Learn about living with bears; creating bear smart communities; recreating in bear country; bear safety at work; and managing bears (for wildlife officials).


Fundraising is an essential part of running a successful organization, program or campaign. Without adequate resources, the best laid plans are difficult to implement. To be successful, you must think outside the box. Try to come up with ideas that don’t compete with every other non-profit in town. Be original. Consider the amount of resources expended vs. the potential pay-off.

This guide offers a few suggestions, based on our experience and success rates. In addition, there are many other websites geared specifically to this topic which we invite you to explore.

Educational Product Sales

Get Bear Smart can provide your school or organization with great educational products to sell to help you raise funds for Bear Smart programs. Our products are practical, educational, fun and informative. We provide a generous split of the proceeds in favour of your organization, and in most cases we can furnish you with product on a guaranteed sales basis without any risk.

Playing Cards

Bear Wise Playing Cards: 52 bear safety tips & facts

Playing cards are found in most households and are easy to sell. We carry two versions of Bear Smart playing cards. Both are unique decks of 52 regular playing cards (plus 2 jokers) that you can use to play your favourite card games or create new variations on traditional card games. Ideas for variations on games are included inside. View all the cards.

Bear~ology playing cards contain 52 different cartoons each one giving a different and  fascinating bear fact. They are not just educational, they are hilarious! Bear~ology playing cards are fun for kids, adults and the whole family. You can learn about safety around bears; and discover the truth about bears and bear behavior. View all the cards.
Bear~ology Playing Cards: 52 Fascinating Bear Facts
Get Bear Smart playing cards are a valuable educational tool and they make an ideal gift! The cards retail for $6.99. Your school or bear aware groups can buy the cards for $3.50 each CAD with a minimum order of 10. Shipping costs are additional. The cards come in boxes of 10.

Contact Sea to Sky Photo to order in bulk. Don’t forget to ask for a non-profit discount!

Fee for Service

Many of the services, presentations and educational materials provided by non-profits are very valuable and as such are worthy of charging a fee. Entrance fees can be charged for presentations to the public or a fee for the entire presentation can be charged to businesses or other groups. The fee must sometimes be discounted for other non-profits – use your own judgment here and be reasonable. Ask for a donation towards the cost of educational materials distributed by a business.

Corporate Sponsorship

Local businesses are often willing to sponsor events, pay for publications, buy or subsidize bear-proof bins, or provide prizes for fundraisers. Be sure to acknowledge their support verbally or by using their logo on any printed materials or products sponsored.

Donation Boxes

fundraising collection boxDonation boxes can be placed near cash registers in charity-friendly shops. Retail outlets that incur high cash sales with lots of change are ideal. Gift shops are also a great place for coin boxes as customers are already in the giving mood. Avoid coffee shops where you’re competing with tip jars; or outlets where people mostly use credit cards.

We like to use clear boxes with a compelling photo. People are more likely to give if they can see that others are giving as well. It’s helpful to start the container out with some larger coins or small bills in it.

It’s best to secure coin boxes as much as possible – they are sometimes stolen. If possible, permanently affix them to the counter or use double-sided sticky tape to keep them in place. Put coin boxes in spots that are accessible to customers, but difficult to walk away with. Empty them regularly and especially before they are too enticing to a thief. It is also a good idea to limit the number of volunteers in your organization who can empty the box. Put a sticker on the back that states: “The only persons authorized to empty this container are Nancy Bruin and John Bear. Please check ID.”

Direct Mail

Many organizations must rely in some way on individual donors. Fundraising letters are – by far – the single biggest means used by non-profits to recruit new donors. Time and again, surveys reveal that letters provide the means for the majority of donors to make a first gift or become a member of a non-profit organization. That being said, it’s not easy. There’s lots of competition for donor dollars and very little pay-off at the beginning of any campaign. Acquiring mailing lists is difficult and costly. Response rates – the percentage of people who send gifts – are typically in the range of one-half to two and one-half percent. That makes it tough to break-even on a first-time mail out. Over the long term, however, direct mail campaigns can be beneficial. The goal is to recruit monthly donors and build donor loyalty.

Books: Hidden Gold by Harvey McKinnon, 1999, Bonus Books, Inc. website: www.harveymckinnon.com

Download: Planned Giving: Do’s & Don’ts

Download: Making the Most of Fundraising E-mails

Fundraising Events

There’s never a shortage of great ideas for fundraising events. Keep in mind that fundraisers require intensive volunteer commitment and a huge amount of organization. The return on investment, so to speak, can be quite low when these resources are figured in. Nonetheless, for many non-profits, it’s still the best option. Ideally, it’s best to take part in an already organized event – perhaps offering your volunteer help and then benefiting from the coat check or auction revenue. The Government of Canada has produced a great Guide to Special Events Fundraising, which is available online.


Most nonprofits rely to a greater or lesser extent on grants from foundations. Finding funders is challenging. Grant Connect is a searchable database with detailed information on all Canadian grantmaking foundations, hundreds of corporate community investment programs, government funding programs as well as American foundations that fund Canadian charities. American nonprofits can search for funders here.

Below are a few grant opportunities available to organizations in Canada.

Animal Welfare Foundation of Canada
The Animal Welfare Foundation of Canada works to ensure that human guardians give all animals – wild, domestic, exotic – the care, treatment and protection owed them. It does this by fostering direct services to animals in need, innovative research, and educational programs. For more information on grants see the website.

Community Foundations of Canada
A source to find a community foundation in your area. Community foundations make grants to support a wide range of local initiatives – from health, education and social services to arts, culture, recreation and the environment. Community foundations are only allowed to make grants to qualified donees including registered Canadian charities, registered Canadian amateur athletic associations and Canadian municipalities.

Other Canadian Foundations can be found at Environment Funders Canada.

Online Donation Services

We use CanadaHelps.org to provide our supporters with an easy and secure way to donate money to Get Bear Smart. CanadaHelps is Canada’s only online donation portal that provides access to all of Canada’s 80,000 charities, from national organizations like national cancer charities to smaller groups like local animal shelters and soup kitchens.

CanadaHelps.org provides a cost-effective alternative to setting up their own online donations facilities: there is no set up fee, no annual charges and charities receive immediate notification when a donation is received. Charities are only charged when a donation is actually made, thereby ensuring a charity is not paying for a service that is not being used. Visit www.CanadaHelps.org for more information.

Other Resources

Website: FundRaising Success