One of the reasons I love my work is that I get to meet dedicated nonprofit professionals and volunteers eager to share their stories. They’re also eager to learn how to further their respective organization’s mission in the marketing workshops I teach.
The volunteers and employees from a variety animal rescues and shelters who attended my recent BlogPaws 2014 Conference session, Fundamentals of Nonprofit Marketing: Building Share of Mind & Heart for Your Rescue/Shelter were no exception. These people involved in animal welfare are most passionate and inspiring. While rescues/shelters benefit from showcasing cute and appealing animal images in their marketing and social media outreach (i.e., the “aww … ” factor), they face intense competition from other rescue/shelter groups doing the same. They also run the risk of “wearing out people’s compassion.”
Animal Rescue/Shelter Marketing Challenges
In their efforts to save animals and find them “furever” homes, animal welfare volunteers and employees are challenged with service demands that often exceed their resources. Yet they manage to do what they can to:
- educate the public about animal welfare, including raising awareness of animal abuse
- advocate for spay and neutering
- obtain the necessary support of volunteers, pet foster parents, donors, veterinary assistance, community sponsors and partners
- communicate via social media to support their special events and the important work they do.
Like many nonprofit organizations, animal rescues/shelters strive to maximize their mission with minimal resources. With this mode of operation, marketing is often a casualty — ” Marketing? Who’s got time to do marketing?!” But being a well-kept secret won’t sustain an organization. That’s why building and maintaining brand awareness through marketing needs to be intentional, and it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It starts with understanding that each point of personal and/or media contact between the shelter, its stakeholders, and the market-at-large (e.g., every phone call, shelter visit, special event, email, letter, press release, Tweet, Facebook post, etc.) impacts the public’s perception of that shelter’s brand. Recognizing people’s individual and collective impact on the brand, intentional marketing then focuses on how best to ensure its brand contacts are as positive as possible.
Employees and volunteers who run animal rescues/shelters are already intentional in their commitment to help animals. By marketing intentionally as well, they’ll be able to continue their valuable work.
“Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way.” — John Muir