In the past few weeks we’ve mentioned a wide variety of ways to get involved and support your local shelter or rescue. You can adopt a new canine, feline or equine family member, volunteer your time to help walk dogs, play with cats, staff adoption or educational events, or simply donate a few items from your local shelter’s wish list. If you feel like thinking bigger, you could organize a creative fundraiser — a “dog jog,” take your dog to work day, formal “fur ball,” or even a poker tournament! When it comes to helping local shelters, the sky’s the limit.

In that spirit, The Humane Society for Shelter Pets is proud to announce our new Shelter Grants Program. We thought long and hard about what we could do to help pet shelters across America concentrate their resources on caring for the animals in their facilities, and decided that one of the best options would be to create a program to help reduce some of the overhead costs associated with running a successful shelter operation.

Through this program, HSSP will provide eligible non-profit shelters with fundraising ads, credit card processing, and website design and hosting free of charge. While these essential services help shelters interface with the local community, increase the rate of successful adoptions and boost donations, we feel it is important that shelter personnel spend their organizations’ limited time and money on providing the essential hands-on animal care services that are the backbone of their work — and not on necessary evils like credit card processing fees and web design services.

With our Shelter Grants Program, we are offering these and other services free of charge to qualifying shelters that apply for assistance. It is our hope that this will give shelter personnel the opportunity to refocus on doing the lifesaving work that makes them pillars of the community, instead of bogged down in the minutia of running a successful organization.

Current funding opportunities fall into three categories:

1. Free Fundraising Ads: The Humane Society for Shelter Pets will use its marketing expertise to place high-visibility online fundraising advertisements in local markets for qualifying shelters. Google AdWords ads appear just to the right of Google search results, and are a good way for shelters to target individuals in their area who are already searching for adoptable pets or volunteer opportunities. Shelters or rescues selected for the program will be able to choose from a variety of pre-designed ads. The Humane Society for Shelter Pets will develop, place, and pay for the ads.

2. Free credit card processing: The Humane Society for Shelter Pets will offer cost-free online credit card processing to selected shelters. This gives shelters the important advantage of offering their supporters a convenient way to donate, without the financial burden associated with setting up a merchant account and paying credit card processing fees (typically 2 to 4 percent).

3. Free website design and hosting: The Humane Society for Shelter Pets will offer selected shelters a professionally designed (or redesigned), user-friendly, and easy-to-update website that will help shelters build an online presence and ease the burden on staff and volunteers. Shelters will have the option of choosing from several clean, professional templates, which can be further customized to suit the organization’s needs and individual style. The website will automatically interface with PetFinder. Once up and running, these sites will require minimal attention from shelter staff, and can be easily updated with just a few clicks of the mouse. (We regret that at this time we cannot provide content management or technical support services beyond the original deployment of the site.)

In addition to these opportunities, we are also pleased to offer free of charge a series of educational seminar videos on animal shelter best practices to any sheltering organization. During these difficult economic times, when more dogs and cats are coming into shelters and fewer donor dollars are going into the bank, we think it is unconscionable to ask shelters to pay for these essential educational materials as some national organizations do.

With these grants and educational services, the Humane Society for Shelter Pets is beginning what we hope will become a long tradition of providing logistical support to local humane organizations. By taking away a few of the headaches inherent in running a functioning operation, the money shelters save and raise can now be put to its best use: helping homeless pets until they find “forever homes.”

Click here for more information or to apply for a grant.