As we find ourselves fully immersed in what is turning out to be a somewhat disheartening winter, thoughts are with colleagues within the equine community, particularly the smaller charities and welfare organisations feeling the significant financial impacts that the coronavirus pandemic is racking up. During these colder months, caring for equines will be notably more resource intensive as the numbers of welfare cases, and their associated costs rise substantially, fuelling an already worrying situation into dire straits.
A survey carried out mid 2020 by the National Equine Welfare Council (NEWC) and the Association of Dogs and Cats Homes assessed the affect that the pandemic was having on equine rescue charities. The survey highlighted the devastating implications starting to unfold at that time. Little did we know that it was just the start of a much bigger crisis for the equestrian community. The most worrying results revealed that of the 74 respondents (made up of a mixture of NEWC members and equine rescues) to the survey, more than 80% said their fundraising had taken a severe hit with more than half reporting their income had nosedived by more than 50%. What is more, many respondents said they had closed premises to the public, more than 40% had furloughed some staff, and over 70% said they had reduced or stopped all volunteer help. Considering many rescue centres rely on volunteers to keep afloat, these were worrying figures indeed.
Stephanie Callen, Communications Manager at Redwings (who are 100% funded by donations) explains “When you care for 1,500 rescued horses, you have to be very financially prudent, but this extraordinary year has pitched us into one of the most challenging periods of our history. All of our visitor centres had to temporarily close which has so far resulted in a loss of income of over £250,000, while the cancellation of community fundraising events, such as our annual fundraising horse show, and an 11% rise in internal welfare costs, such as hay, feed, and farriery, have further tightened our budgets. Our rehoming scheme was also suspended for two months. With no specific government help being offered to animal welfare charities, we will now be operating at a deficit for months, potentially years, to come”.
With a few more months under our belts combined with the knock-on effects of a long winter, we dread to think what the figures would look like if the same survey were to be conducted today.
So, how can you help we hear you ask?
Well, believe it or not there are still lots of things we can do to help and from a safe distance. If you want to use the extra time on your hands to help the equestrian world, we have pulled together all the virtual (and socially distanced) fundraising ideas and ways to help that we can lay our hands on.
Virtual Fundraising Ideas
Enjoy events normally restricted to members or ticket holders
If there is one thing that all businesses and organisations have become good at in the last year, it is diversifying. Just because we are limited with meeting up in person, it doesn’t mean we can’t socialise. Many charitable organisations have diversified the events they usually hold in order to encourage supporters to take part in a series of online fundraising events instead. Stephanie Callen at Redwings adds “we took our annual horse show online and opened it to owners of all pets. The event attracted over 600 entries and raised more than £2,200!”.
Why not organise a coffee morning over Zoom, or a virtual game of bingo or quiz night in return for a small donation to your chosen cause?
Local music artists will be keen to support and perform at a well organised online music concert. If you are an active member of your community, you may want to round up the local talent and sell tickets for an evening of entertainment – music is a saviour for many during challenging times and artists are unlikely to turn down the opportunity to perform.
Silent auctions are always popular and successful when trying to raise funds. Persuade some local businesses to donate prizes (vouchers from the vets, a restaurant meal delivery, online fitness sessions – you get the picture). If organising is not your forte, why not donate some items that your chosen charity could auction off themselves?
Turn lockdown into a positive
If you have not embraced a ‘lockdown haircut’ yet, now would be the perfect time! Why not take part in Redwings ‘Mane Event’ that challenges supporters to make a virtual hairdressing appointment with them during lockdown in place of your regular one and donate the amount you would have normally spent to help fund the ongoing care of their rescued residents. In return they will match you up with a Redwing resident who has a similar hairstyle to yours! Great fun and to date they have managed to raise over £1,700.
If you are busy decluttering in a bid to free up more living space while you are spending more time at home, why not sort out your clothes, books, toys, and DVDs and sell them to raise some donatable cash? Many charities such as World Horse Welfare (WHW), feature on eBay for Charity where you can donate between 10 and 100% of the final selling value of your items to one of the charities listed. eBay’s ‘How to Sell for Charity’ Guide will take you through the details.
Maybe you have some unwanted or duplicate gifts that a charity could either use or sell to raise money? If you are a horse owner, you may want to use this time to sort out your kit. Second-hand tack or rugs that are clean and in good repair, are perfect to donate or sell to raise funds. Do you own a vehicle that you want to sell or dispose of? Think about donating it to charity through Giveacar. Giveacar raises money for UK charities including World Horse Welfare, by scrapping and selling old cars. They provide a nationwide FREE service which arranges the collection of the vehicle from your home and recycles it at an authorised facility (depending on age and condition) or sends it to auction.
If home schooling and homeworking is requiring your printer to work overtime, you are probably getting through ink cartridges at a rate of knots? Did you know that many charities like WHW encourage you to send them your old cartridges for recycling – it’s simple but the horses will benefit. Make sure you check your chosen charity is on board with this before sending them, otherwise you will prove to be very unpopular!
Working from home and avoiding the dreaded commute? You might consider donating what you are saving on travel. Maybe you have a birthday coming up? Ask your family and friends to donate instead of buying gifts.
Use creative talents to your advantage
Whether it’s painting, sewing, or crochet- donating your masterpieces for charities to sell in their shops or online is a great way to do your bit.
Alternatively, you could simply provide some fun like Bransby Horses and create an activity pack to send out to family, friends and school mums, and encourage them to make a small donation in return.
Get active and set yourself a challenge
Never has there been a time when being active and keeping our mind and body moving is so important. Setting yourself a challenge – a sponsored bike ride for example, is still very much achievable even during lockdown. If you need something a little less strenuous, why not get your whole household involved in a community car wash and see how many vehicles you can wash and polish over one weekend in your neighbourhood?
If you prefer to keep things virtual, what about climbing a virtual mountain or building? Here are a few suggestions:
Millennium Dome: 320 steps, 21 flights of stairs
Big Ben: 620 steps, 42 flights of stairs
Blackpool Tower: 1,036 steps, 69 flights of stairs
Canary Wharf Tower: 1,600 steps, 107 flights of stairs
Virtual 3 peaks challenge: Scafell Pike: 6,180 steps, 412 flight of stairs, Mount Snowdon: 7,120 steps, 475 flights of stairs and Ben Nevis: 8,810 steps and 587 flights of stairs.
Source: Bransby Horses
Respond to appeals for help
Many charities have already launched emergency coronavirus appeals which are having a good response from kind-hearted individuals and companies. For charities that are funded heavily by donations, donations of feed, hay, carrots and even fencing will all go a very long way.
Volunteering comes in many forms. Sadly, many volunteering schemes will currently be suspended or will not be roles that are hands-on with the horses. However, most organisations will still have roles they can offer to anyone who is interested in donating their time and skills to help them so be sure to keep an eye on their websites and social media for more information.
Sponsorship, adopt or rehome
Many rescue centres will have found ways to reintroduce their rehoming schemes in some capacity, Stephanie Callen at Redwings tells us “we had to adapt our application process which now includes virtual home visits and ‘meet and greets’ over WhatsApp video. This has proved incredibly popular and since the scheme’s reintroduction in May 2020, we’ve been able to successfully rehome over 60 horses and ponies, making 2020 one of our busiest years ever!”. If you have the facilities and experience to offer a home to a rescue horse, pony, or donkey, now is the time to get the ball rolling.
If rehoming is not an option for you, sponsoring or adopting could be the answer “our ‘Adoption Star’ scheme has been especially popular with existing adopters recently as they can still keep in touch with their Adoption Star via their online diary which is full of photos and stories from their lives at the sanctuary. Every penny of sponsorship goes towards the care of their Adoption Star and their fellow four-legged friends here at Redwings” says Stephanie. Contact your chosen charity to find out more about their sponsorship offering.
Immerse yourself among the equine social media community
Keeping yourself engaged with charities and rescues close to your heart will keep you abreast of what they are up to and how you can help. Simply sharing social media content among friends and family will help charities reach a wider audience to tell their story too. There are lots of smaller community hubs on social as well that are good for sharing news, and generating discussion, such as #ponyhour (@ponyhour) or #equineblogshare.
Whether you are a charity, rescue centre, horse owner or you just have a love of horses, we would love to hear how you have been raising funds during recent months. Simply look out for our related posts across all three of our social platforms and leave us a comment underneath. We will continue to add any ideas that we love to this article. @NationalStables
“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”