When we're deciding on adoption promotions at my organization, there is a lot of butting heads between the marketing team, adoptions manager, shelter operations manager, and executive director. I feel like we don't currently have a lot of strategy behind our promotions, and recently our promotions have not been very successful.
So I'm wondering, how do you all decide what your adoption promotions will be? Specifically, how do you decide:
Any feedback is greatly appreciated!
This is a great question. Following to see what others do .
When we get an idea, I usually go on line and google it to see if other shelters have tried it and what the response has been (I email them). For example, I had heard about "Speed Dating" Adoption events, and googled to see if there were news stories. I received feedback from a shelter that had tried it, and it hadn't been as successful as they had hoped. Has anyone else had experience with "Speed Dating" adoptions?
It for sure will be different for each organization, but for our organization we love adoption events and have run fee-waived adoption events for every species you can imagine...for sure dogs and cats but also mice, guinea pigs, farm pigs, rabbits, horses, goats, etc. To me the strategies that are best are to use your shelter data to identify your trends for the type of animals that you see most frequently and when so you can identify semi-predictable trends when you are most likely to need the most relief and what species/ages to focus on. If you report your data to Shelter Animals Count, you can use your dashboard to help with this. Of course like many shelters you probably feel overwhelmed with all species, all the time, but check that anecdotal knowledge against data trends so you are finding the animals that are most likely to get stuck in care. Those are the animals to focus on. I always recommend fee-waived over reduced fee, but sometimes people worry about fee-waived so an alternative to that is to shift to "pay what you can", which IMHO is the next best choice. If you do want to charge a fee, make it super low, like $5. Some folks worry about doing them too frequently and worry that too much may dilute impact. I think there is some logic to that but to mitigate that concern it's most important to make each event something different. I personally think monthly is the right frequency and change the focus species or age or cost each month. For example, if you did all dogs, then next month do dogs over 1 year one month, the next month should be all dogs over 50# and the next month do "underdogs" (spotlighting the dogs that are stuck in your system the longest) and then you can go back to all dogs again. I also think your best bet is to do a weekend event (sat/sun or fri-sun). The longer your event, the less likely you'll increase your adoptions as most people that reply are going to come on the first day (once someone chooses to participate, they mostly come on the first day to not miss out on the perfect animal). I operate in MA and we have a higher percentage of behaviorally challenged dogs that need more pre/post adoption support so dogs and horses are the only species that we do week long events for and that's just functional based on available personnel. I hope this helps and my only other suggestion is to watch the organizations' social pages that do adoption events frequently and watch what they are doing for inspiration. No one in animal welfare would be upset if you copy their great idea as we all want every shelter to be successful. Feel free to follow our social channels at MSPCA-Angell and I personally watch everything that KC Pet Project does. They kick butt at adoption events and events in general. Good luck - be creative and brave. People want to help you and adoption events really do help stimulate adoptions!
Thank you for the very helpful response!
At my current shelter we have somewhat perfected our approach simply by improving communication between the teams, that is key! Starting with what is the purpose of the promotion, is it to drive adoption numbers because they are down and we need the space to move animals through? If that is the case then we have a short promo (one weekend, maybe) of fee waived or half off or even "name your own price" and depending on what our population is, we might make it specific to what we need to move along, it might be large dogs or it might be cats or it might be just about everybody on the floor. If we have a lot of large dogs and there are a lot more in the pipeline, we might make the adoption promo "50 -50" for $50 over 50lbs or something like that. If we are overwhelmed with cats and adoptions are slow in that area we might do a Two-Fur special to promote adopting two together or even just fee-waive or half off. Its all about the teams communicating together on what the purpose of the promo is and where we are at with staffing and what the adoptions team can handle. The second aspect of adoption promotions is the financial part, which is, can we afford to waive or reduce the fees and for how long. That is where we can get the Development team involved to see if we can get the adoption fees sponsored. For obvious reasons from a development and marketing perspective they would like some lead time to put together a nice promotion and get some sponsorship funds, but there are times when you just have to throw together something quick over a weekend in the hopes to making some space on your adoption floor if you are desperate for that. For those promotions that are quickly thrown together, we have found that pushing on social media is very effective.
Thank you for your response! Quick follow up question: how do you communicate with the other teams? Through email thread, or do you have a meeting (or standing meetings)?
We do have standing bi-weekly meetings with leadership, where a lot of those decisions get made (we call them SuperOps meetings where managers of operations, medical, marketing and other departments gather) but our Director of Ops is also keeping a close eye on the population all the time during rounds and will sometimes have to start a quick email chain with the appropriate decision makers to request that we pull together an "emergency" adoption promo. We try very hard to keep those to a minimum since they are harder on everyone to make successful, but thorough communication of the need, keeping it fun and engaging the team members in a solution to whatever problem we are trying to solve goes a long way in the success rate overall. From the financial standpoint, we sure do love to have the lead time to try and get sponsors for those adoption fees, but there are times when we prioritize the movement of animals out of the shelter over the budget. I will say though that we've had great success even on those fee-waived or reduced fee promotions raising funds simply by asking for donations to cover the costs. Our team members are much more comfortable with asking than ever before!
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