Thinking about holding a large-scale adoption event? Choosing where to have it should be at the top of your event-planning checklist.
Consider these tips from your colleagues who've found ways to maximize visibility, safety and comfort for animals and people at their successful large-scale events.
Choose Onsite or Away
Successful mega adoption events can be done both onsite and off. Jennifer Smith, a customer service supervisor for Austin Animal Center in Austin, TX, says her organization sees the value in both options. When weighing pros and cons, she says to keep in mind that "events held at the shelter require fewer resources."
The main purpose of a mega adoption event is to find loving homes for as many animals as possible, but you may have additional goals that can inform your decision about where to hold the event. "If you are looking to increase awareness of your shelter's location, having the event onsite might be your best bet," suggests Amy Shrodes, director of marketing and development for OK Humane in Oklahoma City, OK.
If you’re looking to draw a huge crowd and bring in a lot of collaborative agencies, an offsite location may be best, says Shrodes.
Shelly Simmons, division manager of Greenville County Animal Care in Greenville, SC, prefers onsite adoptions since her shelter allows adopters to look at all animals—even those on stray hold—who mightnot be seen by the public if the event was held offsite.
Are there ordinances or restrictions you need to know about at offsite locations? Susan Cosby, executive director of Animal Care and Control Team of Philadelphia in Philadelphia, PA, suggests checking local and state ordinances as well as any landlord restrictions before choosing a location. In Pennsylvania all dog adoptions must occur on the property of a facility with a kennel license, which makes holding an event in a park or other offsite location a lot of extra work. She also cautions that landlord and/or town regulations may limit the size of tents or pose restrictions based on estimated attendance.
"If you are looking to increase awareness of your shelter's location, having the event onsite might be your best bet."
More questions to consider when deciding on a location:
Can you physically transport all animals and materials that need to be at the offsite location, and then keep them secure?
Can you keep your regular shelter staffed and running properly during an offsite event?
Will the offsite adoption process be different than at the shelter? How will you handle all of the animals' information and vaccination history?
Pick a Great Space
Event organizers agree that the physical space should have certain key elements to accommodate a large number of animals, staff and volunteers, and potential adopters.Ideally, this means the space will include:
Plenty of free parking
Access to Internet, running water and electricity
Enough room so that dogs and cats can be physically separated
Separate rooms/areas for meet-and-greets
A break room stocked with food and beverages—Donna Kincer, development director for Greater Androscoggin Humane Society in Lewiston, ME, says this is a much-needed respite "for when staff and volunteers are feeling overwhelmed"
Look for Easy Access
Foot traffic is one of the top factors to consider when hosting a large-scale event—so make it easy for people to find and get to you.
Misty Valenta, community programs coordinator for Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter in Georgetown, TX, warns not to automatically agree to hold your event at a business just because the people there express an interest in collaborating with you. The business may be counting on you to bring in the foot traffic rather than vice-versa. Valenta says, "We are most successful at events or locations that already have a noted level of foot traffic."
Assuming a business or organization meets the physical needs of your event, Shrodes says to consider what marketing value it can bring to the table. If the business or organization has a large social media following and/or is willing to put advertising dollars toward your event, that will also increase your foot traffic.
Many shelters choose locations with recognizable landmarks nearby. Cosby recommends selecting a location "everyone knows or can find easily on any cellphone map app."
Accessibility to major roads is also important for maximizing crowds. And it's worthwhile to consider the location's access to public transportation since some people—including your volunteers—may need that option.
Consider Multiple Locations
Some shelters find that holding the event at multiple locations increases visibility and accessibility, while other shelters think having multiple sites spreads resources too thin.
"It comes down to available funding, resources and manpower," says Simmons. "If your organization serves a very large area or population where it would be inconvenient for residents to drive to just one location from where they live, multiple locations may make sense."
If you do have multiple locations, Cosby says the key "is to set up each location as its own event with specific people dedicated to each location."
To prevent frustrated adopters, Shrodes emphasizes the importance of communicating to the public which animals will be at which location so community members know where to find the animals they want.
Factor in Safety & Timing
Valenta stresses that it's crucial to keep animals safe and secure at the event, which includes maintaining appropriate housing, temperatures and noise levels. To that end she advises turning down a location with great foot traffic and visibility if it will compromise the safety and security of the animals. That's just what she did when her shelter was invited to a festival where the animals would have been housed next to an amplified stage.
Even a great location can't overcome bad timing. To avoid conflicts, make sure you consider the season (weather and holidays), local construction and conflicting events before scheduling your event.