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There are so many ways that just one person can make a huge difference.

Financial Donations
Pretty much any animal welfare organization will accept financial donations.  In many cases, you are donating to a 501c3 organization, meaning your contribution is probably tax deductible.  (It is always best to check with the organization to see if they are 501c3, and always check with your tax advisor before taking a deduction.)  Most county dog shelters are government run, and therefore contributions are not deductible, but many shelters have a "Friends of the Shelter" program, which is typically a private 501c3 organization that specifically supports the shelter and its animals.
If your community does not have such organizations (which would be pretty rare), consider supporting a state level Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).  Every state has one.  There are also national organizations that you can support, but you will get the most bang for your buck by supporting a local group.
You can check you local phone book, the internet, or this Search Engine to find organizations.

Material Donations

Almost any shelter will have a "wish list" of supplies that it needs.  Most have this posted right on their website.  For those that don't, a quick phone call should give you at least a handful of items they could use.  In any case, it is always a good idea to call in advance to see what is needed the most and to make sure the wish list is accurate.  Some shelters also do not have staff members on site at all times, so it is prudent to call in advance to schedule a drop-off anyway.  These groups are usually looking for basics such as cleaning supplies, toys, food, bedding, newspaper, leashes, etc.  If you previously had a pet and do not plan on getting another, donating used pet supplies (in good condition) may be an option as well. 

Time

For those that are not able to make financial contributions, a donation of time is usually appreciated as well.  All it costs is a few hours of your time and the gas to get there and back.  Most shelters are short on funds and cannot hire staff members, relying on volunteers to keep themselves going.  Most animals at a shelter get very little personal attention simply due to low manpower and a high number of animals.  This can lead to temperment and socialization issues, making successful placement more difficult.  Donating your time to walk a few dogs and play with a few cats can go as far as a financial contribution.  Don't think your time won't make a difference!  The animals will love the attention!

There are so many other things that can be done to help.  Every organization has different needs.  We encourage you to contact your local organizations to see how you can help.  Animals feel many of the same emotions as humans, but are less equipped to deal with them.  They feel loneliness, sadness, fear, and fright.  While many groups try their hardest to make these animals comfortable, living in a shelter is just not a good situation, regardless of the circumstances.  Some extra love will go a long way!

Some resources you can use to find local organizations include the Charitable Organization search engine listed above, petfinder.com, the phone book, the internet, and your local veterinarian offices.