Dogs Trust: Build­ing an engag­ing sup­port­er expe­ri­ence at Dogs Trust Village’

Exhibited by
Amy Bingham
June 19, 2024
Medium of Communication
Target Audience
Dog owners, dog lovers & community/animal-work related stakeholders
Type of Charity
Dog welfare
Country of Origin
United Kingdom
Date of first appearance

SOFII’s view

Now more than ever, it’s essential to create a memorable supporter experience for your donors. And as you’ll see below, ‘Dogs Trust Village’ is doing just that.

This event also has enviable results when it comes to new donor acquisition – 900 new sponsor dog supporters were recruited at Dogs Trust Villages over a period of two years. Retail and fundraising games at the Villages also generated more than £90,000. There’s really a whole lot to love about this unique event (even over and above the cute dogs!), so keep reading to find out more.

Creator / originator

Community Supporter Experiences Team at Dogs Trust


Since 1891, Dogs Trust has been working for a better future for dogs and the people who love them.

When a dog is in distress, we care for them. When a dog needs a home, we find them a loving family. When an owner needs a helping hand (or paw) or they just can’t cope, we’re ready to step in.

For every dog, for every owner, we aim to be by their side through thick and thin, throughout their lives. The bond they have is special to us. It changes lives, making each day happier and more complete. It is why we believe: A dog is for life.®

Of course, to enable us to do this, we depend on the generosity of supporters – from those who fundraise for us and with us, to those who kindly give donations or leave thoughtful legacies.

Since the pandemic, we have not been able to hold a number of our key fundraising activities at our rehoming centres. We needed to come up with an alternative fundraising and supporter experience to keep the charity at the forefront of people’s minds – so that when they think dog, they think Dogs Trust.

Summary / objectives

We wanted to create an all-encompassing supporter experience to showcase the different elements of our work, reflecting how donations and legacies help us to be there for all dogs – and to ultimately inspire more visitors to help us achieve this.

It was also important for us to reach not only existing supporters, but new supporters, away from our rehoming centres. Therefore, we wanted to create a supporter experience that we could replicate and take out directly to large numbers of dog owners and dog lovers.

We focussed on large-scale dog-community events and considered why dog owners and lovers would be there in the first place, coming up with the following three basic strands: 

1) to share their love of dogs with others
2) to find dog-related services (and merchandise)
3) to be entertained – both owners and their dogs.

Therefore, as well as reflecting our own objectives and enabling us to have meaningful conversations, we wanted to ensure the experience also delivered on all these criteria for our visitors.

As a result, we created a vibrant event set-up, called the ‘Dogs Trust Village’, which can be mobilised and taken to external events across the UK to engage with the dog-loving community.

Special characteristics

Rather than just being a stall space to generate income, the Village aims to help give something more to supporters and cultivate long-term relationships. This includes an enrichment garden, called the ‘Sniffari’. Here, aside from having fun with their own dogs, owners can learn about the importance of enrichment, how we use it within the charity and how they can replicate aspects of it cheaply and easily in their own homes and gardens.

The Village also celebrates rehoming, and we have experienced staff on hand to talk through our rehoming process and share the profiles of some of the dogs currently in our care. We also have some of our dogs visit the events with their canine carers. In addition, we have foster carers attend, so they can discuss the importance and benefits of fostering to both the dog and foster carer. Plus, we also encourage those who have adopted a dog from Dogs Trust to share their experiences with other visitors, highlighting what rescuing a dog has meant to them. Together, the aim is to help inspire potential new adopters of the future.

For those who have never been to a rehoming centre before, the Village offers virtual reality tours, so visitors can see the special facilities we have for our dogs. This is further supported with an invite of a personal face-to-face tour at their local centre at a later date – again, with the hope of helping to develop supporter relationships.

The Village also provides an area for fundraising, with a pop-up merchandise shop, as well as a fun game, like our ‘Wheel of Pawtune’, where visitors can spin a dog-themed wheel to win a corresponding-sized prize (Great Dane, Labrador or Chihuahua).

Alongside the Village, our Dog School colleagues offer taster training sessions, with behaviourists and trainers on hand to speak to dog-owners. Our Education Officers are also available to talk about responsible dog ownership and how to keep children safe around dogs.


Between 2022 and 2023, we took the Dogs Trust Village to 15 external dog-focused events, which attracted more than 188,000 people. This gave us fantastic brand exposure – raising awareness of our work, supporting owners, dogs and dog lovers.

We also have data capture at The Village, where we ask visitors if they would like to sign up to get updates from the charity. In 2023, the Village saw 3,085 new supporters sign up in this way, compared to 2,443 the previous year. We were then able to swiftly follow up these sign-ups and other lines of enquiry, mapping out a plan of future touchpoints to help them on their Dogs Trust journeys.

Although one of the main aims of the Village is to raise awareness of the charity, direct fundraising (of course) plays a part in this and, in 2022 and 2023, we recruited more than 900 new sponsor dog supporters. Retail and fundraising games in the Village also generated more than £90,000.

Meanwhile, our Dogs School colleagues had over 550 sign-ups for their dog training taster sessions last year, which helped to reflect the expert advice and practical training classes they provide throughout the year to owners and their dogs.

We also have great success in rehoming a high number of our Dogs Trust dogs who come to the Village with their carers, who are then subsequently adopted by visitors who’ve been able to meet them. As well, we see an increase in dogs being adopted at the nearest rehoming centres in the weeks that follow an event.


We are always looking to ensure we are using our resources wisely. Therefore, one aspect we are particularly pleased with was repurposing one of our vehicles to become the hub of the Dogs Trust Village.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the vehicle was a Mobile Rehoming Unit, which used to travel around the UK, highlighting some of the dogs from our rehoming centres. When that vehicle was no longer required, the Community Supporter Experiences team took on the vehicle, adapting it so that it now offers seating inside for visitors – like an information hub on wheels.

The set-up of the vehicle means it houses the bulk of leaflets and information needed when out and about, with other things such as a TV (to show rehoming videos), power and storage all inside. So, should a full-scale Dogs Trust Village not be required at an event, we can still offer a Dogs Trust mini-village presence, with the self-contained unit fitting on one vehicle pitch.

Other relevant information

The logistical planning, manning and development of the Village is managed by the Community Supporter Experiences team. At each event, the core team is made up of 7 to 10 officers, whose ‘day jobs’ would otherwise primarily focus on welcoming supporters and holding tours at the rehoming centres, as well as carrying out community talks and visits, cultivating new relationships and nurturing existing ones.

However, the Village sees the Community Supporter Experiences team getting involved in every aspect – from driving the vans and equipment to the various locations, setting up and down the Village accordingly, cleaning all equipment, manning the variety of Village activities and being on hand to have meaningful conversations with visitors. We are also fortunate to have a small number of other staff and volunteers give up their time to sometimes help us in the Village, promoting the wider work of the charity.

Influence / impact

The impact of our Dogs Trust Village has been significant. The Village was borne out of a need to find a way to engage with new and existing supporters following the Covid-19 pandemic. This has led to a high level of engagement with dog lovers and dog owners, many of whom had never come across Dogs Trust or visited a local rehoming centre before.

As well as raising the profile of rehoming a dog, the Village has enabled us to showcase other aspects of our work – from fostering and volunteering, to our work in the community, education and training. It has enabled us to promote services, such as our free Canine Care Card and our free Behaviour Support Line, as well as highlight the importance of kind donations, from in memory to legacies.

As a tangible figure, a total of 5,528 new prospects were signed up at the Villages in 2022 and 2023 - this is vitally important to the charity, as it means we can continue to build on our engagement with new supporters and hopefully steward them to a long-term relationship with Dogs Trust.

IMAGES: © All images courtesy of Dogs Trust

Editor’s Note: A 2021 report from the CIOF Fundraising Convention Online Supporter Insight and Research Track, sponsored by Salesforce, stated ‘great experiences and relationships are reliant on having a clear understanding of supporters, their interests, and preferences’. To learn more about enhancing the supporter experience with insight, click here.

In 2024, Dogs Trust Village was shortlisted for Best Supporter Experience of the Year at the CIOF’s National Fundraising Awards. It’s clear to see why.

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The Dogs Trust Village can be mobilised and taken to external events across the UK to engage with the dog-loving community.
Jade was adopted from our Salisbury rehoming centre, and she paid a visit to our Dogs Trust Village with her new owner.
Runa is just one of the many dogs who enjoy the environmental enrichment of the ‘Sniffari’.
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The Village enables us to have meaningful conversations with supporters, as well as meet up with former Dogs Trust residents, like Ginny and her adopter Richard.
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Dogcilla, the oversized yellow dog, often makes a guest appearance in the Dogs Trust Village
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Wheel of Pawtune – a simple concept but a favourite with Village visitors.
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There isn’t anything better than getting out into the community and meeting former Dogs Trust residents, living their best life – like little Ivy, who was rehomed from Dogs Trust Newbury.
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A Dogs Trust Village team – ready to welcome visitors and their dogs!