According to the ASPCA, about 6.5 million animal companions enter animal shelters each year, most of them cats and dogs. Animal shelters are consistently underfunded and overcrowded. Managers and employees who run these facilities do this oftentimes thankless work because of their love for animals and their desire to match cute critters with human caretakers.
It’s a tough job, and doubly so without regular funding and promotion. Unfortunately, many people who want a cat or dog don’t know about the animal shelters in their area, exacerbating the difficulties animal shelters face every day. Promotion is the key to connecting pets to future owners, but that often costs money shelters don’t have.
If you’re a manager of an animal shelter or otherwise involved in promoting pet adoption, there are several smart ways you can promote an animal shelter for free so you don’t have to tax your already limited budget.
Social media posting
Social media is one of the best free tools animal shelter managers can take advantage of. Through social media, you can connect to people throughout your local area, announce fundraising campaigns, and much more.
Social media content is particularly important as it allows you to reach out to would-be pet owners through advertisements or announcements of pet adoption days.
Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a fortune on a graphic designer to create a banner or advertisement for a social media announcement or promotional campaign for a pet shelter. Instead, you can use online tools like PosterMyWall, which is a free resource for social media post templates and poster design tools. It’s easy to use and can even schedule social media posts: an extra benefit for busy pet shelter managers.
Creating funding campaigns
Many animal shelter managers have to promote their shelter to get adequate funding, especially since they are frequently strapped for cash. Facebook and other social media platforms can serve as free and efficient platforms to spread the word of your shelter and inspire people to fund your efforts through online portals.
People are usually happy to donate to a good cause, so using Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram to draw attention to your shelter and ask for donations can be more effective than you might think. Post pictures of your shelter and the animals who need adoption now – odds are at least a few folks will be willing to donate, especially during specific times of the year.
Your funding campaigns can be online-based through platforms like Kickstarter, or you can make posters and spread them throughout your town announcing a “donation drive” event or something similar. Either way, don’t be afraid to ask for funding. People might be more generous than you think!
Host a pet adoption event
Many pet shelters are overflowing with animals in need of adoption. Shelters can promote themselves and help lighten their animal load by announcing pet adoption events: special days where you might lower the cost of adoption in exchange for people coming in throughout the day.
Pet adoption events are often more effective than allowing adoption throughout the year. People might become excited about the adoption event and may show up even earlier to adopt a cute puppy or kitten you have on your website before anyone else. Speaking of which…
Improve your website
An online presence is both a key promotional tool for an animal shelter. It serves as an easy way for potential pet adopters to contact you. Your adoption shelter should have a rotating list of animals currently waiting for adoption, along with photos so people can take a look at your cats and dogs before driving down for a visit.
Just posting images on your website can do wonders for increasing engagement and getting people to visit your animal shelter more often.
But how to improve your site? You can use website creation tools and platforms like Squarespace or even pay for some more stylish WordPress themes (if you’re using WordPress, that is). Alternatively, consider hiring a freelance web designer to spruce up your website without completely redoing its layout.
Follow Twitter trends
Social media proves itself to be an excellent free marketing tool once again with hashtags and trending “national” days, such as “National Pet Adoption Day”, and so on.
Humanitarian organizations will often use their own social media platforms to jumpstart hashtag trends and raise awareness of issues like the high number of homeless pets currently in America. You can increase your social media visibility by adopting new hashtags and taking advantage of trending topics.
Say that the Humane Society – one of the largest animal shelter organizations on Twitter – posts a “National Shelter Donation Month” for June. Share the hashtags that they create and repost their announcements. The Humane Society gets far more followers than you, but many of those followers might be directed to your shelter’s Twitter account and business page if you join the hashtag trends they jumpstart.
There’s no shame in jumping on a promotional bandwagon from time to time – it’s just being smart with your budget and energy.
Create instructional YouTube videos
Another easy way to promote your animal shelter without spending a dime is to create instructional YouTube videos. YouTube videos now take up a huge proportion of media consumption in households across America.
You can provide direct value and showcase your expertise to would-be pet adopters if you make instructional YouTube videos about helpful topics like:
- How to clean cats and dogs, especially when they’re young
- When and how much to feed puppies and kittens
- How to train your dog
- And more
These do cost time, of course, and you have to have someone at your animal shelter who knows what they’re doing. But YouTube videos can make your shelter seem more attractive compared to any competitors, especially if there are folks looking for pets who want to adopt from a shelter they see is responsible.
Creating relevant, helpful content is the best way to mark your animal shelter as a well-run, high-quality institution.
Send out reminder emails
You might also consider sending out reminder emails to any former pet adopters or people who come to various fundraising events or pet adoption days.
After you gather the email addresses from people in your area, use PosterMyWall to send email newsletters or announcements to thousands of recipients in just moments. This email marketing feature is totally free for all users, but you can spend a little extra money to reach up to 1 million recipients depending on how many people you want to email.
It’s tough to run an animal shelter if you don’t have adequate funding to make elaborate marketing campaigns or big TV ads. But it is possible to grow your animal shelter without spending a dime if you use your imagination and the right tools online.