Does the below sound like you sometimes?
- You’ve had a cat in your care for over 3 months. The cat is perfect in many ways (gets along with everyone, friendly, and personable) yet isn’t getting adopted
- You just took in a dog that is sweet as can be but she has a serious injury to her jaw, making her look a little ‘funny’...as a result, she’s been with her foster for over 6 months and you know that if she didn’t have the injury, she’d be adopted by now
Every rescuer we talk to has experienced cases like this - sometimes more than a few at a time.
The truth is, some animals just take longer to get adopted even if they are perfect (kind of like how some of us here used to never be able to get a date to save our lives! ). Every person - and animal - has its time, if you will. But there are a few ways you can be proactive and try to minimize the waiting game, without comprising on a perfect match for your animal.
Drawing on tons of conversations with animal rescuers and hundreds of hours spent on rescue website, we'll tackle 2 themes related to this topic: profiles and ad campaigns.
In this article we'll cover ways to optimize each animal’s online profile and in our next post we'll focus on how your rescue can plan and conduct fun, innovative ad campaigns for all your animals at the same time. Let's dive in!
Optimizing an animal's profile
Rescue profiles are without a doubt perhaps one of the most important elements of the adoption process and can often make or break whether someone chooses to adopt the animal in your care. It may sound silly but sometimes a simple language difference (calling an animal ‘high-energy’ versus ‘loves to go on long runs”) can make all the difference.
So how do you ensure your approach to writing animal profile's is modern, motivating and likely to work?
1. Don't underestimate the first sentence. With attention spans shrinking by the second, you need to catch people's interest quickly and maintain it. If you spent 5 minutes writing each animal's profile, you should spend up to 4 of those minutes getting that first sentence right. Yes, it's that important!
Exclamations or all caps can work great as a catchy headline, as can posing a question to people reading the profile. Writing the profile from the perspective of the animal is another great way to change it up. 2 examples we love come from the DFW Pug Rescue (which former co-workers and pug-fans of ours used to read on their lunch time because they found the profiles so entertaining!)
2. Don’t shoot yourself in the paw by revealing every single detail about the animal's issues (save those convos for 1-1s with potential adopters) but at the same time be mindful not to sugar-coat things too much. For instance, if the animal has specific requirements for a living situation, keep an enthusiastic tone rather than a serious or negative tone. Does the animal not like kids? That’s OK, but frame it as ‘will thrive in a home with just adults’ versus ‘not meant for a home with kids’...which can appear a little harsh.
A GREAT example comes from the Humane Society of Silicon Valley, which totally owned the personality of a dog named Eddie the Terrible
3. Don’t repeat obvious facts. We don’t know any rescues that adopt out animals that aren’t UTD on their shots or aren’t yet spayed/neutered. If you already state that you do this for all your animals (perhaps somewhere on the main page of your website?) then why repeat it in the profile? Remember, you have limited real-estate to grab people's attention so every word counts
4. Spend the time to do it right. OK, OK we know rescuers don’t have a ton of time but good profiles DO take time (at least 10 minutes a profile). Think of it this way - if someone has invested the time to find your rescue and look at all the animals you have for adoption, but decides your rescue animals are not a good fit simply because the profiles aren’t good, chances are they aren’t going to come back.
So taking the time to get it right the first time can ultimately mean a faster home for animals in your care AND lower costs for you (since every day an animal is in your care costs time, $ and the ability to save more animals)
5. Provide a clear call to action at the end. Congrats! You've written a strong profile that a potential foster/adopter has read through to the end, now DON'T LOSE THEM! Make it easy for them to figure out what to do next (whether that's 'APPLY NOW' or 'EMAIL FOR MORE INFO'). Whatever your approach is, your goal is to minimize the friction between when they read the profile and when they apply to help the animal
6. Do your best to secure good photos of the animal. Don't underestimate the power of graphic design or photography interns at local colleges or professionals who might have a soft spot to help out rescue animals for school credit or free of charge. If you can, consider hosting a monthly meet-up of all your fosters in a public place so your volunteer photographer (or yourself) can take a bunch of pictures all at once.
And if you can’t get a good photograph right now but think you will in the future it’s better to put up a placeholder stating something like, “most adorable photo you’ll ever see coming soon” and wait until you have it versus posting a photo that is low quality simply to fill the space
7. Get testimonials from fosters. This is probably impossible but we’re putting it out there in case you just haven’t tried :) Quotes and stories from people with direct experience handling the animal can go a long way, and provide a level of objectivity about the animal that you, as the rescuer, may not have
So let's put all these tips together and see what it could look in action, doing a before and after of a dog called Buddy. Here’s what Buddy’s profile looks like today.
We set the clock for 10 minutes and in that time came up with an entirely different profile:
So as we hopefully convince you of, with just a little tweaking and time you can quickly take an animal's profile from confusing and not-so-appealing to fresh, fun and inspiring.
If you'd like some help re-thinking how you create animal profiles today we'd love to chat! Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll come up with some awesome ideas for your adoptables!