Emergency foster and adoption initiatives can be incredibly powerful tools for getting pets into homes at critical times. Here are six simple steps and prioritizing strategies to engage your community in saving lives. They’ll help you bring fosters and adopters in the door, and get pets out!
1. Implement processes that are proven to work.
In addition to your regular communications with caregivers about pets needing foster:
- Fill all foster homes. Reach out to see if former and inactive fosters are willing to take a pet for a week or two. Volunteers who haven’t previously fostered may also pitch in.
- Fast-track foster onboarding. Automate your process as much as possible, remove barriers, and get volunteer support. Train all staff in how to place pets into foster homes.
- Sweep away ALL barriers. Check out our blog on barrier busting, then do a cold, hard, eagle-eyed look at all your adoption and foster forms and procedures. Get rid of any that put up hurdles to the public doing what you need them to: bringing home the pets in your shelter.
- Create an interdisciplinary task force to oversee your emergency initiative. This group should include leadership, foster staff, and your communications team and they should meet at least once a week.
2. Work your website.
Put your need for fosters front and center. Make sure your website communicates urgency, and lets the community know exactly how to help.
Here’s a great example of a website that’s earning its keep, from KC Pet Project:
3. Get the media to spread the word.
Alert local media. Communicate with local media outlets as quickly as possible, via news releases, or even emails, texts, and calls. Keep the media updated during the emergency. Thank them for helping you save lives.
Our blog on emergency messaging has great tips on news releases that get attention. Watch this space for more blogs on that topic, that are coming.
4. Boost your social media effectiveness.
Create a multi-day social media campaign. In addition to following this recruitment and messaging plan, create daily (or more) posts over a period of three to seven days. Boost these posts, if possible.
🚨🚨🚨 Don’t be afraid to use emojis to get the point across. 🚨🚨🚨
Follow the tips in this blog on using social media to get adopters and fosters, too!
5. Create and display signs.
Make a sign to put in front of the shelter saying you need fosters NOW. Have someone stationed there to sign people up on the spot.
Consider also putting up a sign and or graphic showing how close you are to capacity. Some organizations have created capacity signs with an arrow that points to how full a shelter is on a particular day. Green means ample space. Yellow means tight. Red means at capacity. You can also add purple to mean above capacity.
6. Ask fosters and volunteers to help recruit more fosters and spread awareness.
Send out an emergency foster plea. You can use this template. Ask fosters and volunteers to post on Craigslist, Nextdoor, and other neighborhood groups, in addition to reaching out more directly to people they know.
Call in reinforcements. Ask your volunteer coordinator to head up an emergency task force of volunteers to help with emergency administrative tasks and get word out about the crisis.