Among the greatest challenges for shelters right now is the lack of available foster homes. What most shelters don’t realize is there are a few easy changes you can make today to double or even triple the number of fosters you can bring into your organization. Here’s how:
1. Share a monthly news release asking for fosters.
You can do this whether you’re a municipal shelter or a home-based rescue. If you need the community’s help, the media wants to know! Here are some sample templates you can use.
2. Make foster recruitment part of your daily communications.
The shelters with the largest foster programs are talking about fostering in about 30% of their social media posts—which is more than once, every single day. When we review the social media of the shelters who say they’re struggling to find foster caregivers, they’re most often not talking about fostering, or they’re not talking about it nearly enough.
3. Share the foster sign-up link.
Whenever you mention needing foster caregivers, include a link to the application page so people can sign up on the spot. Give them options. Let them know that they can come in to fill out an application, as well.
4. Engage volunteers.
Ask volunteers and foster caregivers to talk with a friend about fostering, and to put up some fliers around town. Send them your social media length foster plea, along with a couple of cute pics of pets who need foster homes, and ask them to post on Nextdoor and their other social media platforms.
5. Boost foster posts.
Whether your budget is $5 or $500, boosting social media posts about fostering works! You can boost posts about individual animals in need, or a post about the general need for fosters (make sure to include photos of some actual pets who need foster homes). When GreaterGood.org did this at the beginning of the pandemic, they recruited 80,000 potential fosters and about a third of those were willing to foster medium and large dogs!
6. Market the heck out of the pets already in foster.
Make marketing part of your foster caregivers’ regular responsibilities. Ask them to provide updates, photos, and videos on their own social media posts. Have them send you that great content so you can share as well. Make sure to have an easy system for getting those marketing materials online fast!
7. Learn from the shelters doing it well.
Two organizations that really stand out for their incredible foster marketing are Lifeline Animal Project in Atlanta, Georgia, and KC Pet Project in Kansas City, Missouri. Follow them to learn how to get the foster caregivers you need.
In addition to these quick tips, you should also regularly conduct operational and communications audits of your own foster program. The vast majority of foster programs have a dozen or more barriers and other inefficiencies slowing down their process. As a general rule, fostering should be easy, fast, and efficient. If potential foster caregivers have to wait more than a day or two to take home a pet, you’re missing out on a huge number of people who are eager to help!