Takeaways from the 2014 HSUS Animal Care Expo

Last week, I had the wonderful honor of presenting at and attending the 2014 Animal Care Expo put on by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Not only were the sessions I attended engaging and informative, but the location — Daytona Beach, FL — could not have been more welcome after slogging through a rough winter. Finally summer felt close at hand.

I live-tweeted from a couple of the sessions I attended; a summary of those sessions is below.

“Exploring the Potential Impact of Animal Relocation Programs” was presented by my esteemed ASPCA colleague Dr. Emily Weiss, Vice President-Shelter R&D, offering many interesting insights — among them the following:

  • Only 20-30% of dog owners adopt from shelters because they want kinds of dogs that shelters don’t have.
  • In a study of people who had or were getting a dog, nearly 80% said dog variety was important.
  • Also, people most likely to buy from breeders will drive the farthest & wait the longest to choose their dog.
  • 2 years after one community received transpoted shelter dogs, live exits went up & euthanasia rates went down.
  • In the transport-receiving community, only 24% of pups coming in were ill vs. 84% of local pups!
  • Relocated puppies are in much higher demand than relocated adult dogs.
  • Often, there are overlooked local adoption markets who can be reached via mobile adoption vans.
  • To guide efforts to increase live exits, do exit interviews with shelter visitors who do AND don’t adopt.

“How to Succeed in Collaboration Without Losing Your Soul” was of particular interest to me given some of the work I’m involved in…I noted a few points:

  • Even collaboration efforts with rocky beginnings can still ultimately succeed with time to build trust.
  • Collaborations fail if they lack leadership & structure or if members lose motivation.
  • It’s critical for collaborators to understand each other’s differences but focus on commonalities.
  • Collaborations can lose momentum due to misunderstandings, miscommunications, or stagnation.
  • A key ingredient for making government agencies nimble collaborators is persistent advocacy from within.

“Fundraising with Social Media” (this is an abbreviated summary title) was packed with useful tips courtesy of Emily Garman, founder of The Social Animal, a blog I’ve long admired for the wealth of information it brings to animal protection organizations about harnessing the power of social media to address their specific needs. Emily is a fantastic presenter, and it was a delight to finally meet her face to face. Here are some of the helpful nuggets she shared:

  • Make sure your messaging is easily understandable & that you make donating easy & flexible with multiple options.
  • Good photos of animals’ faces are critical, ideally showing animals making direct eye contact with the viewer.
  • Put your org’s name in the photo filename in case the image is separated from surrounding text.
  • Be as specific as possible about why funds are needed, show urgency, & give a contribution deadline.
  • Set a concrete goal you know you can reach & share it publicly; reaching the goal is newsworthy.
  • Keep your e-mail list clean & current, and make it easy for people to sign up for e-newsletters.
  • Always thank donors with a note and also by tagging people & companies that contribute.
  • Asking donors to take an action as part of a timely thank-you works because they are already primed to help.
  • Good videos showing a specific animal, demonstrating credibility (e.g., by featuring remarks from a vet), & focusing on a finite giving timeframe boost fundraising.
  • People can also provide in-kind contributions if you ask for specific supplies you need via a “wishlist.”
  • Good planning is important; set up automated thank-you notes/receipts you can customize.
  • Include options besides PayPal (e.g., Stripe.com & Wufoo) for accepting online donations.
  • Animoto is a helpful video creation tool that includes a royalty-free music library.
  • YouTube clears permission for copyrighted music in videos, usually requiring inclusion of ads.
  • For mobile giving, using your own form is still best.
  • More people use email than any social media platform. MailChimp works well for email marketing.
  • TechSoup & Google for Nonprofits offer significant tech benefits/features for nonprofits.
  • On average, doing 5 Facebook posts per day of quality, shareable content is about the right frequency.
  • The industry-wide average “open rate” for e-mail messages is about 20%.
  • Facebook ads aren’t expensive & let you target specific demographics to boost your “likes.”

“Ingredients for a Successful Grant Application” was a workshop I had the pleasure of co-presenting with Michael Barrett, Vice President-ASPCA Grants. Since I couldn’t live-tweet our bullet points and talk at the same time, here are our slides, which were posted to the 2014 Expo web site.

Next year’s Expo will be held March 30-April 2, 2015 in New Orleans. If you’ve never attended an Expo before, I highly recommend it! It’s an unparalleled learning experience and networking opportunity for our field.

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