These tips were inspired by the ASPCA $100K Challenge, but you can apply them to any large campaign or contest that your agency undertakes. Bottom line—you've got to pull out all the stops.
Start with these strategies that last year's Challenge winner Humane Society of Boulder Valley shared in their webinar, "In It to Win It! $100K Winners Spill Their Secret Sauce."
Massage the Message
You'll be asking your entire crew to go above and beyond, so take time to figure out how to best message this to get your team excited, not overwhelmed, by the journey ahead. "We spent weeks at the management level talking about the trials and tribulations we might face," says Bridget Chesne, HSBV's Director of Shelter Services. Sweet idea: At the kick-off all-staff meeting, they handed out 100 Grand chocolate bars and asked everyone to imagine what if it were real $$!
It's Not Only About the Money (Honest!)
Is there a cash prize involved in your contest? "We wanted to focus on saving more lives, not on the money," explains Chesne. To that end, HSBV set a personal goal for their agency of 1,000 more animals saved during the Challenge. With a counter in the lobby that kept track of animals adopted, staffers were energized by and reminded daily of their progress—with their eyes on the real prize for participating in the ASPCA $100K!
Be a Good Neighbor
Reach out to other shelters in your area to let them know you'll be competing. If they worry that you'll be stealing their business, tell 'em that even after the Challenge, 5 of Boulder's neighbor agencies continued to see an increase in adoptions, thanks to media coverage urging folks to adopt a pet. And P.S., who knows—maybe they'll want to partner with you on transfer programs.
Make It Easy for People to Get Involved
Your supporters want you to be successful—but you gotta tell them how! HSBV's Challenge campaign, "Adopt A Pet Project," carried a message of all that the community can do beyond adopting or volunteering. The website outlined exactly how, from retweeting links to adoptable animals and volunteering to encouraging others to adopt and matching lost pets with their guardians. They even created a template poster for the latter, as well as templates for posters that kids could hang in their classrooms.
Modify Staff Behavior & Practices Before Kick-Off
Have processes and protocols already in place for new programs you'll be launching during the campaign or contest. HSBV designed and trained staff on a streamlined adoptions process in anticipation of the many more matches they'd be making. (They now use iPads, for example, so staff can get into PetPoint for more info when with a client.)
If It's Broke? Don't Fix It
HSBV adjusted their campaign tactics on a daily basis, and actually pulled back on mobile adoptions efforts since they weren't seeing sufficient results and all their business seemed to be onsite at the shelter. "You have to be flexible," says Chesne.
If It's Working? Keep Doing It
HSBV had never offered fee-waived adoptions before the Challenge, but their Free Cat Fridays were such a hit they continued them throughout the contest. Same goes for paying outside veterinarians to do spay/neuter when their clinic wasn't equipped to handle all the extra surgeries.
Your Website = Your Friend
Inspired by fellow competitor Kansas Humane Society, HSBV "Challenge-ized" their website to spotlight contest content, news and images. Did it work? They had 4K visits alone on the Challenge kick-off date 1 and 6K for the last 2 days — very nice indeed, considering an already healthy 45K monthly average.
…or at least make sure that your potential adopters are! HSBV printed up thousands of ½-price adoptions coupons and literally took them everywhere they went in the community. They also set aside advertising dollars to have the coupons stuffed into cable bills. The payoff? An amazing 10% return rate on them!
Support Your Staff
A giant undertaking like a major campaign or contest means a lot of hard work. "There will be staff meltdowns," cautions Connie Howard, HSBV VP, Operations. To keep morale up, managers checked in day to day with employees to stay healthy as a team, held a closing event just for employees at the Challenge's end and gave everyone a paid day off. Also invaluable: sharing media coverage with all staff. "It's so motivating to learn how excited the community is!" adds Chesne.
P.S. Wanna see HSBV's winning campaign in action? Check out these supporting materials:
- Adoption PSAs created pro bono by Vermilion Interactive of Boulder for HSBV during the ASPCA Challenge:
- ASPCA Challenge Video created by HSBV: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5zT5ILQH6I
- Purina One BeyOnd videos filmed in Boulder and featuring HSBV:
Listen to the complete recording of HSBV's webinar for more tips on taking on a big campaign or contest.