Great organizations do big things and make people aware of it. In the business world, companies sell products and services customers love and advertise these facts. Businesses subsequently invest much of their profits to continuously improve these products and services. On the other hand, governments or not for profits run animals shelters and must rely on taxpayer and donor funding as well as volunteer support to help improve the way they do things.
What are some ways successful animal shelters secure the financial and volunteer support they need? How does this differ from the typical high kill shelter?
Do a Great Job
Animal shelters must save lives and inspire the public. Simply put, a shelter must lead by example to obtain public support. Organizations must enthusiastically implement most, if not all, of the no kill equation programs. You can see clear examples of organizations implementing these programs at animal control shelters in Austin, Texas, Kansas City, Missouri, and Lynchburg, Virginia. Thus, great animal shelters must perform at a high level to garner the public support they need.
Share Successes and Challenges from Prior Year
Elite animal shelters provide transparent statistics and summarize performance over the past year. Intake and disposition statistics, which provide specific details on how major types of animals came into and left the shelter, give the public a clear picture of how the organization is doing. In the business world, companies issue financial statements and supplemental disclosures to entice investors to provide funding. Similarly, detailed statistics and supporting commentary give donors and volunteers a reason to support a shelter.
In the upcoming months, many great shelters will voluntarily disclose their full 2016 intake and disposition statistics and also analyze their performance during the year. In general, you will notice several things:
- High and/or sharply increasing live release rates
- Continuous desire to improve with supporting data
- Inspirational tone
However, several elite shelters already provided some of this information for 2016.
Lynchburg Humane Society posted its key 2016 statistics on its Facebook page just nine days into the new year. The shelter’s post was short and contained the following key facts:
- Save rate increased to 96% in 2016 from 94% in 2015
- Shelter took in over 600 more pets than it impounded in the prior year
- Shelter adopted out nearly 800 more dogs in 2016
- Nearly 700 more kids participated in the organization’s programs in 2016
- Shelter saved around 600 animals from other counties and 300 more than in 2015
- Over 1,700 outdoor cats spayed/neutered
- Nearly 6,700 spay/neuter surgeries performed
- A link to donate to the organization
Clearly, the shelter communicates it is doing great things and improving. Simply put, the shelter inspires confidence and makes choosing to donate an easy decision.
KC Pet Project wrote an engaging summary of the organization’s 2016 performance on its web site shortly after the start of 2017. Some of the key takeaways are as follows:
- KC Pet Project quickly transformed a terrible shelter into the nation’s third largest no kill facility several years ago
- The shelter’s live release rate of 95% hit a record high in 2016
- The organization adopted out a record number of animals in 2016 (over 6,200 pets)
- The shelter impounded 4% more animals in 2016
- Dog length of stay decreased by 5 days to 18 days in 2016
- Cat length of stay decreased by 7 days to 41 days during the year
- Over 3,000 animals adopted out at the organization’s off-site adoption centers
- Thousands of pets went to foster homes during the year with over 800 of these animals directly adopted out by the fosters through the shelter’s Adoption Ambassadors program
- Nearly 100 feral cats adopted out as barn/warehouse cats
- Over 1,500 pets received extraordinary levels of care through a special program
- A link to donate to the organization
KC Pet Project clearly made the case it is highly successful and continuously improving. Thus, the shelter inspires animal loving people to donate and volunteer.
Austin Animal Center also shared an excellent summary of its 2016 performance on its web site in early January. The shelter’s communicated the following key messages:
- Shelter achieved a record high 96% live release rate (98% for dogs, 95% for cats)
- Shelter adopted out nearly 8,000 animals and around 500 more pets than it adopted out in the prior year
- Shelter returned nearly 2,800 lost animals to their families and ACOs returned an additional 700 more animals to their homes in the field (i.e. never went to the shelter)
- Around 800 volunteers contributed nearly 54,000 hours during the year (equivalent to 26 full time employees)
- 900 foster families housed 2,500 animals with fosters adopting out 2/3 of the pets themselves
- Fosters contributed nearly 82,000 hours in 2016 which is equivalent to 39 full time employees
- Shelter takes in 17,000 animal a year and typically cares for 900 animals at a time
- Shelter performs more than 5,000 spay/neuter surgeries a year
- Shelter achieved this great success despite severe weather events in the area that increased animal intake
- Shelter will participate in a pilot program to humanely mitigate human-wildlife conflicts
- Shelter started a program to help prison inmates provide care to dogs
- Austin Animal Center will help other shelters develop adult dog foster programs
In addition, Austin Animal Center issued detailed monthly statistical reports throughout the year. These reports provided intake and disposition statistics as well as live release rates by major animal class (i.e. neonatal puppy, neonatal kitten, puppy, kitten, adult dog and adult cat).
Austin Animal Center clearly communicates it performs excellent work, keeps improving, and looks to do even better things. In other words, Austin Animal Center’s message is inspiring and encourages people to support the shelter.
New Jersey Animal Shelters Fail to Follow Successful Formula
Hardly any New Jersey animal control shelters voluntarily disclose full statistics on their web sites and social medial pages and summarize their annual performance. In fact, I only recall a couple of shelters occasionally sharing this information. Instead, the state’s largest animal welfare organization, Associated Humane Societies, routinely posts alleged animal cruelty stories and fundraises off them while killing massive numbers of animals in its Newark shelter. As I’ve stated in a previous blog, these money-grubbing tactics make shelter pets seem like “damaged goods” to the average pet owner and reduce life saving. Additionally, these tactics shift the public’s attention from the shelter’s terrible performance to the alleged cruelty of individual people who are not representative of the public at large. Thus, most New Jersey animal shelters must start disclosing more information about themselves and stop shifting the public’s attention from their performance.
Clearly, the New Jersey animal shelter industry has an open niche for progressive organizations to sweep in and replace the many horrible organizations in the state. Now is the time for animal lovers to form a not for profit to do the great work our animals need. A few people formed KC Pet Project to take over the Kansas City animal control shelter. Within a few months, this new organization turned the facility from a high kill to a no kill shelter. If they can do it, so can you. Follow your dreams and use these successful shelters’ operating models as a guide to fix our failing shelters.