The funds and awareness raised by this year’s Giving Day for Apes—Tuesday, October 13—are more needed than ever for the 35+ ape sanctuaries and rescue centers participating in the event.

The COVID-19 pandemic has strained budgets and operations for facilities like these, which provide rehabilitation and long-term care to bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and gibbons who have been displaced from their homes in the wild by human activity; injured or orphaned by the illegal wildlife trade or bushmeat poaching; or retired from forced work in entertainment or medical research.

Because of the coronavirus, these places of refuge for great and small apes have closed their gates to visitors for the safety of humans and nonhumans alike, and some have operated with a small staff of only the most essential workers. Travel bans and closed borders have put international volunteer and internship programs on hold, resulting in loss of both revenue and additional human resources.

A chimpanzee sitting in a tree and a graphic reading, 'Join us in supporting more than 30 ape sanctuaries in Africa, Asia and North America.'

“Sanctuaries must be able to respond to dynamic environments and need capacity to cultivate diverse funding sources,” says Linda May, Arcus’ Captive Apes Program Director. “Giving Day for Apes continues to be a platform to build capacity in digital engagement to reach new supporters in these challenging times.”

Apes Get Their Day
Giving Day for Apes started in 2014, when Arcus Foundation piloted a 24-hour fundraising event to help African sanctuaries and rescue centers build capacity and hone social media fundraising skills. The following year, Arcus tested the event for ape sanctuaries in North America. In 2016, Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) joined Arcus as a co-presenter.

Through that collaboration, the Giving Day grew in scale and for the first time became a multi-continent event: More than 30 sanctuaries and rescue centers from Africa, Asia, and North America came together in one 24-hour period to present their fundraising campaigns, receive donations, and win prize money. In 2019, with Arcus’ ongoing support, GFAS became the sole presenter of Giving Day for Apes, overseeing the highest performing Giving Day to date, with nearly US$650,000 raised and awarded.

Giving Day for Apes is more than a one-day fundraiser. Preparations begin in early spring, when GFAS works with fundraising platform provider Mightycause to design the year’s website and ready it for participant registration.

Applicants are asked to certify they meet a set of basic terms, the core ethical principles of a “true sanctuary” upon which the GFAS standards are based. These include no commercial trade of animals, no invasive research, and no direct contact between apes and the visiting public. GFAS reviews each registration application and follows up with sanctuaries as needed before final approval.

A Record for Prize Money
Giving Day for Apes provides opportunities not only for donations, but significant monetary prizes. This year, a record amount of prize money is available: $58,000.

An orangutan and the words '30+ ape sanctuaries and rescue centers. 3 continents. $58,000 in prizes.'

Designing the year’s prize structure and schedule is one of the more challenging steps of Giving Day preparation, as this will set the pace of the event and provide opportunities for 30+ organizations across many time zones to compete to win additional funds. Prizes include top finishes on leaderboards, some of which are restricted by continent, as well as concentrated “Power Hours” in which sanctuaries compete by continent to raise the most funds or receive donations from the most unique donors (these can be exciting hours to watch, given the amount of online donor activity, with each “Power Hour” winner receiving a $2,500 prize). Other prizes are randomly awarded at designated times throughout the 24-hour event.

This year, there are new categories of prizes, which are certain to create a new level of excitement and friendly competition. These include a “kick-off” prize at the start of the 24-hour event, and an “end-of-the-night” prize.

Building Capacity for Fundraising Success
Seven years on, the focus of Giving Day for Apes is still capacity building. Participating organizations are offered webinar trainings, guides, and templates to help them design a fundraising campaign. Webinars, presented jointly by GFAS and Mightycause, give guidance about marketing and communications strategies and tactics, and ways to increase the impact of individual giving.

A gibbon climbs a branch.

Last year, the event placed a greater emphasis on seeking and leveraging matching grants—offered by major donors or board members—and the event saw an increase in the number of grants used as well as the amount matched. This year’s webinars have reviewed strategies for email campaigns, donor stewardship and retention, and communications tactics for recruiting peer-to-peer fundraisers to increase fundraising capacity.

“Giving Day for Apes is such a positive annual event—we love it,” says Sue Leary, a GFAS Board member and President of American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS), a Giving Day sponsor. “The best part is that it benefits and energizes all the sanctuaries who do life-saving work for our closest animal cousins.”

Early donations for the day began September 14, and all funds raised will count toward the participating organizations’ fundraising totals and leaderboard placements.

Visit to see participating organizations, read about prizes, and find options to donate or set up a peer-to-peer fundraising page for a sanctuary or rescue center you would like to support. And be sure to check the website throughout the day on October 13, beginning at midnight EDT, when the excitement begins, leaderboard positions shift, and prize announcements are made.