Why I Donate To Your Competition (Instead of You).


How To Get My Money-2

Because I spend a lot of time on social media and am also connected with quite a few non-profits, I frequently see posts from non-profit founders/volunteers who seem baffled by (or angry about) not receiving the size/quantity of donations they hope for.  Typically, these posts come from newer or smaller organizations that just need some guidance or tough love. I’m far from an expert, given that I’ve never started or worked for a non-profit, but as a frequent donor (I select animal rescue and advocacy groups to donate 10% of The Tree Kisser‘s sales to each month), I wanted to offer my perspective with the presumption that other donors may (consciously or subconsciously) look for (and avoid) the same things I do when deciding where to send their hard-earned money. You have a LOT of competition out there; doing good things for the world just isn’t enough. If you run a non-profit and are struggling to bring in donations, I hope you find it helpful to see things from one donor’s perspective.

1) Appearance of Success

When I see posts from non-profit founders/presidents complaining about their lack of donations, I always cringe. The language typically says or implies things like, “I don’t understand why ______ rescue gets donations every day and we haven’t seen anything come in for weeks,” “Bigger organizations get all the credit/attention, and no one cares about us,” or “Well sure, if we had a celebrity doing PSAs for our cause like _____ does, we could get more donations, but I guess we just aren’t important enough.” I understand that these people are just venting, likely due to frustration from trying to make a difference in the world without receiving enough public support. However, whether it’s logical or not, this immediately makes me lose faith in the organization. It makes me feel like something must not be working, and that even if I were to donate, they still won’t have enough money to accomplish what they want to. Even when these posts come from organizations I trust and have supported in the past, I shake my head. You have to think of a non-profit like a business; if your company projects an image of desperation or failure, it’s a lot harder to bring in customers or investors. Sometimes you gotta fake it to make it, you know? Of course, you do have to ask for donations (we understand you need money to stay functional and grow), but there’s a big difference between, “Donate here to help us save even more lives in 2016!” and “If you don’t want us to be evicted tomorrow, we need you to send $10.” Catastrophes and unexpected life events happen, but if every week feels like you’re on the brink of disaster, I start to wonder if you’ll ever be able to make it work.

Example of a post done right by Animal Rescue Corps. Notice the donation ask comes after they tell you about their most recent accomplishment.

2) Professionalism & Diplomacy

Social media has been a hugely helpful tool for a lot of non-profits, but the downside is we’re all still just humans dealing with other humans, and now it’s all public. Conflict is bound to arise, and your supporters (and potential supporters) definitely take note of how it’s handled. If I don’t know you personally, you’ve probably lost me the second you post ambiguously (or worse, specifically) about drama with another person or organization in your field. Even if the trouble is completely the other person’s fault, the average visitor on your Facebook page has no reason to believe you over the other person. All they see is that there’s a problem, and they’re going to move along to the next organization whose staff/volunteers are NOT spreading gossip or inciting tension. In many cases, these passive-aggressive posts are shared from the founder/president’s personal page rather than the organization’s official page, but if you run your own non-profit, you have to remember you’re representing it at all times. If someone criticizes your work, try to handle it like a grown up. Sure, there’s a time and a place for making a public statement in your defense, but as a donor, I prefer to see this as a last resort and only in response to harmful slander that is actively making it difficult for your team to do their good work. We all have fragile egos that can be bruised, but it’s so important to take the high road as often as possible, especially when the high road leads to financial support!

3) Social Media Presence

Realistically, I understand that most non-profits have insufficient funds and insufficient time to spare. When there are events to coordinate and lives to save, I’m sure obsessing over social media feels pretty low on the priority totem pole. I try to be as gentle as possible when mentioning this to people, because I know what they’re really thinking is, “I’M BOTTLE FEEDING FOUR KITTENS WHILE CALLING VOLUNTEERS TO STAFF OUR FUNDRAISER ON SATURDAY AND MY TAXES ARE DUE TOMORROW  BUT MY COMPUTER CRASHED AFTER IT FELL INTO THE PIG’S WATER BOWL BUT YES, PLEASE TELL ME HOW YOU THINK I NEED A BETTER FACEBOOK COVER PHOTO!” I get it. You chose a really challenging life mission, and for that you have so much of my respect and appreciation. That said, if I can think of a way to bring you more resources to ease the stress, I feel obligated to mention it.

Facebook has obviously become a homebase for most non-profits, but I highly encourage you to expand to at least Instagram, Twitter, and maybe even SnapChat! I’ve noticed more and more people either leaving Facebook or checking it far less often, which is mostly Facebook’s fault. Facebook has also made it increasingly difficult to reach your own followers; I’m sure you’ve noticed that the percent of your followers who engage in your posts has dropped significantly compared to engagement from a year or two ago, unless you’re paying to promote each individual post (don’t get me started on my Facebook rant). If your potential supporters are migrating from Facebook, you have to follow them.

I’ll give a quick example that I hope will demonstrate how important this is. A friend of mine (let’s call her “Megan”; I’m hiding her real name so this organization doesn’t feel targeted if they read this) recently reached out to me asking for advice. She wanted to help her favorite local non-profit, because they were dealing with some emergency medical bills and they really needed an influx of financial support. I responded with a bunch of ideas, the most important of which was that they at least needed to open an Instagram (IG) page where they could host a clickable link to their website for easy donations. Between Megan and I, we have over 100,000 Instagram followers who we would have loved to send over to the non-profit’s IG page if they had one. People these days (myself included), have no attention span and are lazy. The number of people who are willing to find a computer and manually type in a url to send a donation is much lower than the number of people who would’ve just impulsively clicked through and donated if it were easy for them. Megan passed along my suggestion and even volunteered to set up the IG page for this organization, but they pretty much ignored her because they were too busy. Thus, they lost out on potentially hundreds or thousands of dollars we could’ve raised for them.

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Priceless Pet Rescue does a great job on Instagram. Linking to their website no doubt brings in a lot of donations from those 30,000+ followers they have!

I definitely have sympathy for people, especially those of an older generation, who aren’t especially well-versed in the nuances of each social media platform, yet have to try because they know it’s necessary. There’s a lot of unspoken etiquette regarding frequency of posts, length of captions, etc. I recently joined Pinterest and had to seek friends’ advice on these matters because I was completely out of my element, so I get it! I strongly encourage even those of you who think you’re handling social media pretty well to ask for feedback or professional consulting. You could be doing things you think are great but are actually repelling potential supporters; I can unfortunately think of way too many examples that I see on a daily basis. If you ask your followers for a genuine critique (and if you’re able to truly not be defensive), I feel confident that you would receive some really helpful, specific suggestions. I also recommend taking a look at the social media presence of some of the bigger organizations in your field. The ones whose budgets you wish you could have. Take note of how and what they post. They must be doing something right, can you learn from them?

It’s tough to provide specific social media tips that will apply to all kinds of organizations, but the things I see that bother me most are low quality photos, overposting (especially sharing too many irrelevant or barely relevant memes, graphics, etc. from other pages), bad grammar (I may be more sensitive to this than other people, but spelling and grammar make a HUGE difference in how I perceive an organization), and cheesy/outdated/amateur logos and graphics. Logically I understand that an organization’s ability to use a camera well or to find the right graphic artist to create their logo is unrelated to the actual quality of their work, but this isn’t really about logic. It’s about instilling confidence and enthusiasm in your supporters, and a professional, eye-catching internet presence can make or break that. You have very little time to stand out and be memorable. A blurry camera phone photo isn’t going to do that, not in this day and age. It might be worth investing a bit of money into the problem, as painful as that sounds. If you have $200 to work with and you can use it to either cover the expenses of rescuing another dog from death row or hiring someone to revamp your web presence, I’m sorry to say it, but I have to recommend the latter. The increased funds and donor support that could come from those changes to your public appearance can enable you to save far more lives in the future. If you have a decent group of volunteers working with you, you may be able to get some help from them if they have a knack for technology and PR! I haven’t personally used this site, but I’ve heard great things about Volunteer Match. You may able to find some smart, internet-savvy helpers with a few clicks of the mouse!

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An example of a social media post on Volunteer Match

4) Prove To Me That My Donation Matters: Stats & Stories

Most non-profits understand this on some level, but all can probably do better. In an ideal world, I love to see a balance of numbers and anecdotes. An example of an organization that blows me away with this is FARM, specifically regarding their 10 Billion Lives Tour. I’ve attended a lot of fundraisers over the past few years, but I’ve never forgotten how impressed I was by FARM’s presentation during which they broke down the impact numbers for their donations. There was a whole explanation for how they came to these results based on surveys given to people who watched their video on factory farming, but the end result was for every $5 donated, 4 people commit to change their diet (towards fully vegan or at least more plant-based foods). Sure, this is just an estimate, but it makes it feel very tangible. If you’re a dog rescue, publish the average cost of rescuing and rehabbing one dog. If you’re an advocacy group, tell me how much it costs you to print 500 leaflets or to rent a billboard. The benefits of this are threefold: 1) It’s more fun for me (and thus encourages me to donate again) to tell myself “I just covered half the cost of a dog’s spay procedure, which means i’ve prevented half a litter of puppies from being born into an overpopulated community” or “I just enabled this farmed animal sanctuary to buy 200 feet of fencing so they have room to take in three more chickens” than it is to say “Well, there goes $20…I hope they do something good with it.” 2) It makes me feel more confident in your ability to manage and plan finances. 3) It makes me feel like my donation matters and is needed. I think #3 can be especially challenging for large organizations, which people (including myself) often look at and think, “Will my $20 really matter if their rescue missions each cost $20,000?” Well, if you know your $20 could pay for the vaccines and flea medication for an overbred momma dog just rescued from a filthy puppy mill, then yes! To her, that $20 makes all the difference in the world.

In addition to facts and figures, I like to see anecdotes. Knowing how you specifically impacted the life of one animal or person can be as powerful as telling me you saved 1000 lives. If these stories are organized (and updated often) on your website, I’m VERY impressed. Most of you understand the concept behind this, so I don’t need to elaborate. An example of an organization that does this exceptionally well is Animal Aid Unlimited.

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Screenshot from Animal Aid Unlimited’s “Hurt to Healed” page on their website

5) Reviews

I haven’t seen this very often, but I always remember coming across a non-profit’s website that had a testimonial page. Posted on it were messages of thanks and gratitude from donors who gave in the past. If you have people close to you who have either donated to you, volunteered with you, or been a part of your organization in another meaningful way, ask them to write a blurb for you (that you can attach their name to). Or post publicly on your Facebook page asking people why they support your organization (of course, ask permission in advance to use their quotes on your website). If I’m checking out an organization I know nothing about, I feel way more comfortable giving them money if others have eloquently and passionately given them public support.


I hope you come away from this with some new strategies or ideas! If you’ve chosen to run or work for a non-profit, I am so grateful for you and for the fact that you’ve chosen something bigger than yourself to dedicate your life to. I’m sure this post comes off a bit harsh or critical, but please know that I only put time and thought into it because I want to empower you to be the best you can be. Thank you for taking the time to read it!

xoxo

Jessica

Why I Donate To Your Competition (Instead of You).

Summer Rescue Rush!

ADOPT or FOSTER a shelter animal before

The weeks leading up to and immediately following the 4th of July represent the deadliest time of the year for animals in shelters. Because humans insist on celebrating independence by exploding fireworks across the entire county, terrified dogs and cats find creative and unexpected new ways to escape their homes and thus end up in shelters. To make room for this influx, shelters have to kill healthy, friendly animals who have been there the longest or are deemed least adoptable. Many shelters are already at capacity during the summer, because people are more likely to give up their pets when leaving on vacation (don’t get me started…). There are so many ways we can work together to reduce the number of lives taken, and that’s where you come in. If you’ve been considering rescuing an animal, NOW is the time! From today until July 5, anyone who adopts or fosters a shelter animal will receive a discount code for 50% OFF your next order from The Tree Kisser shop! To qualify, just send me an email (thetreekisser@gmail.com) that includes a photo/scan of a dated adoption certificate or foster agreement. You will also receive a discount of 50% off Triple Threads’s new “Rescue Is How I Roll” shirts! I’m hopeful that other businesses may offer discounts as well, and if so, I will add them to this blog post!

If you’re unfamiliar with the rescue process or don’t know where to start, here are some basic tips:

Adopting 101

If you aren’t already familiar with your local shelter, the easiest way to find it is by Googling your city name plus “animal shelter”. Most shelters will have an online database with animals’ photos, but they will likely be horrible quality and not do justice to any of the individuals, so it’s best to meet them in person! You can also check the online databases of petfinder.com and shelterme.com, which list profiles and information about animals both in shelters and with independent rescue groups. Independent rescue groups differ from shelters in that the animals are not at risk for being killed, but adopting from them still saves a life by opening up space for the rescuers to go get another animal from death row at a shelter. If you’re having trouble finding the right animal for you, please shoot me an email at (thetreekisser@gmail.com) and I’ll do my best to help! I may not be able to respond quickly though, so I encourage doing the research first.

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Many people (myself formerly included) don’t understand how crucial foster homes are to the rescue process. Most rescues rely on their network of foster homes to take care of their rescued animals until a forever home can be found. Without foster homes, the person running the non-profit can only rescue as many dogs as they’re allowed in their home (unless they’re put into a boarding facility, which is expensive and far from ideal). Fostering is an incredible way to take part in the process without having to make a lifelong commitment! Many rescue groups will even pay for all expenses (food, veterinary care, etc) for the animal as long as you’re willing to take care of him/her! If the rescue holds weekly or monthly adoption events, you may be asked to bring the animal to and from the event, but some groups coordinate that transportation for you. To find a local organization in need of fosters, again I recommend petfinder.com. On the right side of the home page, you can search their directory by location in the box that looks like this:

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Each organization is different, but many will have foster applications on their website. Once you’ve been approved, just wait until they contact you with information about the next animal they’re “pulling” (rescue lingo for taking out of the shelter). Soon you’ll have a grateful new friend to cuddle and hang out with until they’ve found their forever home! Below is a short list of organizations I personally know are ALWAYS looking for willing fosters! If you’d like me to add your organization to the list, just let me know via email or a comment:


If you’re unable to foster or adopt at the moment, PLEASE consider making a monetary donation to any of the above organizations. They need funds to pay rescue fees and veterinary bills. Without donations, nothing can be accomplished. We can all do SOMETHING to help combat shelter killing. If you can’t donate, please consider visiting your local shelter to volunteer or take photos. Spread the word. Encourage friends and family to spay and neuter. This is a problem we should be able to solve, but it takes effort and action from every single compassionate person. Thank you for caring!
Summer Rescue Rush!

Big Changes Coming to The Tree Kisser!

NEWS!

I’ve got some exciting news to share about The Tree Kisser shop! I’m finally taking the plunge into designing and manufacturing my own garments at a factory in Los Angeles! Over the next couple months, you’ll begin to see new styles, materials, and colors in the shop while older items get phased out. I’ll still be printing most of my popular designs on the new garments, but there will be new concepts and designs as well! To clarify, by “designs” I’m usually referring to the graphic text/images printed on the shirts (i.e.: “Animals Are Not Fabric”), and by “styles” I’m usually referring to the actual shirt itself (i.e.: yellow racerback tank, pink fleece hoodie, etc.). There will be a few phases of how this change takes effect, which I’ll try to explain below!

You may not have known or realized, but until now I’ve been buying apparel wholesale from suppliers like Bella + Canvas, American Apparel, and Alternative Apparel. I’ve come to appreciate the quality and variety I can source from working with these companies, but it leaves many variables out of my control. Some of these garments are made in the US, some are made overseas. Some garments are made of organic/recycled materials, most aren’t. Sometimes I fall in love with a color one garment is available in just to realize I can’t find it in any other styles. Sometimes the quality isn’t consistent. The most problematic issue of all, however, is when I sell out of a specific style and the supplier is out of stock; this is the issue that has finally (fortunately) pushed me into taking this next leap!

If you’re a frequent visitor of my online store (thank you!), you may have noticed lately that I’ve been sold out of some items. I’ve haven’t been able to restock, because I’ve been waiting for the suppliers to replenish their own inventory. This of course hurts my business, but it also takes away from the animals who could be helped by potential sales. After discovering that many of these styles aren’t going to be replenished until September, I decided to print one more round of some popular designs on slightly different garments (still sourced from my wholesale suppliers). This is just a temporary measure until I’m able to completely switch to the new garments I’ll be producing! It might get a little confusing, so below I’ll list the new variations available:

– The “ADOPT” black muscle tee with gold foil will be replaced by a black v-neck tank.

– The “Favorite Things” mint racerback tank will be replaced by a mint v-neck tank AND a white v-neck tee

– The “Make The World Better” neon yellow racerback tank will be replaced by a neon yellow boxy tank

– The “Make The World Better” white flowy boat neck tee will be replaced by a white flowy v-neck tee

– The “Animals Are Not Fabric” white boxy tanks and white muscle tees will be replaced by a white v-neck tank

Working with the new factory’s design team, selecting fabrics and colors, and having the garments actually manufactured will take up to two months, at which point I will start phasing out all the old apparel and introducing unique, brand-new styles made using organic cotton (yay!). I am SO excited to transition into this new phase, and I hope you’ll be patient with me as things get a little confusing! You can always email me at thetreekisser@gmail.com with questions. If I don’t get back to you within a couple days, feel free to resend!

Thank you all for your support; without you, I absolutely would not have the confidence or resources to make this happen!

 

Big Changes Coming to The Tree Kisser!

If I’m a hero, you can be too.

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Last week I circulated a photo of a desperately sad looking dog behind bars at the Orange County Animal Shelter. I was pleading for someone to step in and rescue her from this notoriously overcrowded shelter where, as a non-puppy and a chihuahua (of which this area has far too many) her chances of being killed for space were high. She had been stuck there for a month. Between Facebook and Instagram, thousands of people were rooting for her, hoping she would find a rescuer. I was hopeful. Days went by. I checked in constantly to see if she’d found a home, and was repeatedly disappointed to know she was still at risk. Finally, thanks to the feeling of empowerment that sometimes comes after a few glasses of wine, I decided I would have to step in and go get her (*the next day – don’t drink and drive!). The plan was to foster her until I could find her a forever home…that said, she seems to be settling in quite nicely ;)

As soon as I posted that I was heading up to get her, praise came pouring in through social media. “You’re an amazing, inspiring woman!”…”There need to be more people like you on this planet.”…”You are an angel.” While I am beyond grateful to have such compassionate, enthusiastic, emotive followers (seriously, you guys make my life so much better), I feel the need to point something out. Yes, at the risk of sounding arrogant, I did a good thing. I saved a life. Because Maya was rescued from the shelter, another dog will be able to stay in her former kennel while waiting for a home. That said, there are millions of people making this same choice every year, each of them as deserving of praise and appreciation! I am no more special than they are. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough of these people, which is why anywhere from 3-10 million pets (statistics vary widely, but it’s safe to say the number is devastatingly huge) die annually in shelters.

My point in writing this post is to explain how every single person can be part of the solution that helps this overpopulation crisis. All the appreciation and praise in the world (which, I’ll reiterate, I truly do appreciate!) won’t fix it. Rather than sitting back and absorbing all the love, I feel it’s important for me to harness all this energy coming in to empower YOU to figure out how YOU can make a difference. Because you can. You may not have room or time for an animal right now. You may be too young to make the executive decision in your home. You may not be able to afford adoption fees & food. That’s fine; there are so many ways to help! Below is a list of actions that will make a difference. I beg and plead you to do at least one of these things!

Adopt your next companion animal. Duh, this is the most obvious. But it never hurts to leave a reminder. Visit your local shelters and rescue groups. You can start your search through www.petfinder.com or www.shelterme.com.

Foster for an independent rescue group. Countless lives are saved every year thanks to foster homes. There are more than 10,000 rescue groups in this country, most (if not all) of which require support from fosters. Each organization has their own policies, but if you’re unfamiliar, this is generally how it works. You contact a local organization (find one through the Pet Finder database) to let them know you’re willing to foster. They will ask you about your living situation, your experience with animals, other pets in the home, availability, etc. If approved, they will contact you when they need to pull an animal from a shelter. Typically they are pulling animals who are likely to be euthanized by shelter staff due to space or disinterest. They will pay the shelter’s adoption fees and will usually supply food & supplies. You just have to give the animal a temporary home and lots of love until a forever home is found. You may be responsible for bringing the animal to weekly/monthly adoption events (usually held at pet supply stores or other populated areas), but again, that will depend on the group’s policies. Once the animal has found his/her permanent guardian, you’re free! You can do it once, twice, or all the time. This is a perfect option for someone who wants to help but for whatever reason can’t commit to caring for an animal for the rest of his/her life.

Volunteer at a shelter or with a rescue group. Shelters needs volunteers to walk, play with, and clean up after animals. Contrary to what we all wish, many shelters are not entirely staffed by animal lovers. Some are, but it’s hardly a requirement for the job. In some places, the only love and affection given to shelter animals comes from volunteers. Interaction with volunteers is crucial to helping these animals get adopted. Who do you think will be more appealing to the family that comes to the shelter looking for a new companion, the dog who’s been walked and played with every day for a month or the dog who’s been left alone, confused, and staring at strangers through bars for a month? City shelters should have clear links to volunteer applications/info on their websites.

Most rescue groups need volunteers to help out at adoption or outreach events. Sometimes this means just sitting in a pen petting and holding adorable dogs while potential adopters come say hello. Not a bad way to spend the afternoon! You may also be able to assist an organization with tasks pertaining to your skill set. Are you a web or graphic designer? Maybe their website or logo needs updating. Are you a musician or videographer? They could probably use help creating fundraising videos. Volunteer needs will vary greatly between groups, so I encourage you to contact a few to find out where your services could be best used.

Pledge for rescues. This is a relatively new (since social media has really taken off) way to contribute. On Facebook especially, there are a LOT of people who spend time photographing and documenting animals in need of rescue. As these photos are shared, people can leave pledge comments on the thread. This will look something like, “I pledge $10 to an approved rescue.” If enough pledges are collected to cover or contribute significantly to the adoption fees, a rescue group can then go get the animal from the shelter with the assumption that everyone who commented will then send in their pledged donation. Of course, I’m sure there are people who leave those comments and don’t honor their pledges, but enough people are trustworthy that this seems to be a pretty effective process. Once the animal has been safely taken out of the shelter, a volunteer or administrator for the rescue group will come back to the original post, leave photo evidence that they rescued the animal, and then provide a website or PayPal account through which you can submit your donation. They may also send you a private message. Having a successful rescue group is very expensive; people who run these organizations have to cover the initial shelter fees as well as medical care, food, and toys for the duration that the animal is with them. Pledges allow them to save far more lives than they would otherwise be able to.

Donate. Again, this seems obvious, but it may be a reminder. Find an organization you trust and want to support. Ask friends for recommendations. Petfinder.com is a great place to begin this search. Your contribution, regardless of the amount, could mean the difference between life and death for a shelter pet.

Use Amazon Smile. This is a pretty specific but extremely easy option. Through Amazon Smile, .5% of the money you spend on Amazon purchases will be donated to a non-profit of your choice. You can choose from nearly one million non-profits! .5% may not seem like a lot, but when you think about the billions of dollars spent through Amazon every year, the impact can be pretty substantial. Sign up through http://smile.amazon.com.

Transport. Social media has done great things for animal rescue. A side effect of this influx of information and cross posting is that people often fall in cyber-love with animals stuck in shelters thousands of miles from them. Fortunately, there are some excellent volunteers out there working to unite adopters with the pet of their dreams. If you have an operational vehicle and don’t mind road trips, this could be the best way for you to help out! Check out Rescue Road Trips, Kindred Hearts, A New Leash on Life, and Mobile Mutts Rescue Transports.

Fundraise. This is especially helpful if you’re still in school. Food drives, bake sales, car washes, garage sales, etc. can all be used to bring in resources for shelters and rescue groups. Offer to babysit, mow lawns, walk dogs, tutor other students, whatever you can think of, in exchange for donations. Brainstorm with friends. The options are endless!

Share & Network. This applies to both photos of animals in need of rescue as well as to information about pet overpopulation.  I spend time with so many people who adopt and rescue animals that I start assuming everyone understands this issue, but I’m wrong. If you follow rescue groups on Facebook, you’ll definitely see posts in need of sharing. You never know, you may have a cousin who’s been thinking of buying a puppy from a breeder but will instead come across the photo of a shelter dog you shared and decide to save a life. Your old boss may be worried about her dog being home alone all day and decide to adopt a friend. People need to see these faces and hear these stories if we’re going to expect them to do something about it. Sharing takes no money and no time! Your voice is vital to raising awareness.

Help Friends & Family Adopt. As you learn more, you’ll quickly acquire a level of expertise that could be helpful to potential adopters in your life. Many people are intimidated by the shelter/rescue world, so they avoid it by going to a breeder (thus giving money to have MORE animals brought into this already overpopulated country). Get to know the names and locations of your local shelter and rescue groups. Familiarize yourself with online resources like www.petfinder.com and www.shelterme.com. The easier you make it for them, the more likely they are to listen.

Stay Informed. The more you know, the more you’ll be able to inspire change. Also, the more you’ll feel inspired to create change. There are still shelters in this country that use gas chambers for “euthanasia”. There are cities where specific breeds of dogs are outlawed. There are approximately 15,000 American puppy mills in operation today. These are important things to know if we want to be effective advocates. Watch relevant documentaries and TV shows. I recommend Shelter Me as a good place to start!

Spay & Neuter. Preventing your pets from breeding is crucial to ending this cycle of shelter deaths. I know it sounds fun to watch your best furry friend raise a litter of kittens or puppies, but the repercussions are not worth it. Please encourage friends and family members to spay & neuter their animals as well. Some vets may quote you a high price, but it’s nothing compared to the price of caring for a litter of newborns! There are also low or no cost spay/neuter clinics popping up all over the country. Google will be your best tool for locating that type of service.

Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and suggestions! Pet overpopulation is a heartbreaking issue, but it’s something I truly believe can be dealt with in our lifetimes. We just have to step up, speak out, and give what we can.

If you have more ideas, please feel more than free to leave them in the comments section!

If I’m a hero, you can be too.

“Pets of the Homeless” Fundraiser

As many of you know, I donate 10% of sales from The Tree Kisser shop to the Love Infinitely Project Animal Fund, which then allocates money and resources to deserving non-profits. Between Feb 15 – Mar 15, the designated recipient of our help was Pets of the Homeless, a national organization focused on providing food, veterinary care, and other services to companion animals whose humans have become homeless. An estimated 5-10% of homeless people travel with animal companions, so there is a huge need for assistance!

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Thanks to my wonderful customers (as well as a private donation given to the LIP Animal Fund), I was able to donate 510 lbs (17 huge bags!) of nutritious V-Dog Food! The lovely people at V-Dog arranged a rescue discount to help me to purchase as much food as possible with the funds I had available. In fact, they are so supportive that they are also offering a 20% discount on orders placed by my readers! Use code ‘treekisser’ to receive the discount. I definitely encourage you to purchase some for your pups (all four of our dogs eat it and love it!), and/or to send some to one of the Pets of the Homeless distribution centers! In addition to being a compassionate food choice, V-Dog is ideal to donate due to the fact that it is free of most major allergens (no gluten, soy, or corn!).

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 My handsome helper (and brother), Ricky

Today, with the help of my wonderful brother Ricky, I delivered the food to PAWS San Diego, a distribution partner for Pets of the Homeless. PAWS is an incredible organization that has been in operation for 20 years! In addition to providing dog and cat food for homeless and low income people, they also deliver pet food to elderly or disabled people who otherwise may not be able to adequately care for their pets. The people at PAWS are doing truly vital work that not only keeps animals healthy and happy, but also keeps pets from being surrendered to shelters due to financial strain.

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Me with the wonderful staff at PAWS San Diego!

In addition to the food we donated, I was able to send an additional $300 to Pets of the Homeless’ veterinary care fund. This will help provide emergency medical care for animals whose homeless human guardians are unable to pay vet bills.

I am beyond grateful for the enthusiasm and support you all have shown that enabled me to put this together! Every order placed through The Tree Kisser shop truly makes a difference in the lives of animals in need. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

To learn more about (or donate to!) one of these wonderful groups, please check out their websites at www.petsofthehomeless.org (Pets of the Homeless) and www.pawssandiego.org (PAWS San Diego).

To purchase V-Dog food or to learn more about their incredible company, please visit their website at www.v-dog.com.

“Pets of the Homeless” Fundraiser

Olivine Perfume GIVEAWAY!

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If you saw my recent Instagram post, you know how thrilled I was to discover Olivine Atelier perfume, a relatively new vegan, cruelty-free scent collection! Since ditching animal products and animal-tested products, I’ve had a very tough time locating a perfume I didn’t hate. Everything I sampled seemed to smell like either the epitome of stereotypical new age-y hippiedom (not that I have a problem with new age-y hippiedom, I’m just not sure I love the scent associated with it) or sweet, sugary flowers (think of a body spray you’d buy at Claire’s for an 8-year-old). Until recently, I’d completely given up and accepted the fact that cruelty-free life for me would mean life without a signature scent; given the abundance of cruelty and exploitation that run rampant in the animal testing and agriculture industries, this seemed like an unacceptable, albeit sad, loss. I have nothing against embracing one’s own natural scent, but I mourned the option of being able to dab on a little extra magic before walking out the door.

That is, until my lovely friend Ashlee of The Little Foxes introduced me to Olivine! Though Ashlee has never steered me wrong, I was skeptical as I waited for my sample pack to arrive in the mail. I won’t bore you with an overly descriptive narration of my first experience smelling each of the scents, so I’ll just leave it at this: I was intoxicated and overwhelmed (in the best way possible) by each of the six fragrances, and was ecstatic to have discovered the solution to my scent deprivation. Picking a favorite blend is impossible, but “Amongst The Waves” and “She Belongs There” called out to me a major way.

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I’m so excited to be able to offer you lovely readers the chance to win a free bottle of perfume oil (a $48 value!) in the scent of your choice! Each perfume oil is 100% fragrance with no additives or carrier oils. Perfume oils arrive in a 5ml glass bottle and are accompanied by a gold glitter dipped feather (collected personally by Julie, Olivine’s creator, at a local bird sanctuary; no animals are harmed!) symbolizing beauty and freedom. The contest will run until Monday evening, at which point the winner will be contacted. Multiple options for how to enter can be found through the link below! Good luck!

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(link not accessible from mobile devices; sorry for the inconvenience!)

 

Olivine Perfume GIVEAWAY!

Krže Studio Crowd Fund SALE!

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I am SO excited about this. My gorgeous and compassionate friend Leila, founder of and designer behind Krže Studio, has introduced a creative way to buy high-fashion vegan shoes at wholesale prices! Because of the (very) high quality manufacturing procedures and the use of cutting-edge cruelty-free materials (including “ultra high-tech vegan lining that is antibacterial, breathable, and absorbent”), these shoes would cost between $500-$1000 if sold in retail stores. Being the lovely girl she is, Leila prefers to work directly with her customers by circumventing the conventional retail system, hence her participation in this new crowd fund platform!

Like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, Mimoona (the host of the new Krže Studio shop) allows you to pledge toward a specific style of shoe. Rather than needing to raise funds for an entire line, you only need to campaign for the style you love. Ideally all nine styles will meet their minimum goals, but if only a few do (or if only one does!) those fully funded styles will still go into production. And- here’s the best part– you can customize links for the shoes you love to share with family/friends/followers; if five people use your link to make a pledge/purchase, you receive a FREE pair of shoes!

By offering her line at wholesale prices, Leila makes her animal-friendly, luxury footwear available to a much wider market (good for us, great for cows!). Granted, the price range still falls between $100-$300; we aren’t talking Target prices. However, I can’t stress enough how much attention to detail, comfort, and quality has gone into these items. Though she is originally from LA, Leila now lives in Italy, where she can keep a close eye on every step of the manufacturing process. And it shows. My Krže Studio bag is a crucial staple in my wardrobe. I’ve traveled with it (and abused it) a LOT since receiving it last year, and it still looks and feels brand new. I say this with 1000% honestly: I have never felt a faux leather texture that even comes close to the smooth butteriness (sorry for the non-vegan vocab) of this material. At the risk of nauseating even myself with the reference, the only texture I can compare it to is calfskin.

Without further ado, here are my favorite styles:

1. “Kira Diagonal Laced Bootie”

I’ve been obsessed with these since I first saw the photo months ago. Black booties are definitely having a moment right now, but this style sets itself apart from the crowd with its faux stingray material (also available in white vegan vintaged leather) and its delicate side lace. Love.

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2. “Asuka Two Piece Stiletto”

This style is also available in black faux stingray, but I think the red is uber sexy. Orders will be delivered in February, making this pair a perfect gift (to yourself or another!) for Valentine’s Day!

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3. “Effin Laceup Biker Boot”

I don’t even know if I’m cool enough to pull this look off, but I’m more than willing to try! This style is the designer’s favorite, and her passion certainly shows in every detail of this shoe. I’ll borrow her words to describe it: “Deconstructed style lace-up moto biker boot, features a gunmetal screwdriver stud on back tab, and a rubber lug sole with stitched welt detail.” I feel like these boots would be the perfect survival footwear for a romp around Europe, which I suspect was the inspiration for their creation!

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Happy shopping! Let me know if you buy anything, I love to hear about shoes :) Don’t forget to share this information with friends; even if you aren’t currently in the market for new shoes, cheering on innovative, vegan, small businesses is always the right choice!

Krže Studio Crowd Fund SALE!