Many workers and businesses around the world have capitalized on the ability to work from home (WFH) and maintain operations virtually from their personal homes with an internet connection. This has led to a sharp rise in virtual meetings around the world and has changed how we meet as stay-at-home and social distancing orders are in effect as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many non-profit organizations like yours have shifted focus towards social media to spread awareness and campaign for electronic donations from followers, friends, and more. One animal welfare organization has already started going viral in how they have capitalized on the rise in virtual meetings, and your organization may have an opportunity to do the same!

Sweet Farm, an animal sanctuary in Silicon Valley, has marketed the opportunity for workers and corporations who are hosting virtual meetings to invite sanctuary animals in on video conferences and virtual meetings, with Llamas being the most requested meeting attendee. For a charge of $100, workers can request a Llama or other sanctuary animal, as well as a virtual tour, to be video-showcased in a virtual meeting, and that money goes towards funding for Sweet Farm Sanctuary. Guess what? They’ve had over 300 requests!

With this idea in mind, your organization can also jump in on the virtual meeting trend! No matter the size of your organization or the number of animals you have in your care, you can approach this idea from different angles. Here are a few recommendations we have come up with to help give you some ideas on how you can turn this idea into a reality for your organization:

Equine, Exotic, Farm rescues and sanctuaries:

  • Think of the type of animals you have in your care and in your facility. Do you have exotic, wild, or other unique animals? Market those animals on social media, and advertise to followers, friends, and even businesses you know that are utilizing virtual meetings. Market the opportunity for them to get a chance to see some of these animals in their next corporate or personal meeting (hint: Exotics and tigers are BIG talk right now!). Equine and Farm sanctuaries, perhaps think Mr. Ed.
  • Host a virtual tour! Pick a date and decide what the tour will showcase and advertise it as a virtual event that others can sign up for and attend! You can set a specific donation amount as a sign-up fee and emphasize that the money collected from those who attend will be direct donations to the organization or ask attendees to consider donating an individual amount towards the organization. Utilize a popular virtual meeting platform like Zoom, Go-To-Meetings, Google Meet, or another known platform to host your virtual tour. We recommend limiting the tour to a specified number of available spots (between 15-20).
  • Create an electronic flyer that you can use to outline and advertise your campaign to others via email, social media, etc. Make sure to include a brief description of what you are doing and how it works, the animals you have that can be booked to attend a virtual meeting (or what will be seen on the virtual tour), the booking/donation amount for the animal/tour, and contact information for interested parties to book.
  • Want to give attendees the chance to ask specific questions or express topics of interest? Create an online survey to send out to parties that are booked for an animal attendee or tour prior to the virtual event that lets attendees ask questions or express what they are most interested to see/learn, and then cover those inquiries during the event. You can use SurveyMonkey or Google Forms to create your survey!

Rescues, Shelters, TNR, Spay, Neuter, Vaccine Clinics

If your organization falls under this category, there is opportunity for you as well! You can also model your virtual meeting ideas after some of the previously listed ideas. However, here are some recommendations and ideas that may fit your organization more appropriately:

  • Do you have animals that are still up for adoption? Host a virtual adoption event! If you originally had a big adoption event planned for the year that was cancelled, or you are missing out on being able to host frequent adoption events that you normally have, adapt those events to online. You can utilize the virtual meeting platforms that were previously listed to host an event. It is also a good idea to limit the number of attendees (between 15-20). To help raise funds, consider charging a fixed sign-up amount and emphasize that the money goes as a donation directly to your organization, or encourage attendees to consider donating an individual contribution.

Once you and your organization have a plan and have worked out the details of how you want to go virtual with your animals/facility, it is important that you get the word out! Advertise it on social media, pass the idea around to friends and family, and share it with businesses that you know that may be hosting virtual meetings (hint: advertise your idea as a team building activity and as a great way to boost morale and get some smiles!). When the going gets tough, it’s time to go virtual!

These awesome tech applications are for you!

Whether you are working in a well-established, mid-size to large scale facility, or you are just starting out as a small scale animal welfare operation in your community, there is a wide array of digital resources you can take advantage of that can benefit your organization. Your time, resources, and care are crucial to what you do, and balancing these factors can be a challenge. However, there are many reputable technological resources you can utilize to boost your efficiency so you can focus on what matters most. Let’s explore some of these technologies and how they can help you, and we’ll even offer a few suggestions on which ones are worth looking into!

Animal Shelter Management Software (ASM)

If you haven’t already heard of ASM software, then you’ll be delighted to know that it’s a real thing! ASM software/applications are designed specifically for animal shelters, rescues and animal care organizations to help them be more effective and efficient in managing their animal records, resources, donations, volunteers, and more. Perhaps your organization already has such software, which is wonderful! However, technology is always improving, so it doesn’t hurt to evaluate your current software or applications and determine if it is time to search for something new. If you are new to the game or haven’t implemented such software into your organization just yet, then perhaps now is the time! Either way, there are multiple features and questions you should consider when searching for ASM software or applications. Here are some big ones to consider:

  • $ Price $
  • Provided technical support
  • Free trials/demos
  • User interface and ease of use
  • Foster tracking
  • Key features (volunteer management, applications, animal record management, etc.)
  • Data security and privacy
  • Number of users allowed
  • Mobile application/integration

One other important consideration to factor into your search for ASM software is if the software fits the size of your organization. If you are a small, home based foster program, or don’t have a physical location, then ASM software may not be a viable investment for you. Simple computer applications like Microsoft’s Office 365 Suite may be a better alternative in this case. On the other hand, if you are a mid-size to large scale organization with multiple people, animals, and records to keep track of then ASM software will serve you well! Capterra is a software search engine that has a list of the “best” or “top” rated ASM software programs that you can check out. A few good programs we recommend checking out are ShelterLuv, Animal Shelter Manager, and Shelter Pro.

Donation & Fundraising Tools

Although ASM software is great for helping manage your on-site animal care services and other aspects of your organization, it may lack some more specialized features when it comes to managing your resources like donations or fundraising. But don’t worry, there are some well-known donation and fundraising platforms that you can use to your advantage. Crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe have become an increasingly popular fundraising platform for nonprofits, personal campaigns, and more. Crowdfunding sites tend to be campaign or goal specific, which means that fundraising campaigns set up on these sites (like GoFundMe) are set to raise funds for a specific short-term goal or need, and are not made to be a permanent fundraising effort. For example, if you want to set up a campaign that asks for donations for a specific animal that has some outstanding vet bills, then crowdfunding is a more “targeted” approach to raising funds for that specific animal. However, it is not a long-term fundraising fix. For that, you need a more established and easily manageable donation system.

A lot of organizations utilize PayPal to send and receive donations. It is perhaps the most common and user-friendly money exchange/payment platform that integrates well with websites, bank accounts, and other applications for a seamless process. PayPal even offers discounted transaction rates for registered 501(c)(3) organizations and no hidden fees. However, one beneficial feature that PayPal lacks is the full management of donations. DonorBox is an amazing donation platform does a lot of the heavy lifting for you when it comes to collecting and managing donations. From donor management, donation form creation, website and third-party software integration, and tons of other amazing features, DonorBox should be highly considered by rescues, shelters, sanctuaries, and animal welfare organizations of all kinds. What makes it even better is that it doesn’t charge a platform fee if your organization collects less than $1000 a month in donations. After that amount, there’s a 1.5% platform fee. Of course, there are the processing fees that come along with payment transactions, but nothing that will break the bank (you can view DonorBox’s transaction fees and rates on their website). To find out more, go check out their features page to see how DonorBox can help you optimize your donation management!

We want your animal welfare organization to be as efficient and successful as can be in carrying out your mission to save, care for, and love as many animals as possible, these technologies are meant to help you do just that. Give them a look and see what they can help you achieve for your organization!