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“Free to Good Home, Super Pets, Sleepovers and More”

Animal Welfare Association (AWA)

A $15,000 winner in the 2008 Maddie’s Fund Marketing Competition, submitted by Animal Welfare Association (AWA), Voorhees, N.J.


Biscuit wasnt a special dog. Biscuit hadnt been the victim of abuse. She had all of her limbs and eyes and, although she wasnt keen on other dogs, she wasnt particularly behaviorally challenged. Biscuits problem was that she had been at the shelter, plain, large, ordinary, adult, brown dog that she was, for almost a year. All efforts at promoting her on television and special events got her no leads until Biscuits plight became the focus of the Animal Welfare Associations (AWA) bi-weekly enewsletter with studio quality photos, followed up with an email link to a short video featured on our Web site. Her adoption fee was reduced and she was made available for sleepovers. While many AWA email newsletters are filled with stories of desperate cases and their happy endings, we emphasized that Biscuits case was the most pressing at the shelter with plain, honest language and an attached flyer that our supporters could print out and distribute to help Biscuit get adopted.

The email was one of the most successful emails in our recent history with more than 200 people accessing Biscuits flyer in less than 24 hours. Biscuit was adopted on her second Sleepover. The email and the support Biscuit received represented a dramatic change in adoption strategy for AWA. Through comprehensive, multi-faceted outreach to potential adopters, AWA saw a 31% increase in dog and cat adoptions in less than one years time. Whereas AWA used to send out an occasional email about a specific event, emails are now sent out on a schedule and feature a special animal. The emails have pictures, often taken by volunteer, aspiring professional photographers and even YouTube.com videos, such as a short one we created about Bobbles, a puppy with a neurological condition that impaired his motor skills.

In conjunction with the email promotion, other incentives such as reduced fees have been exceptional motivators as many adopters come to the shelter specifically because they want to save the life of a homeless animal. Free to a Great Home is a program that offers animals older than eight years of age or those who have medical or behavioral conditions that will likely burden an adopter with an additional expense or responsibility to adopt a best friend at no fee. Additionally, discounted adoption fees apply to Super Pets, all animals that have been in the shelter for more than thirty days, and special pricing is used as a marketing tool such as reduced adoption fees for black (or partially black!) animals on Black Friday weekend.

When adopters just arent sure about a particularly challenging animal special pricing or not we offer Sleepovers. Dogs that dont show well in the kennel either from overstimulation or excessive shyness have the opportunity to shine with one-on-one attention in a home environment in what we consider a short-term foster care situation. In the first three months of the program, seven out of eight sleepover dogs were adopted.

For even more challenging cases, we turn to our adoption partners for help. Cares 4 Pets, a not-for-profit animal rescue organization that specializes in Pit Bulls and Bully breeds is an example of that type of partner. With their help and expertise, follow-up care and medical assistance for adopters, Pit Bulls that are housed and adopted through AWA have dedicated and specialized advocates, above and beyond what our organization is able to provide. Cares 4 Pets volunteers assist with home visits, behavior advice and support to ensure that even challenging Bullies will be adopted. In exchange, we offer assistance in return, such as accepting kittens that were saved by a dog rescue or even the use of our spay/neuter clinic for our partner agencys animals. These types of adoption partnerships have saved lives and found homes for many difficult-to- place animals, including nippy small dogs, senior cats with medical issues and shy animals.

One plan of attack simply isnt enough. Our multi-faceted strategy works to recognize each individual animals challenge and overcome it through adopter incentive, adopter support, collaboration and effective marketing. The response to the program has been overwhelming and has allowed many senior and hard-to-place animals to find homes faster.

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