During the annual awards ceremony of the Georgia Downtown Conference, the Georgia Downtown Association recognized the city of Rome with an Award of Excellence for Best Creative Fundraising Effort for their Downtown Dog Stations.
Nominated by the City of Rome Downtown Development Authority, The Downtown Dog Station Fundraiser was a 2-part fundraiser that came from the desire to have more accessible ways to clean up after dogs downtown. With more than 4 residential units, along with the trails running right through downtown Rome, the need was continuously growing. While many of the downtown businesses are "paws permitted," the idea of finding dog waste along the sidewalks was not as ideal.
This idea started when Megan Otwell noticed someone with a rather large dog using the bathroom in a grassy area by a downtown bank. The person with the dog was dismayed because she did not have any way to clean up the mess. This was not an isolated occurrence. Over the years, staff has seen and helped clean up after many dogs. As a dog owner herself, Megan started to brainstorm ways that could fix this solution.
The first part of the fundraiser was a dog mayor contest. This was inspired by another community’s initiative in Florida. Rome hosted a day for entries, which were $20, and took pictures to do a social media contest to elect a dog mayor and mayor pro-tempore. Not only did this raise funding and awareness, but it also had significant engagement for social media.
Next, Rome created a call for sponsorships. Their goal was to have at least ten throughout downtown, and they ended up with a total of 12, with only the dog mayor and mayor pro-temp stations purchased by the DDA. The dog mayor and mayor pro-tempore have their own dog stations in the heart of downtown at the Rome Town Green.
The sponsorships were instrumental in funding the stations, signage and trash and waste bags. As the River District streetscape is finalized, there are plans to place more on the other side of the river.