Horse and animal advocates celebrate National Help a Horse Day annually on April 26th. It’s a national celebration founded by the ASPCA to raise awareness for abused and neglected horses across the United States. The ASPCA encourages equine rescues and sanctuaries to join their efforts by hosting an event highlighting horses and the work you do.

Equine Sanctuaries just like yours host Help a Horse Day events each year. Organizing an event is a great way to connect with your local community, increase awareness, and generate more money to aid in your daily mission. We’ve put together a list of necessary tasks to assure your event goes off without a hitch.

  1. Recruit an event planning committee.

Planning an event requires time and as a Director, your time is limited. Recruit volunteers to be part of the Help a Horse Day planning committee. These individuals will be responsible for planning, researching, and keeping you up to date on the event progress. The committee also becomes the go-to group for questions from other volunteers, sponsors, and attendees.

 

Assign each member an important role like sponsors, marketing, contract negotiations, and public relations.

 

  1. Decide on your goal.

Meet with the event planning committee to determine what your goals are for the Help a Horse Day event. Do you want to recruit more volunteers? Do you want to raise money? Do you want to educate community members on certain horses in your care?

 

Each goal requires different types of events and audience members. It is important your committee sets these first to make the rest of the event planning process seamless.

 

  1. Brainstorm event ideas.

What type of event do you want to host? Possible events include tours, mini-education sessions, picnics, or an outdoor dinner and auction. If you’re looking to increase awareness of your mission, hosting mini-classes on what you do paired with tours of the sanctuary will be more valuable than a dinner/auction.

 

  1. Research costs.

Have each committee member contact caterers, rental companies, speakers, and other businesses like DJ’s and photographers for event proposals. It’s a good goal to request two to three proposals from each category so you can compare and make the best choice.

 

  1. Put together a budget.

After you know how much your plan costs, it’s time to put together a budget. Include expenses in the budget as well as sponsorship and fundraising goals associated with the event.

  1. Create a call for sponsors.

A call for sponsors is similar to a donation drive but focused on businesses in your local community. Design three to five options including costs and benefits so businesses can pick one that best matches their budget.

 

  1. Contact your insurance agent.

Call your insurance agent to make sure you have the right insurance coverage in place. Some general liability policies include event coverage while others don’t. If your insurance doesn’t, you can purchase special event insurance to protect your equine sanctuary.

 

  1. Connect with the media.

Create a press release and send to local media channels including news and radio stations. The more press you get, the greater the turnout will be.

 

  1. Advertise on social media.

Get your community excited about the event on social media. Generating a buzz online is the least expensive way to gain awareness and attendees at the event.

 

  1. Show your gratitude.

Share your success and gratitude publicly at the event and after it is complete. Publish how much you raised, how many attendees, and what good will happen at your sanctuary with the support you received.

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.

Volunteers are a valuable asset for animal shelters and rescues. Without them, shelters and rescues would be unable to achieve their mission. In 2013, the IRS released a report stating that 85% of nonprofit organizations are run by volunteers and have no paid staff.  Volunteers are responsible for organizing adoption events, raising funds, and caring for the animals in their animal shelters or rescues. Last week we reviewed the importance of creating and maintaining a volunteer program. One of the prime aspects of that program is to implement a volunteer handbook.

Volunteers differ from paid employees. However, managing volunteers requires a similar skill set.  Employee handbooks are common in both small and large businesses.  Nonprofit animal shelters and rescues need to implement a similar handbook for volunteers.  Here are the two main benefits of a volunteer handbook:

  1. Sets Expectations. A handbook is a tool that defines what is expected of the volunteer during their time at the shelter. It also identifies what the volunteer should expect from the organization in return for their donated time.
  2. Protects the Animal Shelter or Rescue. Creating and identifying clear policies and procedures for your volunteer team minimizes liability. The handbook provides guidelines and rules for how negative circumstances will be handled and offers a no-surprise resolution for both parties.

A hurdle many directors face is how to create a concise and informative volunteer handbook. Here are 7 essential sections to include in your handbook:

  1. What is the story behind your animal shelter or rescue? Tell the story of how you formed. Include your goals, mission, and vision for volunteers to gain a better perspective of who they are serving.
  2. Set expectations for acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Behavior expectations include how volunteers treat one another, the animals, and the public.  Define work expectations in this section as well. Work expectations include the number of volunteer hours, responsibilities, and the appropriate way to take a day of absence.
  3. Policies and procedures for responsibilities are a tremendous help in minimizing potential dangers or disasters. Explain these procedures in detail in the handbook. This assures you each volunteer has the information prior to volunteering.  This is the section you address volunteer training requirements including times and methods of training.
  4. One of the biggest responsibilities of a shelter or rescue is to take in dogs, cats, and other animals that need care. This section reviews the policies for incoming animals and addresses the intake process including standards your shelter or rescue follows.
  5. Rescues or shelters that foster animals need a section on foster home policies and procedures. Often times, foster parents are overlooked as volunteers because they are not at the physical shelter.  They are a vital part of your volunteer team.  The risks and requirements of foster homes differ from other policies and procedures.
  6. Animal adoption is a major part of your operation.  This section identifies the standards and timeframes your animal shelter or rescue follows prior to placing an animal with their forever home.  This section also addresses the requirements of adopting families.  It is important that all volunteers are aware of the expectations so they can help properly place animals.
  7. It is common for volunteer handbooks to include a receipt that the volunteers sign. The signature verifies they read the handbook and are aware of the expectations outlined.

Create a strong volunteer program starts by implementing a volunteer handbook.  Work with your legal counsel to create a handbook that best suits your animal shelter or rescue needs.

 

Animal shelters and rescues have the weight of the helpless animal population on their shoulders.  They find ways and methods to accomplish their significant missions and visions with minimal funding and resources. Animal shelters and rescues rely heavily on the support of donors who provide needed items as well as financial donations.  The last thing they need to add to their daily worries is the risk of a cyber attack that compromises their donor’s confidential information. According to a recent study released by The Global State of Information Security, security incidents increased by 38% and theft of “hard” information rose by 56% in 2015 when compared to 2014.  With the threat of cyber attacks on the rise, it is a real concern for many nonprofit animal shelters and rescues. Implement a cyber security program to protect your donors and your animal shelter or rescue.

Here are eight items to include in your program:

  1. Backup your data. Create a backup of information stored on your computers and server daily. Hackers have the power to compromise your electronic information, making it inaccessible. A backup provides you with an up to date list of your donors and their contact information, simplifying the notification process (a little at least).
  2. Secure physical data. Store physical donor files and confidential information in a locked, fireproof filing cabinet. Allow access to this information on an as-needed basis.  The fewer hands that physically touch the files, the smaller chance they can be misplaced.
  3. Limit the information you collect. A great rule of thumb to implement immediately is “if you don’t need it, don’t ask for it.” The less data you collect from donors, the less information a hacker gains during a breach.
  4. Purge unneeded information. If you have years of donor information stored in a back room at your animal shelter or on discs, it may be time to purge it. Keep only information you need. Often times, older files are stored and forgotten about. Holding onto donor files and information increases your chance of suffering from a breach.
  5. Update computers and software. Update computers and software programs on a consistent basis. Companies release updates and patches to help protect their customers from data breaches.  If updates are left unattended, your risk for a breach increases.  If you are not technology savvy, hire a local IT company to help keep your system up to date and secure.
  6. Use encryption. Use a data or donor collection service that encrypts the information your donors enter. Encryption encodes the information making it only accessible by those authorized to view it.
  7. Train your volunteer staff. Volunteers are a significant help to animal shelters and rescues. They can also be a great risk.  If your volunteer team is not internet or computer intelligent, they may unknowingly download malware or spyware.  Educate them on what is an acceptable use of the organization’s computers and emails.  Make it mandatory that downloads are not acceptable and should be approved by the director.  Phishing schemes are a common hacker specialty. Train your team on these to protect your shelter or rescue.
  8. Purchase cyber liability insurance. Cyber liability insurance is beneficial if it is purchased prior to a cyber breach or theft.  Cyber liability insurance protects your nonprofit animal shelter at the time of the breach by paying defense and settlement costs. The best cyber insurance policies take care of the state required notifications, which can be a long and treacherous task.

Cyber breaches are a serious threat to nonprofits like animal shelters and rescues.  The unfortunate news is hackers are becoming more creative in their schemes, making it difficult for companies to keep information secure.  Implement a cyber security program outlined here to protect your nonprofit animal shelter or rescue.

 

Animal Shelters and rescues attend adoption events as exhibitors to help raise mission awareness and increase adoptions.  Events range from a small open house to a larger event with multiple animal shelters and rescues.  Deciding to attend an event comes with risks. Plan in advance to minimize these risks. Train your volunteer team on how their actions can help protect your animal shelter or rescue. Here are five things your animal shelter needs to know before attending a special event:

  1. Does the event align with your mission? Look at the mission or goal of the event.  Does their goal align with your mission? If the two do not align, the event is not in your best interest.  Attending an event that does not promote your mission, leaves you open to negative publicity or loss of a positive reputation.
  2. Read the contract. Most event organizers require you to comply with rules and an agreement to become an exhibitor. Make sure you read the contract or agreement to determine if you can meet these requirements. Common event guidelines include set-up and tear down times, proof of insurance, vaccine requirements for animals, and expectations for how you present yourself during the event. If you are unable to meet the requirements outlined in the agreement do not register as an exhibitor.  You risk a negative impact to your animal shelter or rescue if you attend and do not follow the guidelines.
  3. What can go wrong? Prior to attending an event, make a list of all the potential risks. Risks include animals getting loose, volunteers not showing, animals injuring attendees or volunteers.  Once you have a list of possibilities, create a proactive plan that identifies how you will minimize the potential for these.  For example, one significant risk is an animal jumping on an attendee and scratching that individual.  A plan to keep that from occurring includes making sure volunteers are assisting the attendees while talking to, petting and playing with the animals.
  4. Choose the right animals. Choosing the right animals to take is a key in minimizing the risk of injury to attendees. Your goal is to increase adoptions by attending the event.  Animals that have just recently entered your care may not be a good fit.  Choose animals that can handle social situations and interaction with strangers.  Animals that are skittish or easily scared have unpredictable behaviors and should remain at the shelter or in their foster home during events.
  5. Choose the right volunteer team. Volunteers who attend the event need to be knowledgeable of your animal shelter or rescue, your mission and how to present themselves during an event. If you choose to send new volunteers, make sure you pair them with an experienced volunteer that understands adoption event logistics and your expectations.

Adoption and special events are a powerful way to educate and involve your community with your shelter.  Follow these steps before attending an event to create a positive experience for all involved.