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Welcoming adoption practices on any budget

  • 1.  Welcoming adoption practices on any budget

    Posted 14 days ago

    Animal organizations experience more adopters and more time, thanks to the Open Arm Challenge!

    Adoption applications and requirements are often the first impression a potential adopter gets. During the 2021 Open Arms Challenge, several organizations made changes to its adoption processes and these changes brought about more adopters, foster caregivers and challenged staff to confront and talk about their unconscious biases.

    Animal Harbor, Robust Program winner in Tennessee, made changes to its online application to make it easier to apply, which in turn made it less time consuming for both the applicant and organization to review. As a result, applicants received a response back in one day instead of three. Customer satisfaction was improved and it lowered the staff workload.

    The staff at Animal Harbor did have one concern, and that was how to pronounce the names of its now more diverse applicants. They tackled this worry by being honest and politely asking for the correct pronunciation of their names.

    Animal Harbor exclaimed, "big changes made big changes, without a notice of 'more work' on the staff's behalf."

    Salem Friends of Felines (SFOF) in Oregon pledged to become Roadblock Free through the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary Roadblock Free Program. The Most Effective Use of Open and Welcoming Menu Items winner removed questions regarding income, living arrangements and landlord permission. The SFOF staff have viewed multiple online webinars and podcasts put out by the Best Friends Podcast about inclusivity and touted the episode titled, "We're not perfect, so why do we expect our adopters to be?" as a favorite. "The Open Arms Challenge was instrumental in me obtaining the support I needed from our Board of Directors, to make the changes mentioned above. Prior to this challenge the board did not recognize that there was a need in our organization to be more inclusive and equitable," one SFOF staff member shared.

    Veterinary checks, landlord checks and age limits are no more at Hands and Feet Pet Advocates in Tennessee. Previously, the organization only adopted between the ages of 24 and 70. Thanks to this change, one of their 19-year-old adopters is now one of its most reliable foster homes. What's more, the winner of Most Effective Use of Open and Welcoming Menu Items, reached out to its senior community and gained six foster homes from people over the age of 70!

    Beautiful Together in North Carolina said goodbye to questions it wasn't using and removed questions that created barriers. Now, the focus is on the most important information required to review the application. The winner of Robust Program shared, "We now call our adoption applicants first, after they apply, to talk about what they are looking for in a pet and get to know them through that conversation. Previously, we would check all references and call their vet reference before sending an email correspondence to the applicant, and now we do that after we have spoken with the applicant or concurrent to speaking to the applicant." Now, reviews of applications are completed in five minutes, resulting in less frustration by the adopter since a response is received so quickly. "This has made a huge difference in the number of applications we are able to process and has broadened our adoption base as we have eliminated questions that could cause unconscious bias with our adoption team," they shared.

    Naturally, some staff were a little leery of making these changes. One organization shared, "Everyone's heart is in the right place, but it was initially more of a challenge for us to challenge the way we processed an adoption than I expected." The resources and support of the Challenge guided the organization to examine its practices and agree on a way forward. 

    Baywater Animal Rescue in Maryland was surprised at all the feelings that were involved in making these changes. Realizing that the organization isn't being as inclusive as it could be is tough. "Making these super small, but significant changes has increased staff satisfaction - they know we are truly helping pets and the community. It has brought in new funding opportunities," the winner Most Effective Use of Open and Welcoming Menu Items shared.

    Hope Animal Rescue in North Carolina, winner of Most Effective Use of Open and Welcoming Menu Items, shared that many of its adoption leadership team members do not miss the questions removed. One member said, "I think I had been previously creating stories in my head about people, mainly based on their age and household size... [I] haven't missed knowing some of the age and household info, which I think has helped to not put adopters into buckets."


    wendy frink
    Marketing Communications Specialist
    Maddie's Fund