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Show Me the Money: And We're Back

Telethons reap rewards, boost adoptions, and showcase shelter programs to the community

You might not savor Jerry Lewis’s over-the-top shtick—the tears and his signature, shaky rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”—during the annual MDA (Muscular Dystrophy Association) Labor Day Telethon, but you’ve got to admit: The guy sure knows how to raise money for a cause.

While the longtime host’s—ahem—unique creative style might be open to debate, animal shelters in search of new fundraising ideas could actually learn a lot from what Lewis has accomplished for the organization: netting hundreds of millions of dollars in contributions since the telethon’s inception in 1952.

It’s possible some shelters around the country have been taking notes; at least a handful host their own telethons that reliably bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars to help support vital programs and services.

Of course, organizing such an event isn’t for everyone—if it were, there would be dozens of telethons across the nation, put on by shelters big and small, rural and urban, with deep pockets and shoestring budgets. But that’s not the case; there are a number of important factors that help determine if a telethon’s a realistic fundraiser for a shelter.

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