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Adopting New Outreach Ideas

A special treat for Shelters' Edge readers: Guest blogger and strategist Caryn Ginsberg offers three ways you can think like a business to get better results for animals.

With the magnitude of animal suffering, we need all the help we can get! Many leading humane organizations are looking to a surprising source for assistance – business.

You may have approached businesses for money, products or pro bono help. You can also learn from them! Business marketing can improve your results for adoption, spay/neuter and more. It doesn't take a big budget.

Marketing in Action
Brad Shear worked in restaurants before joining the animal protection field. He understands the importance of the "guest experience," and has made customer service a priority at Mohawk Hudson Humane Society (MHHS) in New York.

Brad has instituted events modeled on retail.  "Feline Fest" offered a half-price promotion on cats when the shelter was flooded with intake. "Feline Fest," "Catlumbus Day" and other creative events capture the public's attention and attract media interest.

During the 2010 $100K Challenge, Brad and his team worked with a local, marketing-savvy law firm and the firm's ad agency. Together they secured new offsite adoption locations and created public service announcements. They even borrowed from the famous “Got Milk?” campaign. Soon their “Got Pets?” roadside signs, like the ones you see for political candidates, were all over New York’s Capital Region.

MHHS adopted out nearly 400 more animals from August to October 2010 compared with the same period in 2009. Brad and his team reached the top ten for lives saved in the Challenge. MHHS was also among the top three finalists for the Community Engagement Award.

More than Advertising
Clever promotion is only one part of marketing. Here are two other ways you can think like a business to get better results for animals:

1. Focus on the bottom line
Successful businesses never lose sight of profits. The animal protection field is increasingly focusing on our bottom line – lives saved. Humane organizations in the ASPCA Partnership program, for example, manage by the numbers. They assess trends for intake, adoptions, return to owner, transfers, spay/neuter and more. Doing so has contributed to the live release of more than 400,000 animals and greater than 465,000 targeted spay/neuters.

These efforts include not just tracking data, but also shifting culture:

We're very clear with new hires and staff that goals are set and they're expected to achieve them.... Our perspective of success is the entire city and the live release rate, so we can only use numbers and large numbers to deem ourselves successful. Of course, we focus on stories for warm and fuzzies and making people feel good, but it's the sheer numbers we report on at volunteer get-togethers, staff lunches and board [meetings].

- Christy Counts, Central Oklahoma Humane Society, ASPCA Partnership agency

2. Target your efforts
Kathy Savesky pioneered marketing in the animal protection field years ago as Executive Director of Peninsula Humane Society in California. The shelter had operated a spay/neuter clinic for 20 years. But intake and euthanasia levels were still high. Kathy saw that cat intake outnumbered dogs. She allocated more clinic slots to cats. She also was among the first to collaborate with local feral cat groups for TNR. Results showed that each feral spay or neuter led to an almost immediate decrease in the number of cats euthanized.

She and her team also targeted areas generating a disproportionate share of puppies. They worked with community centers and churches to invite people to vaccination clinics. Youth groups went door to door with fliers. On event days, PHS personnel talked with people waiting in line. They offered free spay/neuter to those who would sign up for an appointment. Workers were fluent in whatever language predominated in the area. They shared translated materials.

The free Pets for Life Community Outreach Toolkit, from the Humane Society of the United States and PetSmart Charities, provides guidance on how to target communities. It also describes how to engage residents in low-income areas to spay or neuter.

The ASPCA's research on Geographic Information System (GIS) refines targeting. It shows precisely where animals are coming from for intake and spay/neuter surgeries, even by breed. Shelter leaders can then deploy resources to where they can do the most to save lives.

Get free help
You can learn other powerful ways to borrow from business. Join us for the upcoming, two-part webinar series, Influence Secrets for Animal Protection. You'll discover how to achieve the results that you and the animals deserve.

Power up Your Outreach: How to Get Better Results from Your Time, Money, and Energy
Tuesday, July 17, 3-4pm ET.
Register here

What You Don't Know CAN Hurt You: Using Research to Avoid Wasting Your Precious Dollars (and Time and Energy!)
Monday, July 23, 3-4pm ET
Register here

Caryn Ginsberg has more than ten years experience using business strategy and marketing to help animal protection organizations get better results. She is the author of Animal Impact: Secrets Proven to Achieve Results and Move the World.

Related links:
Webinar series: Influence Secrets for Animal Protection
“Prepare for Impact”
Pets for Life Community Outreach Toolkit