18 Tips for Planning A Big Adoptions Event or Campaign
Guidelines for frequency of meetings and delegating responsibility? Check. Smart ways to ensure you stay on track with your schedule? Check. Ideas for planning an event on a low budget? Check. You, getting your project manager groove on? Check, check and check, thanks to these juicy tips from your colleagues at Austin Pets Alive!, Humane Society of South Mississippi, Irvine Animal Care Center and SpokAnimal C.A.R.E.
On Your Mark, Get Set…Plan!
- The best time to start planning a mega adoptions event? The day you have the idea, says Krystyna Szczechowski, Marketing Specialist at the Humane Society of South Mississippi, second-place finisher and winner of the Southeast region in the 2011 $100K Challenge. “Don’t wait – there are a lot of logistics to work out and you want to make sure you, your staff and all your volunteers know exactly what to do.”
- Several of our contributors recommend starting planning at least 6 months in advance, including Christine Franco, Animal Care Coordinator at the City of Irvine Animal Care Center, a 2010 $100K Challenge contestant and two-time winner of the Subaru “Share the Love” contest, in which shelters team up with local Subaru dealers on adoption events. “I’d suggest beginning one year out for securing sponsorships,” says Franco. “Companies fund at different times throughout the year, so the earlier head start you have on securing sponsors and donations, the better.”
- First item on the agenda: ”Pick a date and start scouring local calendars for conflicting events – and start planning,” says HSSM’s Szczechowski.
- Last item on the agenda: If your event is annual, recap/wrap-up is an important part of next year’s planning: “Not only do we survey our participants at the event, but we also survey our exhibitors,” says IACC’s Franco. “This helps us learn what people liked and what they didn’t like, and also lets us know why they came to the event and how they heard about it – all of which come in handy for future event planning.”
Meetings: When & With Whom
- To stay on track, you’ll want to schedule regular check-ins. To prep for their grant-winning end-of-the-year Subaru “Share the Love” event, SpokAnimal C.A.R.E.‘s planning team “met monthly for the first 4 months of planning, then every two weeks or more often as needed,” says ED Gail Mackie.
- Who should be invited? “We found that when you’re talking about ideas, the more the merrier,” says Szczechowski. “However, when you’re talking about details, LESS is MORE!”
Destination: Planning Committee City
- There’s strength in numbers when planning for a mega adoptions event, as 2011 Challenge $100K grand-prize winner Austin Pets Alive! can tell you. “We have at least 4-5 people working on all the planning for equipment, advertising, getting the animals there, choosing the animals to promote, rallying volunteers, making sure we had enough supplies, etc…,” says APA’s ED, Ellen Jefferson, DVM. ”Of course, you have to have a lot of help the day of the event, but the planning is what makes it go smoothly.”
- Break your planning team into committees. “We had committees for silent auction, volunteers, vendors, food, etc.,” says Franco. “These key people oversaw everything in their section and delegated as necessary. Things go a lot smoother when people ‘own’ their section, rather than having multiple people contribute a little bit to everything.”
Staying on Track
- Use your sharpest communications tools to keep on schedule. At SpokAnimal C.A.R.E., that means “Google docs, shared calendars, regular meetings, email updates and staff meetings.”
- Break up everything that needs to be done and lay it out by deadline, along with the person that will be handling it. Adds Franco, “Something that may fall into ‘Two Months Prior’ is to print event flyers. As one gets closer to the event, that time frame may shift to weeks or even days. And although flyer printing may come two months before the event, one has to think about everything leading up to it, such as flyer design, proofing and printing time.”
- For a larger, longer campaign: “We used email to keep everyone informed of where we were in the $100K Challenge,” says APA’s Dr. Jefferson. “We worked from a set schedule of events and tried to estimate how many animals would need to be adopted from each event. We could use that retrospectively to see how far off track we were.”
- Keep it simple: “The biggest reminder of where we were in the Challenge was our ‘Lives Saved’ banner,” says Szczechowski. “Even though it held NO details about upcoming events or promotions, it held the real truth of where we stood in our fight to save more lives than ever before!”
Nifty & Thrifty
- Always comparison shop! “It is amazing the vast differences in price between companies,” says Franco. “Don’t be afraid to look outside your immediate area. Sometimes that far-away dealer is cheaper, even with shipping.
- Ask and ye just might receive, thanks to these suggestions from IACC:
- Ask the local printer to print flyers for free and in turn receive an in-kind sponsorship.
- Ask vendors for a nonprofit discount.
- Tell vendors what your budget is and ask if they can honor it.
- Utilize the connections of your volunteers. (For example, IACC gets water for events for free because one of their volunteers works for a bottled water company!)
”We’re Not Doing THAT Again…”
- SpokAnimal’s Mackie says they’ll never make the mistake of having too few animals available at the beginning of the event. “Bringing animals in a staggered manner doesn’t work well,” she says. “If the adoptions go quickly, people end up waiting or leaving. Partner with other agencies in the vicinity to have backup animals if you run out.”
- There’s often a (very) bright side: “Working with some municipal shelters that have more disease made it very difficult for us to keep the adoptions flowing,” says Dr. Jefferson, “but we were able to save a lot of animals from those shelters – so even though it was hard, it was worth it to those animals.”
- Experiment to find out what works in your community – it may not be the same for every agency. Case in point: Hosting events on Sundays. “We never see a good turnout on Sundays,” says HSSM. But over at IACC… “We decided to hold our last holiday event on a Saturday, versus Sunday when it’s normally held,” says Franco. “Although we still attracted a fair amount of people, it was not as successful as our Sunday events were. In addition, set up was harder to accomplish on a Friday. We are glad we tried it, but we learned our event is more suited for a Sunday, which is where it will stay.”
What would you add to these planning tips?