Animals have a knack for capturing the hearts of many, which is why photographing the animals in your care is a crucial step in preparing for adoptions. Potential adopters spend time scouring the Internet looking for the right match for their family. As they scroll through pictures, you want to make sure they stop on your website or social media page and call about one of the dogs or cats you have available. Taking great photos of animals is not always easy because they are unpredictable and don’t always want to “sit and smile” for the camera.

Here are six tips for taking adoption pictures that instill a connection with potential adopters:

  • Avoid using flash.

 

If you use a flash, you’ll notice the animal’s eyes look red or blue in the final shot. Some animals may even be frightened by the flash making the photo session impossible. Instead, find an area with plenty of natural lighting so you don’t have to rely on the camera’s flash.

  • Focus on their eyes.

 

A dog or cat’s eyes speak volumes to potential adopters and are the key to capturing their heart. They tell a lot about the animal without you having to explain anything. If you can’t get them to look at the camera, go to where they are looking or ask for help from other volunteers.

  • Take pictures at their level.

 

The picture should be all about the dog or cat and getting to their level makes it easier to center the frame on them. Don’t forget to take close-ups so the animal is the star of the picture.

  • Show the animal’s personality.

 

Is the dog or cat playful? Or do they prefer to lie in the sun or a quiet place indoors? Try to showcase their personality so the picture paints a story of what potential adopters can expect. If the dog or cat likes to interact with humans, include photos of them playing or laying on the lap of a volunteer.

  • Use treats or toys they like.

 

Trying to persuade a dog or cat to look at you with a less than desirable treat or toy will get you nowhere. Make sure you use their favorites to get the best results.

  • Patience is important.

 

Patience is necessary when it comes to photographing animals. Some sessions will go exactly as planned and others can take some time. If a dog or cat isn’t quite cooperating with your efforts, give them a break by moving on to the next one. Sometimes they may just not be in the mood to interact with you, but they could be later on.

The ASPCA estimates that nearly 6.5 million companion animals enter animal shelters and rescues each year, but only 3.2 million find their forever home.  The rest of the animals either remain in the care of animal welfare organizations or end up being euthanized. The ongoing goal of every animal shelter and rescue is to find a way to increase animal adoptions. The animals in your care deserve to find a home where they will be loved and cared for long-term.

If your shelter or rescue is struggling to increase adoptions, we’ve put together the list below to inspire new ideas, strategies, and techniques.

  1. Focus more on the experience

Too often, individuals looking for pets skip the shelter experience because the idea of seeing so many unwanted animals is heartbreaking. While it is heartbreaking, entering your shelter doesn’t have to leave visitors feeling like that. Make it an energetic and happy environment by adding color, bright lighting, and minimizing clutter.

  1. Paint a pleasant picture

What does your online presence say about your animal shelter or rescue? Are there pictures of animals posted online? Do the animals look like they are living in a happy and well-kept environment? Or, do they paint a different picture? Your website should be inviting and engaging for users and focus on getting them to call or visit your location.

  1. Use social media

If you haven’t created a social media page yet, you are behind in the times. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat are a gift to animal welfare organizations. The best part is they are free! You can post pictures and videos of available animals, and, with the right approach, thousands of potential adopting families can see them and fall in love.

  1. Dress for success

Just like you would dress for success if you were meeting with a significant donor, your animals also need to dress for success. Make sure they are well groomed at all times so it is more difficult for adopters to say no.

  1. Spend time in your community

Don’t hide the animals ready for adoption from the community. Take them out for walks in local parks and to pet-friendly events. By giving community members a chance to meet and see the animals, you spark conversations and build relationships with potential adopters.

  1. Limit the number available for adoption

Sometimes too many choices are overwhelming for those looking to adopt. Depending on the number of animals you take in daily, it may be beneficial to limit the number available for adoption. By limiting the choices, you make the decision easier for adopting families that may have left because the decision was too hard.

  1. Partner with the community

Partnering with the community on awareness projects like this one in Concord, North Carolina, may be what you need to fully educate your local community. Students in Concord created a movement with the help of their teacher to increase adoptions. When children get behind a movement, adults listen.

Animal shelters need daily visitors to adopt animals and continue helping the community. Across the country, animal shelters are struggling to increase the adoption rates. At the same time, families that want adopt are finding it difficult to do so. Shelter volunteers are trained to match animals with the best forever homes and often times their scrutiny makes the adopting family feel not welcome or unwanted.

Create a Welcoming Environment

Stop scaring away potential adopting families with these seven steps.

  1. Do a walkthrough. Schedule a time to walk through your shelter and take note of how it appears to potential adopters. Look for items that may be unappealing to individuals that do not actively work with animals on a daily basis. Clutter, dirt, and things that broken make your shelter look like you don’t care. Adopters are more likely to adopt from an organization that puts effort into their appearance.
  1. “Hire” a mystery adopter. As the director or lead volunteer, it is difficult to gauge exactly how adopters are treated when they contact your shelter. Recruit a mystery adopter to visit your animal shelter and take notes on the overall adoption process. Ask them to specifically update you on how they are treated during the process, if the volunteers are friendly, is the process easy to understand, or is it overwhelming.
  1. Keep it clean. Create a daily, weekly, and monthly cleaning schedule for your volunteers to use. This maintains the overall cleanliness of the shelter while breaking cleaning down into manageable sections that all volunteers can assist with.
  1. Minimize odors. Find a way to minimize odors when guests first walk into the shelter. It is obvious to most visitors that your building will smell like animals, but urine shouldn’t be the first and only thing they smell when they enter.
  1. Use a greeter. Have a volunteer act as a visitor greeter during open hours. Greeters are responsible for acknowledging, welcoming and thanking visitors for stopping by. They can also guide them to the waiting areas or to another volunteer responsible for giving them a tour of the kennels or cat room.
  1. Respond to every message. A common problem in shelters is the lack of time for responding to phone calls, e-mails, and social media messages. Schedule a volunteer to review these messages on a daily basis. They are responsible for screening incoming messages and distributing them to right individual or responding to those they are able to. This helps eliminate the pile up on your desk and makes you shelter standout for response time.
  1. Train volunteers on customer service. Not every volunteer has an understanding of customer service. It is important that you educate and communicate with volunteers on how they are expected to interact with potential adopters. Include role playing time after you review the expectations. Help them create easy to implement scripts from these sessions that make it easy to respond in the moment.

Benefits

Investing the time in creating a welcoming environment for adopting families is beneficial to you, your volunteers, and the animals you care for.

  1. Increased adoptions. Visitors are more willing to adopt when they feel welcomed in your shelter. Adoption rates will increase with consistent implementation of these steps.
  2. Happier volunteers. Volunteers are happy when they know their hard work bettering the animals’ lives.
  3. Increased awareness. As adoptions increase and volunteers show excitement for their work, more members of the community will hear about your shelter and the services you offer. Increased adoptions and donations are a direct result of increased awareness.

Take the time today to review your animal shelter setup. How does it appear to visitors? Use these steps to make improvements and improve your adoption rates.

It is every shelter and rescue’s goal to find as many forever homes as possible for the animals in their care. That is no different during the holiday season. The holidays are a great time to focus on increasing adoptions and making sure their furry friends have a home for the New Year.

It is also a scary time to promote adoptions because not every family thinks through the commitment of adopting a new pet. Those families end up returning the animal to a shelter shortly after the holiday’s end.

Increase adoptions

Here are five ways animal shelters and rescues can increase holiday pet adoptions without risking having the animal returned shortly after.

  1. Increase publicity. Contact local newspapers and magazines to run a story about your animal welfare organization. Ask them to include a history of your shelter or rescue, pictures of animals in need of forever homes, and why it’s a great time to adopt a new family member. Increasing your audience reach during the holiday season educates your community on the benefits of adopting instead of purchasing from a pet store.
  1. Be available. Increase your hours of operation to give more families the chance to visit your shelter. You risk missing out on potential forever families by only being open limited hours during the day. Adding evening and weekend hours opens the doors for more families. Have volunteers available to meet with each family and ask questions that pinpoint whether this is an impromptu or well thought out decision.
  1. Contact those previously interested. Look through applications you received throughout the year to find families that didn’t find a match. Reach out these families to see if they still have an interest and invite them to come and meet the new animals in your care.
  1. Limit the number of animals available. Limiting the number of available animals improves your chances of more adoptions during the holidays. Too many choices are overwhelming makes it difficult for families to make a decision. Often time’s families leave without adding to their family as a result.
  1. Show them in their natural environment. Make sure potential adopters see them in a natural environment that shows their real personality. This gives them a more concise picture of the amount of care and attention the animal needs at home. It helps match the right families with a new pet perfect for their lifestyle.

The holiday season is a great time to promote pet adoptions. Use these ideas to increase awareness and match animals with the right forever homes.

Animals – dogs, cats, rabbits, and horses – are taken in by animal shelters and rescues every day. Often times they come from unfortunate situations. Sometimes they come from amazing homes and families but uncontrollable circumstances arise forcing the family to give the animal up. No matter what their history consists of – they are sure to find comfort and safety in the shelter or rescue. Animal shelters and rescues work hard to find forever homes for these animals. One of the keys to raising awareness and interest in the animals available for adoption is successful marketing.

Marketing
Animal shelters and rescues utilize several marketing strategies to increase organization awareness and capture the attention of potential adopters. Common methods used by successful animal shelters and rescues include:

  • Adoption events
  • Online advertisements
  • Social media posts
  • Fundraisers
  • Open house events
  • Website page highlighting the animals

Getting potential adopters in the door (or on your website) is the first step in any of these techniques. How do you spark their interest? How do you make them fall in love and want to adopt one of your animals? The secret is writing a profile or bio about the animal they can’t ignore.

A bio they can’t refuse
You might not consider yourself a creative writer, but you need to. Utilize these five techniques to write create animal bios that work.

  1. Pull at their heart strings. Grabbing their attention starts with their hearts. In the first few sentences focus on those feelings. When you look at the animal – what do you see in their eyes or facial expression? Excitement, desire for a home, seriousness? Talk about that in your opening remarks. Use this example to guide you: “Roxy is looking for an energetic, fun-loving active family.” Or “Max needs a calm and peaceful home to spend his days relaxing.”
  2. Be honest. Honesty is vital. Make sure your description truly meets the needs of the animal and attracts the right family by telling them the truth.
  3. List the facts (even the negative ones). List facts about the animal – weight, color, and breed. Provide a history including where they came from, likes, needs, and dislikes.
  4. Include a call to action. Tell the potential adopter what steps to take next. Contact your animal shelter, talk to a volunteer, or fill out a volunteer application. They need to know what their next step is and are more likely to take action in the moment.
  5. Include a photo. Always include a photo of the animal – especially if you are listing the bio on the Internet. Pictures provide readers with a “face” and increase their desire to want to meet the animal in person.  Online posts with pictures are more likely to be read and shared by followers. The more individuals that see available animals – the better chance they have of being adopted.

Boost your marketing efforts with better animal bios and profiles. Make it impossible for potential adopters to say no by utilizing these five tips.

Leading or volunteering for an animal shelter or rescue is a rewarding experience. Animal welfare organizations rely on strong leadership, volunteers, donations, and adopting families to be successful. When one of these importance pieces doesn’t exist they struggle to meet goals and deliver their mission and vision. Many animal welfare organizations work diligently to place animals in their forever homes. Adoptions are strongest when shelters and rescues educate and communicate with the adopting families on a continuous basis – even after the adoption occurs.

Ways to Communicate
The most successful animal welfare organizations utilize these seven communication methods and techniques in their adoption process.

Before
Capturing the attention of potential adopters is vital in your adoption success.

  • Announce new arrivals. Sometimes families visit your organization and don’t find the perfect fit for their family. Keep these families engaged after they leave by notifying them of new animals ready to adopt.
  • Utilize social media. Share pictures and stories about the animals in your care on social media. Websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are powerful tools shelters and rescues can use to reach a large audience.

During
Communication during the animal adoption process keeps adopters informed on what step they are at and what comes next.

  • Have a conversation. Don’t rely solely on the adoption application for everything you need to know about an individual who wants to adopt. Talk to them, ask questions, and get to know them. You will have a better understanding of why they want to adopt, what their daily life is like, and what their goals are as a pet parent. This information makes it easier to find a perfect match.
  • Provide updates. Keep them updated on the process by notifying them of any changes or setbacks.

After
Some animal shelters and rescues think the adoption process is complete once the animal is transferred – this is another important time for increased communication.

  • Follow up at seven days. Take time to call adopting families after the animal is in their care for a week. Start by thanking them for adopting. Ask them how the animal is transitioning. Do they have any concerns or questions? Take time to fully answer these questions and they will feel valued and supported by your organization.
  • Touch base at 30 days. Call or e-mail 30 days after the adoption takes place. This check-in is to make sure they don’t have any new concerns with the decision to adopt. It gives them a chance to share positive stories about their new family member.
  • Reach out after a year. Call or e-mail again a year after adoption. This is a great chance to make sure the match is still a good fit for both the family and the cat, dog, or other animal. It gives you a great opportunity to see if they are interested in growing their family with another animal adoption.

Implementation
Successful implementation of these communication methods starts with your volunteers who work directly with the adopting families. Schedule a training session for your volunteers to attend. Review these methods and the benefits (increased number of successful adoptions) your animal shelter or rescue will experience.

Have volunteers actively role play different scenarios and conversations that arise. Provide them with a list of red flag comments to listen for and a positive response. High adoption rates are only positive when they are successful long-term adoptions. Implementing these methods decreases the number of failed adoptions and animals returning to your care at a later date.

Promoting Adoptions

May 13, 2016

With the warmer weather finally arriving, now is the perfect time to get focused on adoption events and promoting adoption of the animals in your animal rescue or shelter.  Animal adoption events are typically the best way to promote adoptions from your shelter or rescue. These types of events paired with a social media marketing campaign and presence are extremely powerful in reaching a broader base of individuals.
Organizing an Adoption Event
The first steps in any successful adoption event are to schedule a goal, date, time, and location.  With this information you can then recruit volunteers and develop committees to focus on the most important aspect of events, including schedule of events, care of the animals involved, marketing, and volunteer schedule.  Each committee and its members can the focus on their section/responsibility to make it the best it can be.
Setting Goals
What is your goal for your non-profit animal shelter or rescue? What is your long-term and short-term goal? Do you have an influx of animals that you need to have adopted out?  Do you need to raise funds for new equipment or a new building? Having this information set it the beginning, gives you a numerical goal to promote and track throughout the event planning and event day.
Date, Time, Location
It may seem like easy information to decide on but often times there is more to consider than what days or times are available on your personal calendar.  It is best to start with two possible dates and times.  Once you have this information, check with local community organizations to see if there are any other events happening that you may be in competition with to decide on a date that offers the best opportunity for participants.  If you have a physical building, you can host your event at home. If you do not have a building, check with local parks or businesses for an opportunity to set up your event in an easy to reach venue.
Committees
Committees help to keep any event running smoothly and are comprised of volunteers from animal shelter or rescue.  Committees allow volunteers to focus on one area of the event and keep the planning organized and efficient.
Promotion
There are multiple ways to advertise your event. You can contact a local radio station for some broadcasting, hang posters, or place an advertisement in the newspaper. The most cost-effective method is usually on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even Snapchat, depending on who your target audience is.  To promote via facebook, you would first start by creating an event on your shelter or rescue page.  From the event you can then invite those that follow your page and encourage them to share and invite their family and friends. Be sure to create a daily post plan to keep potential attendees engaged and excited about what you are offering and promoting at the event.

Promoting Adoptions with No Event
If your animal shelter or rescue is unable to organize or host an event, there is still a great opportunity for you to promote adoptions online.
1. Create a Facebook or Instagram Page. If you do not currently have a page, be sure to create one now.
2. Post pictures of Animals. You can post pictures of animals available for adoption in their current habitat.  Catch them playing, snoozing or cuddling with volunteers.  Be sure to include a summary of the animal’s background and best type of forever home when you post the pictures.
3. Post Videos.  Do you have certain animals that are just made for videos? You know the ones that are always playing around. Catch them live in these moments and share them with your followers who are sure to fall in love as they watch them.
Promoting and increasing adoptions can be accomplished through organized events as well as well as on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.  Once you have decided the path to take, be sure to follow these steps to help increase adoptions in your community.