If you want to help shelter animals, you could volunteer at your local rescue organization, you could donate supplies, you could even foster animals until the right forever home comes along. And even if you don’t have the time or means to try one of those options, there is still plenty you can do to help keep animals happy, and euthanasia rates down.
All you need is your phone.
Getting the word out is one of the biggest obstacles many shelters in the Unites States face. With little to no marketing budget, it can be hard to tell the community about new shelter pet arrivals.
That’s where you come in.
Shelters are always in need of volunteers, and that includes marketing specialists. Even if you’re not a professionally trained copywriter or photographer, there many free and helpful tools you can use to advocate for shelter animals and make a big difference.
WHERE TO START
If you want to help shelter animals, the best place to start is by asking your local shelter what they need. Chances are, community-based advocacy programs may not be heavily funded, if they are funded at all, so you should expect to be volunteering your time.
Not a problem? Great! You may already have everything you need to get started.
Here’s the plan:
- Find an easy way for the shelter to send you pictures of their most eligible pets.
- Use photo editing apps to frame the animal headshots with a compelling and positive message.
- Post those images on social media and tag the shelter.
- Follow up with new pet parents you’ve helped, and share their stories if they give you permission.
How to get rescue pet photos
Many shelters have their own Facebook pages, some of them even post photos and videos daily. Their reach is limited to their immediate network, however, and without a steady advertising budget they may never get the message across to the many more you may know.
So, reach out. Contact someone at the shelter, meet them in person, and see what works best for them.
A shelter that posts pictures of adoptable pets might appreciate them being shared with a bigger network. They may even want to email or message you with more, if your posts get a lot of attention.
Affiliate and influencer marketing works much the same way. Branded messages get a boost when other popular social media users share the message. In this case, you’re helping shelter pets show up in front of more potential pet parents than your shelter may have been able to on its own.
Great job! Now, let’s get creative.
How to edit rescue pet photos
There are several free tools you can use to edit and stylize pet pictures. Among the most popular:
Some of these tools require a little more practice than others to master. Adobe Spark and Canva, for example, are about as user-friendly as they come, providing pre-styled templates that make framing a snap. GIMP, on the other hand, is chock-full of features, levers, balls and whistles, perhaps to a fault. It’s incredibly capable, but you may want to try out a video tutorial before you dive in.
Where to post rescue pet photos
Post your pictures to your own Facebook page, in rescue pet groups and animal advocacy forums. If you want to broaden your reach, message pet-friendly leaders in your community directly to share the updates.
“Using social media creates new opportunities for shelters, rescue organizations and communities to help homeless animals find safe and loving homes,” said Matt Bershadker, president and CEO of the ASPCA.
Let your colleagues on LinkedIn know that you’re a volunteer rescue pet advocate. You can even start your own LinkedIn group to help your local shelter find the volunteer help and supplies it needs.
Search Reddit for the subreddit nearest your hometown and crosspost to r/rescue, r/AdoptMe, r/rescuedogs, r/rescuecats and others.
Post your rescue pet photos on Instagram and Twitter with a compassionate caption, and throw in some hashtags. Here’s where you’ll find the most action:
What to say about them
Be honest and forthcoming when you explain these adoptable animals. Your caption could convince someone to visit the shelter, or it could drive them away. Let’s hope its not the latter. Some examples of facts you can share:
- History (if known)
If you want to rhapsodize about the potential these pets possess, it’s best to keep it short and simple, and let their future parents find out for themselves at the shelter.
Good luck! Your help is much appreciated. Even if you get just one pet adopted, that’s a life you’ve saved!
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.
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