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With a struggling economy and a slow road to improvement, dog lovers and animal shelters are coming up with more creative ways to throw fundraisers. It’s not enough to bring dogs in need of homes to a park and solicit donations. Times call for a bit of creative spirit to stand out from the pack, so to speak.

Recently, the Des Moines County Humane Society conducted a dog-eating contest — as in hot dogs. Called the Hot Dogs of Summer, wristbands were sold for $10 each ($5 for kids) and that got you all the hot dogs you could eat. An additional dollar gained you entrance in the hot dog eating contest. Proceeds went to help renovate the Burlington Animal Shelter.

Not to be outdone, more than 160 bikers rode in the annual Hogs for Dogs in Osceola, New York, benefitting the Finger Lakes SPCA of Central New York spay and neuter program. The riders brought an increased awareness of the cause and large crowds to enjoy live music and BBQ. Check with a local rider group to interest them in something similar. A small entrance fee to ride in the fundraiser adds up with the number of riders these groups attract.

There are plenty of other great fun ideas that have been used to attract crowds, and more importantly, much-needed funds along with a rewarding experience.

• Start a golf tournament. Charge a small entrance fee and contact local business to sponsor the tournament as a whole, as well as smaller sponsors for each hole. Whole or hole, it will create a buzz in the community. Spectators will want to enjoy the afternoon, paying a small fee, not to mention the refreshments you will be selling all day.

• Parades. If your community has an annual parade, whether it’s a summertime Fourth of July parade or a wintertime Holiday parade, team up with the parade sponsor for an added pet parade. Who doesn’t love their pets and who doesn’t love a parade? What a perfect mix. Local businesses will be sure to want to sponsor you.

• Yappy Hours. You heard that right. Yappy hours. You enjoy chilling after a long day of work. Why not your dog, too? All while raising some much needed funds. Get a local restaurant or two to donate some money for doggie treats and some human treats as well. Then, throw a little party in a restaurant or café with some outdoor space and charge an entrance fee.

With a little ingenuity and creativity, you can organize some events that will not only be fun for your dog but fun for you as well. Have an idea that puts the “fun” in fundraiser? Tell us about them.

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