $1,000 each will be made for general operating expenses. Priority given to shelters and rescues with annual revenue less than $200k

Applicants are encouraged to submit applications for more than one grant, however, only one grant will be awarded in a grant cycle.

  1. Petfinder Foundation

Provides support to municipal and private agencies and Petfinder members through 12 grant categories. Must be a Petfinder member and actively posting adoptable pets on and provide data on intake, adoption, and euthanasia. To become a member and apply for a grant, click on “For Grantees” on the homepage. This section also includes numerous Grant Resources.

2022 grants:

Note: Organizations may receive one grant from each grant program once per year. Each category has its own criteria.

1. Bar Dog Wine Grants:  Support day-to-day operations of No-Kill animal groups, including supplies, food, vaccines, and other needs. 2022 applications awarded monthly in February, March, April, May, and June until funds expended. (In 2021, awarded 42 grants totaling $27,000.)

2) Cat Enrichment: Grant range: $100-$1,000. Awarded monthly until funds used. In 2021 awarded 30 grants totaling $20,000.

3) Disaster Relief Grant range: $500-$10,000. In 2021, awarded 31 grants totaling, $103,000.

4) Dog Field Trips/Short Term Fostering: Amount: $500 for purchase of supplies; must complete Maddie’s Fund or other training course. In 2021, awarded 14 grants totaling $7000.

5) Dogs Playing for Life Program Mentorship grants: Amount: up to $1,000 for tuition for one staff member. In 2021 awarded 10 grants totaling $10,000.

6) Emergency Medical: Grant range $100-$1,000; see website for list of procedures covered. In 2021, awarded 41 grants totaling $31,000.

7) Kia Pet Adoption: Grants up $1,000; Awarded monthly until funds depleted, based on the number of pets posted on

8) Kong toys:  Grants awarded quarterly.

9) P.L.A.Y. Pet bed grants: Awards 10 Chill Pads monthly to specific geographical regions. See the application for more details.

10) Play Yard Renovation grants: For members that have completed in-person play-group training seminars or mentorship conducted by Dogs Playing for Life; grants for construction or improvement of play yards to bring them into compliance with DPFL’s recommendations. depleted.

11) Senior Pet Adoption Assistance:  Up to $1,000 awarded monthly until funds are depleted. In 2021, awarded 35 grants totaling $31,000.

12) Sponsor a Pet: This program lets you fundraise through Petfinder. By clicking “Sponsor” on a pet profile, visitors can donate toward that pet’s care.

  1. PETCO Love (formerly PETCO Foundation) (rescues must become a PETCO partner)

Provides grants to foster-based nonprofits, animal control agencies, SPCA/humane societies and other nonprofits that operate out of a sheltering facility, in addition to disaster assistance and pet food bank support. Grants are made by type of organization–for example, spay/neuter or animal welfare—not by type of project or program. Applicants must become a PETCO partner and submit an annual partnership report to be eligible. Each program has one grant cycle each year and rescues or shelters may submit one proposal per grant cycle. 2022 grant categories and deadlines:

1)         Spay-Neuter-only organizations (March 1-31).

2)        Animal Welfare organizations July 1-Aug. 30; and

3)        Petco Love Stories (formerly Holiday Wishes) -deadline to be determined.

See the website for details and an informational webinar. To become a PETCO partner, go to “Grant Opportunities” on the website, click on “Partner Login,” click “New User” and register.

  1. Bissell Pet Foundation (must join their partner program 6 months before applying)

Organizations must join the Partners for Pets (P4P) program six months before applying for funding and have 501(c)(3) status and be in operation for at least 1 year prior to applying. Bissell Pet Foundation provides financial support to municipal shelters, rescue groups and spay/neuter organizations for; adoption, spay/neuter, vaccinations, and microchipping. The grant cycle opens sporadically, typically in spring and fall; watch their website for 2022 deadlines.

  1. Purina (rescue must be located near a Purina manufacturing location)

Organizations must be located within 50 miles of Purina’s St. Louis headquarters or one of their manufacturing locations. Purina provides pet food donation and grant requests from 501(c)(3) tax-exempt pet welfare organizations* that promote pet welfare to support growth in the areas of capacity building, capital improvements and program and spay/neuter funding outside of an event.

  1. Banfield Foundation

Provides grants to nonprofit and government agencies for programs designed to keep pets and owners together. Organizations are encouraged to contact Banfield to determine eligibility before submitting a grant. Note that Banfield receives a very high volume of requests. Grants categories:

  • Community Care Grants:  Provide funding and medical supplies to nonprofit organizations and local/state government agencies that provide veterinary care through on-site, mobile, or pop-up clinics. Applications are accepted quarterly in January, April, July, and October and awards are announced the following month.
  • Safer Together Grants (pets & domestic violence victims): Grants are awarded to a domestic violence shelter or to a nonprofit housing the pets which has a formal established relationship with at least one nonprofit domestic violence shelter. Grants cover veterinary care; animal support specialists, temporary boarding; and behavior training. 2022 spring grants postponed. Check back in the summer.
  • Veterinary Medical Equipment Grants: Up to $15,000 to nonprofit animal organizations and local/state government agencies to purchase veterinary medical equipment for on-site animal shelter veterinary clinics, low-cost veterinary practices, mobile veterinary units, disaster relief vehicles, etc. Applications are accepted quarterly in February, May, August, and November and awards are announced the following month.
  • Disaster Relief Grants:  for organizations impacted and those helping them; covers medical supplies, veterinary care, food, crates, temporary shelter/boarding, transportation, etc. Requests may be submitted at any time.
  1. Binky Foundation (must attend workshop on running a nonprofit and have a formal business plan)

The Binky Foundation seeks to encourage new groups, in addition to having a passion for helping animals, to understand the hard truth that running a successful animal welfare group is also a business. Applicants must have completed a workshop or training on running a non-profit and must have a formal Business Plan. Binky provides First Steps grants of $1,000 for fledgling animal welfare organizations – shelters, rescue groups, TNR programs and others. Forward Steps follow-up grantsare provided at the Foundation’s discretion to First Steps grant recipients that have demonstrated the value and efficacy of its business plan, and success in striving for a sustainable model.

2022 grants:  First Steps grants are currently being accepted. For more information, click on “Grant Program” on the homepage. Note:  The Foundation has very detailed eligibility requirements and guidelines.

  1. Grey Muzzle Organization (provides support for senior dogs ONLY)

Provides grants to 501c3 organizations to exclusively help senior dogs, including improving foster and adoption programs, reducing owner surrender, medical care and expenses, hospice care, rehoming, and therapy dog training with an emphasis on program sustainability. Grant range: $2,500 to $10,000. 2022 applications will be accepted from Tuesday, February 15 to Wednesday, March 16. See the website for the 2022 grants webinar and FAQs.

  1. Healthy Paws Pet Insurance and Foundation (ADD?) (grant application)

[1] This paper draws on conversations with Julie Jacobsen from Spay Tennessee and her very helpful grant seeking guide. Julie assists numerous spay-neuter organizations in TN and beyond with grant seeking and is truly an inspiration to budding animal welfare fundraisers (