It is important that you have funds available while you owner-train your service dog. Having a lump sum already available takes the pressure off you while you train. How much you need depends on how much professional training you will need. I compare it to buying a car or a house, the other major purchases in your life. Most sellers require at the least a large percentage deposit to show you are serious about making the purchase. If you want to show a trainer you are serious about the process, put aside a large deposit and let them know!
How Much Should I Set Aside?
Professionally-trained program dogs cost up to US$55,000 and Cdn$85,000 to public access or certification-ready. Most programs want you to have the funds collected prior to acceptance into their programs and long before you get partnered with your dog. When owner-training, you should budget for at least $6000 for professional training if you are starting from a pup. If you are starting with an adult dog with few behavioral issues, it will be less. A year of weekly private training sessions will cost about $3000. Semi-private and small group classes are less but the extra unused fees can be used for equipment.
Why Should I Fundraise?
The reason organizations want you to pay for part of the training is to show that you are invested in the process and that you appreciate the amount of time, energy and money that goes into the dogs. It is also a great way to help educate people about service dogs. You can become a spokesperson for service dogs and how they need to be treated by the public and retailers. You will be doing this once you are at advanced training and your dog is certified.
If you owner-train, fundraising also needs to be done ahead of time if you don't have the funds readily available.The funds need to be dedicated just for training and equipment for the service dog in-training. The funds can be put into a special bank account. Most banks and credit unions have a free savings account for this purpose.
I am not a Non-Profit Organization. Do I qualify for fundraising?
Yes, anyone can fundraise. The only difference between you and a non-profit organization is that you cannot provide a tax deduction for a donation. Few people care about this unless they are donating very large amounts. You are more likely to get small donations than large ones anyway.
How Can I Make Sure I Won't Spend the Funds Before They are Needed?
If you are concerned that you might be tempted use the funds for "life's little emergencies" that aren't really emergencies, then have a second person co-sign a bank account with you. Choose someone who can't be swayed by a sad story. That way you have to talk to them to use them. Since you will be paying your trainer in lump fees or doing pre-authorized payments, that will minimize how often you will have to consult with your friend. If you don't have anyone else, having your trainer be to co-signer can work. Since the funds are to only be used for equipment and training, you can both agree to spend it only for that. Any money left over after training can be saved for equipment or future training.
Fundraising is About Networking
Fundraising can be easy if you have a large network of family, friends, coworkers, hobby groups, school groups, religious affiliations, business contacts etc. on social networking sites.
Create a campaign on youcaring.com.
Be aware that 2.9% plus $.30 of every donation goes to the fund processing company (Paypal, Swipe etc) on the cheaper sites and as much as 2.9% plus $.30 plus an additional 5% to the website host on other sites. That's a total of 8% off your total. That is why setting up your own free bank account to credit union account might be a better idea. People can donate to your fund by e-transfer or internal bank transfer if they have the account number.
Be Creative in How You Raise your Funds
Use the skills you have. Identify things you like to do and figure out how you can get paid to do them. You might as well enjoy the process! You can use the fact that the funds will go to training your service dog to generate interest in your fund-raising campaign. Ask clients if they are willing to make an extra donation towards your fund.
What if Someone Wants to Donate Items to Me to Resell instead of Money?
If you have the space to store them until they sell and the ability to sell the items, accept them providing they are in resellable condition. It helps if you accept things that you know something about so you know what they are worth and who you can sell them to.
Are You Too Shy or Anxious to Ask People for Money or Goods?
Get help from bolder friends. It will be good practice for when you are training your dog and you find yourself in situations where you have to be assertive to protect your service dog or to advocate for yourself.
Take Many Photos and Videos of Your Process and Events
People love to see and share these on social media and they grab more attention than a print-only campaign!
Here are Several Websites You Can Use to Get Ideas for Your Fundraising Campaign.
You can do one large event or several smaller ones or ongoing fundraising over a period of time. Start early before you get your pup or dog!
100 Ways to Fundraise for a Service Dog
One Service Dog Handler's ideas
Hundreds of General Fundraising Ideas
Also, if you are in Canada, make sure you have claimed the disability tax credit. It may offer a refund for some tax that you have paid in previous years when you were disabled or reduce your taxes in the current year.