When Matt Nelson started the Twitter account @dog_rates in 2015, his goal was to make people smile.
People submit photos of their dogs, and he posts them on the Twitter account (titled WeRateDogs) with funny comments and a “rating” on a scale from one to 10 — but he often awards ratings exceeding the maximum, like “13/10.”
WeRateDogs is a bright spot on the internet for more reasons than one.
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How WeRateDogs Started Making a Difference for Dogs
The team of four behind the account does some real good for the enormous community they’ve created — a community of 9 million followers as of September 2021.
“Within the first year it was pretty clear that the account had some serious influence, and we were trying to figure out a way to give back to the amazing community.”
“Within the first year it was pretty clear that the account had some serious influence, and we were trying to figure out a way to give back to the amazing community,” said Nelson, who’s from the East Coast but lives in Los Angeles now.
It started in 2016 with a family of dogs — three pugs and a yellow lab — that regularly showed up on the account.
Throughout the year the dogs dressed up in costumes for holidays such as Halloween, Christmas, and New Year’s, and the account’s followers bonded with the family. One day the owner reached out and said one of the dogs needed a wheelchair.
Nelson leveraged the community’s power to help out. In under an hour, they raised the $700 needed for the wheelchair through the crowdfunding platform GoFundMe.
“That showed how powerful the account was,” Nelson said. For the rest of 2016, they experimented with how to give back, and since the first week of 2017, the account posts a new GoFundMe every Friday.
WeRateDogs now receives hundreds of GoFundMe submissions and reviews each one. They prioritize rescue dogs and consider each situation on a case-by-case basis, taking into account factors such as the total amount requested and treatment types.
Requests — which range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand — usually get fully funded within just five minutes from the time it’s posted to the account’s millions of followers.
For a community of people who love to celebrate dogs, WeRateDogs followers are eager to jump into action to help out and have now raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for needy dogs.
“This isn't 15 people in my audience coming together with a thousand dollars each,” Nelson said. “It is usually 350 to 700 people donating between $5 and $10 that make up that entire goal.”
In the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, the Louisiana SPCA took immediate action to move animals out of harm's way. WeRateDogs partnered with the nonprofit organization on Twitter and Facebook to help raise funds to support their continued work.
In a follow-up post on Twitter only 5 hours later, Nelson shared that he had gotten word that his community had already raised $20,000.
A 2021 article from CNBC estimated that WeRateDogs has raised more than $1.3 million for dogs in need since it was founded.
Founding The 15/10 Foundation
Nelson has since gone on to found a foundation in November 2021. The 15/10 Foundation will sponsor dogs "whose behavioral or medical needs prevent them from finding their happily ever after."
He describes how in August of 2020, he adopted a 10-year-old German shepherd from a shelter, Doug.
Because of Doug's arthritis, ear infections, and struggles with getting along with other dogs, it's likely that he would not have made it out of the shelter had he not been rescued by Nelson.
Many shelters, in an effort to prioritize their limited space and resources, have to euthanize some dogs — dogs like Doug.
The 15/10 Foundation will work with rescues and shelter liaisons to identify dogs that are seen as less adoptable. And then they'll partner with vets, trainers, and physical therapists "to help them on their journey to their forever home".
They're encouraging We Rate Dogs fans and dog lovers to become members for $5 per month. That $5 donation will help sponsor more shelter dogs through the 15/10 Foundation and create more good dog news. You can also purchase merch from the WeRateDogs store, like their "Tell your dog I said hi" sweatshirt, and have 15% be donated to the 15/10 Foundation.
Using Social Media for Good
For an account that started with the sole purpose of having fun, the fundraising tenet of the account was unexpected, but it brings Nelson — and the community he created — a great sense of satisfaction.
“I made it with the intent of just making people laugh, and I had no idea what it could possibly turn into.”
“I made it with the intent of just making people laugh, and I had no idea what it could possibly turn into,” Nelson said.
“As soon as it became clear that the account had real power — which really wasn't until a year after the account was made — we learned about the community and how they were so willing to help.”
To apply for WeRateDogs' assistance in promoting your dog's fundraising campaign, you can fill out this form.
You can listen to our 2017 Sounds Good podcast episode with Matt Nelson.
A version of this story originally ran in The Animals Edition of the Goodnewspaper in June 2020. The Goodnewspaper is our monthly print newspaper filled with good news.
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