Note: If you missed Part 1 of this interview or you have yet to meet Ann Brownell, read this first. Part 2 is below. My questions are in bold and everything in italics was written by Ann.
6. You frequently contribute to the blog’s Open Threads, both to promote UPAWS and to encourage readers to find out about what’s happening at their local shelter. Why do you feel it’s important to maintain an active presence online?
Having an active online presence is essential, especially nowadays. People are used to finding things fast, they look on the internet for most everything, including when they are looking to add a furry friend to their family. Shelters have websites that feature pets and all the things happening, as well as a donation button. An active Facebook and Twitter page are also very important. Having your pets seen on Petfider.com and as many other online adoption sites is very important. UPAWS uses the Pet Adoption Portal by Rescuegroups.org. With one entry, your pets will load into numerous sites. All no cost!
Communicating every single day with your online community is vital! You must remind them that you are there. Don’t let the public forget about you. Every day UPAWS posts online a few times. Whether it’s a promotion (UPAWS runs many), plea, pet to promote, fundraiser, update on who was adopted (done daily), stray pets posting or to thank our supporters – we are active online every single day. Please note, always thank your supporters, volunteers, adopters, community, the media, and fans, daily! Yes, every day if possible. It is that important!
7. How do you avoid becoming lost in the endless stream of individual animals and shelters in need with your online pleas?
The way we don’t get lost or ignored is that UPAWS does not ask constantly. We are not every other week asking for a special plea for a pet. We feel that eventually will be like crying wolf. We ask maybe a few times a year. When we do ask, we are an open book, honest and true to that animal that needs help. Also our community knows UPAWS is doing everything possible to help that pet (all are pets). They also know that when they give a donation for a special needs pet, we are using it for that pet and other emergency pets in need.
We make it easy for them to donate by using our Firstgiving site. We set a goal of what amount we need and the Firstgving bar will show the progress. People love that and love to help!
Let me share a heartwarming example. This plea for Buddy Holly was put on our Facebook page and website at 10pm on New Year’s Eve. Within 13 hours we had surpassed the $800 needed by over $400!
Also please keep the public actively involved by thanking them and posting photos and updates.
8. In addition to maintaining an online presence, what other ways do you connect with the community on behalf of UPAWS?
UPAWS has a variety of ways. PSA’s to all our local radio stations, newspapers and TV stations whenever we have something to promote, we have a Pet of the Week on one radio station, Mon. – Fri. one of our local TV stations features a rotation of shelter pets from the area, UPAWS has a pet for adoption featured every Thursday on another TV station. We are featured each Wednesday on the Pet Page of a local newspaper – this paper features pets whose ads are sponsored by caring individuals and 3 other UPAWS pets (sponsored by the newspaper itself) as well as whatever else we send to feature that week, which may be a fundraiser, promotion, thank you or event such as our Spay/Neuter offers.
One local radio station DJ is a huge supporter and she has a Mon – Fri UPAWS featured segment which is sponsored by a local vet.
We use flyers for adoption promotions, fundraisers, events, Spay/Neuter offers and pets for adoption and those are posted throughout the community. Our 12 page Pet Gazette newsletter is mailed 3 times a year to 4000 supporters and another 1000 are distributed around the community and at the shelter.
Our manager has an online newsletter that she sends out once a month. Our President and Manager produce a UPAWS direct solicitation letter in color that is sent 3 times a year.
A local Mall has a special area where we have a 6 foot three sided wooden kiosk that has photos of our pets, newsletters, flyers etc.
We will ask to have features in our newspaper, radio and TV stations all the time to promote whatever we have going on. Our local media and community are amazing and very supportive.
BTW, the majority of these things cost UPAWS nothing. Of course the printing of the newsletters and mailers cost money, but please remember, these bring in donations, adopters and supporters too.
9. UPAWS sometimes runs promotions for things unrelated to pet adoption – e.g. nail trim specials. What benefits are there in getting people to visit the shelter for these types of events?
There are many benefits such as not only offering the public a great service but to bring them into your open, inviting shelter to adopt, foster, volunteer or donate or just to say hello and visit. If they are not familiar with your shelter or programs, it is a great way to introduce them to your services, programs and pets. All good things!
10. There are many elements to the No Kill Equation and each aspect plays an important role in a no kill shelter’s success. That said, for those shelters wanting to do better but not prepared to implement all the programs of the No Kill Equation today, can you recommend some no cost improvements that could be immediately made by a volunteer and would likely result in increased lifesaving?
If you are one person, or one volunteer and you would like to make a lifesaving impact, approach your shelter and offer to take the photos and/or write the bios of their pets for adoption. Ask them to let you load them onto their website or other sites they have for adopted pets. Be consistent. Use these tips and you will be on your way to saving lives.
Shelters can contact the local media, TV, radio and newspapers. Fax or email them PSA’s (Public Service Announcements) about certain pets or what positive things are happening at your shelter. The media is looking for upbeat and positive news! Plus who doesn’t love a great looking, happy pet for adoption. And it is free!
Put together a great looking Facebook page for your shelter. Update it every day with good news, positive things. Ask your fans to share and help. People want to help and they will if you ask them in a positive manner.
Wish list drives – our manager implemented Wish List drives during the warm months. She asks local grocery stores or other stores like Wal-Mart and pet supply stores if we can have volunteers outside their store on a certain day to collect Wish List items. We advertise on our website and Facebook. Not only do we get lots of wish list donations but we also get a lot of cash donations (so be prepared and have canisters at your drives). It is a win-win proposition because the shelter gets needed supplies and the hosting retailer gets business from the sales supporting the drive. Plus, they get public recognition from the big thank you I know you will be giving them through social media, your web page, and newsletter!
Have an Open House. Or offer $5 nail trims to the public.
Ask some local businesses to donate some pop and baked goods. Run an awesome discount adoption promotion at the same time. Advertise with those free PSA’s. Watch the public come!
TechSoup is a great resource for non-profits to get low cost programs and software for their shelter.
And don’t forget that smiles, thank yous, and a welcoming atmosphere are all free and come with life-saving dividends. Visitors who are treated with respect, compassion, and kindness will become your adopters, donors, volunteers, and good will ambassadors in your community.
Above all, spread the good word and always be positive about what your shelter is doing.
Thank you Ann for providing these informative, detailed answers and for sharing your wonderful shelter pet photos.
I’d like to interview more people like Ann. If you know a shelter employee, volunteer or advocate who does an extraordinary job advocating for shelter animals, please e-mail me their contact information if you think they might have time to answer some questions about what they do.