Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Finding Foster Homes & Raising Funds

Former foster kitten, Sir Pounce. 

Lately, I have noticed several of my friends within the animal rescue community asking the same question, "How can we raise more awareness, gain more support and find more foster homes for the rescue pets in our care?"

It's not an easy question to answer and of course there are no fool-proof methods of gaining the support needed to run a successful non-profit. It seems to me, at least in the Austin area, new animal charities are popping up weekly. While this is incredible news for our community pets, the challenge to raise the funds needed and have volunteer support can feel like a never ending battle.

Just this week, two rescues that I adore have considered closing intake to new animals due to a lack of foster families in the area. This is not a problem unique to Austin. Animal rescues and shelters across the nation work hard to establish a strong group of foster families. Not only does this allow the rescues to care for more animals, but it allows the animals a chance to decompress from a stressful life in a kennel. It helps the animals show their true personalities and in turn, the rescues are able to place them in permanent homes that are a good fit.

As a foster parent to kittens and the occasional dog over the past decade, I took a moment to think about why I decided to foster and how the rescues I worked with gained my trust as a supporter. 

Foster cat, Prade and her 5 kittens.
The number one reason I chose to foster with the groups I have is simple; I was made to feel appreciated and valued. Fostering is not an easy task. It takes an emotional as well as physical commitment to open your heart and home to a pet relationship that has an expiration date. While you know the animal is going off to a great life, there is a piece of you that goes with them and while so rewarding, it takes a special and strong love to say that goodbye. (Of course, then there is the next pet that you get to save).

Number two; the rescue reached out to me. I would never have known about several of the rescues that I have worked with over the years without their involvement. Many rescues are not utilizing the resources they have at their disposal. Social media, while free and a great outlet has changed and many rescues are not taking the time to change with it. Facebook for example reaches maybe 10% of your social audience with a single post. How can you work around that as a charity? Raise funds specifically for advertising purposes. Ask your supporters or former adopters to sponsor an ad. Reach out to local businesses that may offer incentives to employees who choose to foster or ask them to sponsor a social media or newspaper ad (offer to include their logo in the ad). Reach out to your local media outlets. Newspapers, News Stations and Radio Stations are always on the search for the next feel good story (although sometimes it doesn't seem that way). Ask them to run a story about your rescue and the animals you have saved. Don't give up, many news outlets simply brush by when they are not in need of time fillers, keep sending press releases in and follow up to ask for a story. It may take some time to hear back, but persistence is key! Small, local community newspapers are often a great way to reach your specific community. Include your current needs and why fostering or supporting your organization is the way to go! 

Henry, currently available for adoption
through Bastrop Animal Rescue
Number three, these organizations made fostering easy and so much fun! I hear time and time again from friends who no longer foster that the rescues did not lay out their expectations up front or made things difficult for the foster families when they needed help. Simply making yourself clear and taking the time to keep in touch with your fosters can make all the difference in retaining volunteers for your organization. Fostering should be a fun experience, don't scare those families away by making it difficult. 

Running a non-profit is never going to be easy, but the positive can vastly outweigh the negative. Rescue work brings out the good in people. Share those happy stories, have your current fosters write up a paragraph or two on why they love fostering with your rescue. Focus on the animals and finding that happy forever home for them.

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art | Owner | Artist

Facebook  |  Instagram