5 Tips to Keep Funds Coming in During Fee-Waived Adoptions
Fee-waived adoptions don’t have to mean profit loss. In fact, strategies like these five tips can mean you’ll not only place more animals into homes, you’ll also keep your agency’s balance sheet in the black.
Offset With Other Fees
Many shelters find they can recoup the costs of fee-waived adoptions by increasing fees for animals who are in high demand, like puppies and kittens. Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) increases adoption fees of kittens from $100 to $125 during fee-waived promotion periods, and other shelters have had success raising adoption fees for popular breeds of adult animals, too.
The extra publicity that typically accompanies fee-waived promotions also creates increased foot traffic, which results in a boost to all adoptions.
For example, during its first fee-waived event, Charleston Animal Society (CAS) saw its overall adoption revenue go up 130% from $1,985 to $4,572 compared to a similar weekend the previous month.
According to fee-waived research conducted at Edmonton Humane Society (EHS), fee-waived adopters were three times more likely to make a donation than other adopters. CAS also found this to be the case, with donations increasing 79% during its first fee-waived weekend.
Especially exciting is the fact that these donations came organically, without a concerted solicitation effort on the part of the agencies. At Wisconsin Humane Society (WHS)—which waives fees as a standard practice for all its adult cats—adopters are given the option to leave a donation of their choosing in honor of their new companions.
Recently one adopter was so delighted with his fee-waived cat that he donated $500 on the spot. The agency also lists the adoption cost for adult cats as "Name Your Own Fee" on its Web site to encourage even more donations.
To further increase donations during fee-waived periods, consider adding a “Fund an adoption now!” donation button on your website that is earmarked for fee-waived adoptions.
If you have a gift shop, you can expect revenue to increase during fee-waived promotions as adopters spend the money they saved on items for their new pet.
Elena Bicker, ARF’s executive director, says fee-waived adopters often spend $40 or more on pet supplies in the shelter's retail store. CAS also reported its gift shop revenue went up 99% during fee-waived periods!
WHS saw a decrease in length of stay for adult fee-waived cats from 14 days to 3.1 days.
Financial sponsors can cover the cost of fee-waived adoptions, and local businesses are a great place to start. For instance, at Jacksonville Humane Society, a corporate sponsor can get his or her name placed on a kennel for a whole year at a certain sponsoring level. Signs acknowledging a company for covering adoption fees mean companies “get their names out in the community in a feel-good way,” notes Amy Pierce, development director.
Individual donors who don’t have room for more pets of their own may be happy to sponsor someone else’s adoption fee to get more pets into homes. To appeal to individual financial sponsors, create a simple flyer and/or shelter bulletin board explaining your fee-waived program and how people can contribute.
Sara Kersey, marketing manager at ARF, recommends that sponsored fee-waived pets still be marketed as free. "Even cats whose adoption fees are sponsored by donors have FREE stamped across their photo on the web, because it really does help them get viewed more often and gives them that little extra push," she says.
Many agencies have had success doing frequent or ongoing fee-waived promotions like WHS and the ASPCA Adoption Center. However, at least to start, consider doing just one fee-waived promotion at which you carefully collect data.
Here are key things you’ll want to track:
Number, type and age of adopted animals
Length of stay
Once you see how fee-waived adoptions affect your shelter’s bottom line, you can make informed decisions about tweaking your promotion.
Fee-waived adoptions often result in a decreased length of stay (LOS) for animals, which means a reduction in operating costs. WHS saw a decrease in LOS for adult fee-waived cats from 14 days to 3.1 days – an 80% reduction in the costs of feeding and caring for those animals!