Looking for ways to raise money for your local dog run or animal shelter? Why not sponsor a Halloween parade? To find out how to do it, we spoke to two pros: Garrett Rosso, volunteer manager at Tompkins Square Dog Run (also known as “First Run” because it was the city’s first) in New York City’s East Village, and Justin Rudd, coordinator of the annual Haute Dog Howl’oween Parade in Long Beach, Calif.
The Haute (pronounced hot) Dog bills itself as the largest dog parade in the world, with 600 dog participants and about 4,500 human spectators; a pet adoption fair is run in conjunction with the parade. All the money raised from the event’s $10 registration fee goes to Rudd’s nonprofit Community Action Team (C.A.T.). Now in its 10th year, the Halloween event raised a whopping $13,000 in 2008.
The annual Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade also bills itself as the largest dog Halloween parade in the world, with up to 500 dogs and 2,000 spectators. When it debuted, it was a relatively low-key event. “It was popular in an underground sort of way,” says Garrett Rosso, lead coordinator. After all, any time you hold an event that involves costumes in New York, people come in droves—they need to do something with all that creative energy. “But back in 2003,” Rosso says, “we needed to raise money to renovate the dog run, and knew that [our Halloween event] was the way to do it. It was our 13th parade and we wanted to make it lucky. We decided to go all out.”
And go all out they did. They sold raffle tickets and charged a $10 entry fee (which included a raffle ticket). They also hunted for sponsors and prize donors and brought in volunteers with such valuable talents as graphic design, marketing, fundraising and publicity. Now, the Tompkins parade is incredibly well-known, incredibly successful and—with prizes such as iPods being handed out—extremely competitive.
People come from all over the tri-state area now,” Rosso says. “I’d say 70 percent are not even from the East Village. And they’re playing to win. People have come to expect that folks are going to go over the top with our parade. They start thinking about their costumes by the 4th of July. One dog-park regular says that if you haven’t figured out a costume by Labor Day, then you’re behind the eight ball.Plus we get a lot of celebrities—the press always eats up this event because they’ll get pictures. We’ve had rock stars such as Moby and Pink. Broadway stars such as Alan Cummings and Spencer Kayden. And movie and television stars such as Edie Falco, Lauren Graham, Molly Ringwald, Scarlett Johansson, Michelle Williams, Parker Posey, Vincent D’Onofrio, Josh Hartnett and Mo Rocca.”
We don’t want to get into an East Coast/West Coast thing, so let’s just say that both events are spectacular, and both serve as model examples of what a dog parade can be.
How can you make your Halloween fundraiser as successful as Haute Dog’s or First Run’s? To start at the beginning, if you plan to hold your event in a public space, get permission. Your local town hall or parks administrator will be able to tell you what kind of permits you might need. Once your permissions are set, get creative.
Garrett Rosso’s first bit of advice is to sell raffle tickets. “Sell them in advance and make sure you have a great non-dog-related prize to attract non-dog owners.” He also recommends selling sponsorships to the parade. “There’s often a new pet store or corporation eager to help out and promote the event.” These new entrepreneurs recognize the value of sponsoring such a well-attended event. Rudd, who coordinates the Haute Dog parade by himself, also works with local retailers to solicit prizes and sponsorships.
Bring vendors to the site (dog run, fairground or wherever you’re holding your event), Rosso says. Designate an area where vendors can set up tables—the best place is along the registration line—and charge them a fee. “These [paying vendors] often bring in as much money as the parade itself,” Rosso says. “But start planning early. Many of these sponsors will need four to five weeks’ advance notice (or more) in order to coordinate.” Scores of vendors set up booths at the Haute Dog event; among 2008’s most popular was the “Bulldog Kissing Booth,” which raised several hundred dollars for Operation Santa Paws, one of the C.A.T. charities.