Best Practices: Marketing

Today’s post is written by Sharon Sleighter of Legacy Boxer Rescue. The topic is marketing your rescue. We look forward to your ideas in the comments section on how you market your rescue.

This topic includes:

1.       Marketing
a.       Key elements to a good website
b.      Community events
c.       Utilizing animal adoption websites
d.      The importance of good photos/video
e.      Local media
f.        Social media networking (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
g.       Newsletter management
h.      Chat rooms/forums
i.         Rescue logo paraphernalia (t-shirts, mugs, hats, etc.)

Sharon’s Take:

Marketing is vital to any new rescue to be successful. You have an audience to reach, and events such as adoption events at local stores are not going to be enough. Fortunately, we have the power of the Internet at our disposal, and those groups that have learned how to best manage their online presence have also learned that it is their most valuable asset.

Many rescues’ websites are still trapped in the 90’s when the Internet was still just a novelty. It is no longer a novelty, but a serious marketing tool that I feel many groups are failing to take advantage of. When LBR formed, we didn’t have a name yet, but we were already working on our website design. We were chomping at the bit to get our website built, so we came up with www.savetheboxers.com as a URL so we could begin building, with every intention of changing that URL once a name was decided on. We eventually decided on Legacy Boxer Rescue, but by then, only a few months later, “Save The Boxers” had already become our online presence, and it stuck. We own www.legacyboxerrescue.com, and it takes you to our site, but it’s not who we are online and never will be. We use savetheboxers.com on all of our marketing materials because it’s become so synonymous with who we are and what we do.

We viewed dozens of other humane websites and plucked ideas from a handful of them to build the layout. We worked for hours building the content on our breed, including asking for permissions to print copyrighted materials if needed. Our site is very dynamic and changes are made often to the content to keep it current.

Seek help when designing your website. We had a wonderful entrepreneur, and boxer lover, build ours in a way that while it appears to be a very technical set up, it’s actually very easy to maintain by our volunteers. It is critical that your website contain accurate and up to date information. I cannot say that loudly enough. Information should be easily accessible and if you have a dog that’s been on the site for more time than usual, make sure that the photos and bio information are updated periodically to better showcase that animal. Keeping your information current, informative and fun for online browsers will keep people coming back to your site.

All websites should include contact information for your group, and you need to commit people to respond to all correspondence within 24 hours of receipt. The number one complaint I hear from our Facebook fans across the country, in regards to other rescues, is that correspondence goes unanswered. Last summer I challenged our then 2,500 Facebook fans to “Do More” in their areas. To reach out to help homeless animals. This was the challenge:

http://www.onetruemedia.com/shared?p=b0786fc27b3436a7b70eac&skin_id=601&utm_source=otm&utm_medium=text_url

What happened was an eye opener for me. Many tried to reach out to help. Most were unsuccessful that week because their inquiries to donate time, materials or to volunteer fostering animals went unanswered. I was perplexed, and it was about this time that Kyla and I started talking about this project. I hate to think of how many opportunities are missed for rescues in our country simply because the rescue couldn’t be bothered to respond to offers of help. ALL inquiries should be responded to regardless of content. If you do not want the help they are offering, that’s fine, but respond in kind.

Communication is vital.

Community events are awesome, especially for start up groups, they enable you to get your name out in front of your community. LBR attended every one we had the opportunity to attend in our first few years, it was a vital to our success as a group. However, as LBR’s online presence has grown, our presence at many events we used to attend has actually gone down. We simply don’t need the publicity these events bring in any longer, so we have more time to focus on our specific LBR events that grow larger and larger each passing year. But I know community events are vital, and LBR still does two monthly adoption events at our local Petco stores.  We’re just less likely to be seen at large, multi group events these days.

Pet adoption sites: LBR has a presence on every pet adoption website out there, and I encourage all groups to do likewise. We utilize the portal through RescueGroups.org to update many of them, and I highly encourage anyone starting a rescue to look into this awesome resource. We also maintain our toll free number and voicemail through RescueGroups.org which has enabled us to send, via email, pertinent voicemail messages to the proper committees for response, while also lowering our monthly costs for the number and voicemail. You can call our number to get an idea of how we’re set up, and every time a voicemail is left on a particular option, that message is sent to the appropriate committee email address. Our toll free number is 1-877-5BOXERS. Petfinder.com is by far the largest of these sites, but we get lots of exposure from the others like “Adopt-A-Pet” as I see the email inquiries coming in daily. Again, make sure any inquiries from any avenue are responded to within 24 hours.

Good photos of your adoptable animals is crucial to that animals success at adoption. It makes me crazy to look at our site and see a shelter photo still listed on a dogs bio even a week after we have taken that dog into our care. Your foster homes needs to know how vital this is, and be willing and able to provide new photos of their fosters. LBR even has volunteers willing to go take new photos if a foster home doesn’t have the ability to do so.

Obviously it’s the same dog, he just looks so much more happy and friendly in the 2nd photo.

Try to take photos that capture the dogs personality. If they love toys, take pictures of them playing with them. If they have a wonderful breed characteristic, highlight that in their bio photos. Accentuate the positive and downplay the negative. Make your backgrounds colorful, this is as easy as a pool in the backdrop as shown above, a pretty flower garden or grabbing a colorful blanket to pose them on as shown with Drake below. Drake’s white coloring on the red blanket was simply stunning.

Here’s an example of a fun shot with toys for those toy motivated babies.

These are really very simple ideas to help you keep your website engaging and keep your foster animals in front of the public.

We also utilize www.OneTrueMedia.com to highlight our adoptable animals. You can have a free account or your rescue can purchase an upgraded account for about $5 per month so you have many tools to help you create wonderful montage videos of your adoptable pets. One True Media is simple to use and can add so much to your sight. We also use this resource to create “BIN” montages to place on our main page on the site to help solicit foster homes. Below are links to examples of how we use OTM.

Foster montage: http://www.onetruemedia.com/shared?p=615e23345bfe4b8c4745b1&skin_id=1804&utm_source=otm&utm_medium=text_url

Volunteer appreciation: http://www.onetruemedia.com/shared?p=c8e8ce9e4b3fdb38762dd3&skin_id=1804&utm_source=otm&utm_medium=text_url

Foster Dog montage: http://www.onetruemedia.com/shared?p=ce08f3be386f107e794b23&skin_id=801&utm_source=otm&utm_medium=text_url

At some point, a story will cross your desk that is truly newsworthy. So keep note of news anchors you see locally covering animal stories. Those are the people you’ll want to reach out to when that story crosses your desk. One thing I have found is that news people are facts people. If you don’t have facts surrounding a story, they’re less likely to pick it up. So conjecture on how an animal got to where he is isn’t going to make the news.  Feel good stories are preferable to sad ones as well.

Here’s a link to a story that LBR was part of in 2010 (sorry, video has been removed).

http://www.wfaa.com/news/local/Dog-and-owners-reunited-after-two-years-apart-80486062.html

Damsels’ Journey was another boxer we made the news with twice. Once when she and the others were stolen from a local shelter, and second, when one of the three turned up months later. Below is the story and link to the pictures of Damsel.

Here’s a link to Damsel’s Journey’s before and after pictures.  Her story was wild.  We had received word of several boxers that had been rescued from a puppy mill seizure that were with the SPCA in Dallas.  We got them to safety by moving them to Sansom Park Shelter just before they were euthanized. Her picture at SP is in this album and her name was Journey. They were then stolen from the shelter. We looked and looked for them.

One day many months later, a skinny fawn girl with a prolapsed uterus was found wandering around at the SP police station and was taken to FWACC. We pulled that boxer and named her Damsel. Melaney would always compare the pictures of any fawn female BIN’s to the pictures that we had from the stolen females from SP.  She called me after she heard that I had taken this girl and had me send her pictures of her chest, toes and other shots.  We were able to determine that Damsel was in fact the stolen boxer, Journey, thus her name became Damsel’s Journey. The other females have never been found :(

http://www.flickr.com/search/?ss=2&w=7453448%40N03&q=Damsels+Journey&m=text

That’s just a couple of examples of stories that most news anchors will jump on.

And now, let’s talk about something that is near and dear to my heart…SOCIAL MEDIA, namely Facebook from LBR’s perspective.

In December 2009 I had the honor of being nominated, and chosen as a finalist, in Care2.com and Tom’s of Maine’s “Hero Next Door” contest. They offered the winner of the contest $2,500 for their charity and $2,500 for themselves. I went into this campaign thinking that $5,000 would really help LBR at that time, so vowed, if I won, that all of the money would go to LBR.

At the time, I had never posted on our small Facebook fan page, but I had a renewed interest as I thought, what a great way to solicit votes for this cause. We had 886 “fans” at the time. So, I started playing. I quickly learned that votes dropped and interest waned if that was the only thing we were posting about. So I started posting “Quotes of the Day” which featured animal quotes or quotes that were motivationally inspirational. I started posting fun pictures of our fosters, pictures of newly rescued animals and pictures of boxers as they were adopted, and even post stories of animals we lose in foster care. Our fans love our dogs like their own.

It sort of became an obsession for me. LOL! And I was obsessed with watching the fan numbers grow exponentially. At the end of February 2010, we have over 2,500 Facebook fans and a monster of a media site was born. J I ended up winning the “Hero Next Door” contest with over 6,600 votes.

My thought was “who knew”? Who knew social media could be so powerful? I now had a vested interest in building this side of things for LBR. In the following 12 months, our Facebook fans rolled over the 5,500 mark, and we gain approximately 5 new fans daily. More when we post something really good on there.

Facebook has become a Godsend to many animals that needed our care, or ones that are already in our care. Because we TRULY care about our fans, and I take the time from my day to comment on their photos they post, or answer questions they pose to us, they are committed to our cause.

One day in September 2010 we had a boxer come across our radar with a badly broken front leg, both bones were broken, so I knew he’d need an orthopedic surgeon. We had just paid to have Trey’s femur repaired, and we were not financially able to take on another one so soon. So this is what I did.

I posted this photo on Facebook, with this plea:

Okay Fans, here’s the deal, I have crunched the numbers after all the bills are paid, and our bank account is below the number I would normally put on a “financial pull freeze”. We need to reserve funds for the 100+ already in our care.

We have Mums & Roses this weekend, so that is why we have not put a “pull freeze” in place already. But we also have to realize that this fundraiser has to support LBR through most of the rest of the year. We have some other fundraisers too, but they won’t generate as much revenue as this one will, so we can’t spend the money before it’s earned.

This places LBR in a very bad position with this boy who will need orthopedic surgery very early next week. We have a foster. We just need the funds.

IF WE CAN RAISE $1,300.00 BY THE END OF THE DAY TODAY, I WILL GET THIS BOY TO OUR VET, POST HASTE. But we have to have at least a portion of his surgery covered (it will be more than Trey’s surgery because he has two broken bones that need pinned) before LBR can make that commitment.

I think I need to cry now. You can paypal donations to info@savetheboxers.com.


In under 3 hours we had the money needed to rescue Elmo, in fact, he got his name from an LBR fans’ boxer in the United Kingdom. Cheryl (in the UK) rallied the troops that day and was a huge support on Facebook, we thought it was only fitting that he be named after our beloved “UK Elmo”. But it didn’t stop there. The donations kept coming, even after letting the fans know we hit our goal, which was posted as soon as we hit it (be honest with your fans). Within 24 hours we had raised over $6,600.00 to help more boxers in need.

So that’s the story of Elmo, the dog saved by LBR’s Facebook fans.

Tips for a successful Facebook fan page.

  • Post often and regularly.
  • DO NOT ASK FOR SOMETHING in every post. Keep asking for donations to a minimum, that way when you really do need this resource, it will be there for you. If you’re constantly asking for people to donate, you will lose fans.
  • Invest the time to know your fans. You will know what I mean once your fan base takes off. Answer their questions and engage them. Every holiday I have the fans submit holiday themed pictures and for the month (major holidays) or weeks leading up to the holiday I use those submitted pictures as our “Profile Picture of the Day”. It makes the fans feel connected.
  • Poll them. There’s a wealth of information out there at your fingertips, so if you have a health or behavioral issue, ask your fans, they may have a solution you had not thought of, and again, it makes them feel that they are actively helping your rescue. After all, that is what they want to do.
  • Post helpful health and training tips for your specific breed, or for the species you’re committed to.
  • But most of all, have fun with it. I often thinks that’s the one main thing that LBR has that makes us so different is the camaraderie within our volunteer base. Have some fun with social media, get your message out loud and clear. Now when we need something, I can assure you, our fans will come through for us. We recently needed stairs and kurunda style beds for one of our dogs that doesn’t have the best knees in boxerdom. I posted Raina’s wishlist with a cute picture of her, and lo and behold, within two hours fans committed to help and we got those donations covered by a fan out of state. We actually got two beds and two sets of stairs. One of our fans in Philadelphia sends us boxes of treats for our fosters on a quarterly basis.

So Facebook has been a very positive influence for LBR. I love it, and I encourage anyone that wants to know “how LBR does it” to watch our page for a few weeks.  You can find us at www.facebook.com/legacyboxerrescue. We’re certainly not the only successful Facebook rescue site, there are many, but we’re doing something right, and I’d love for all rescues to have what we do in that regard. It’s awesome!

Below is a direct quote posted by a fan on our site on April 2nd, and I cannot tell you how much I hear this. It’s sad, but true. This person is not local to LBR, but wishes she was daily. LOL!

“We ALL LOVE LBR that is why you did great today at the rose event. You are hands down the best rescue ever. I have contacted other rescues near me and they don’t even bother to reply anything, not sure how they think they can get Boxers adopted that way. Let me know about the “I support LBR TShirts” can’t wait :)”

DON’T BE ONE OF THOSE RESCUES!!!!!

And that takes us into the topic of rescue logo paraphernalia. LBR has not had success in this area, but we’re about to launch a t-shirt campaign to appease the thousands of Facebook fans. They have been the ones to request these to be sold, so we’re taking the plunge.

The out of pocket expense to sell logo items is a bit intimidating for me, as I still have boxes of LBR keychains here that never seem to sell, and I was afraid that we’d see similar things with t-shirts, but with our Facebook presence, I think LBR is about to turn a very profitable corner in that regard. We have designed the following shirts for our fans/supporters and adopters, and now that we have money in the bank from the Roses for Rescue event, I’m about to dive into this head first. It’s a little scary for us, but we feel we won’t be stranded with a bunch of boxed up t-shirts in my garage. J I expect people all over the world will be ordering these, as I already have orders from England, New Zealand and Australia. Crazy.

As far as Newsletters are concerned, LBR utilizes “Constant Contact” which allows us to custom design newsletters and maintain email lists. People can sign up for our Newsletters from our website. We don’t put out a regular newsletter at this time, but we use it to promote events, and send pleas for foster homes as needed (we limit the latter to 2-3 times per year). One day I hope to find someone to maintain a regular Newsletter of happenings at LBR, but right now that happens through Facebook as my time is limited.

LBR has also recently started utilizing a Blog. It’s in its infancy still, but growing. We call it the Legacy Chronicles and the dogs are the bloggers, not us humans. J

http://savetheboxers.blogspot.com/

With all that said, use the Internet to your advantage, you will be amazed at what it can do.

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11 Responses to Best Practices: Marketing

  1. This is an amazing post. Lots of great ideas! I wanted to ring on on the t-shirt topic, as we just launched our first t-shirt campaign, but we’ve done it in the same way we’ve done our books, which exposes us to very little risk. With our web presence, we always run a pre-sale. Not only does this allow for the items to be paid for in advance, but it helps us to gauge overall demand, so we know how many items to order for physical events. I highly recommend pre-sales. People don’t mind that it takes a few weeks to get their items, and it’s much easier on your budget.

  2. Thanks Kyla, I had fun with it and I hope others get some useful information from it. :) Good idea on the shirts, will take in consideration. How do you track the presales? Spreadsheet?

    One other thing I forgot to mention is the use of Google Docs and Calendar. This is more management of resources than marketing, but we do use them for our online orders for calendars, etc. We use(d) Google spreadsheets for tracking BIN’s (Boxers in Need), keeping track of puppies adoption prior to completing vaccines and spay neuter (so we would know when to follow up with the families to get the vetting complete) and we use Google Calendar to track events and vet appts. Because you can share and collaborate online with these tools, they can viewed or updated by any one in the organization that needs to do so. Great tools.

    • I use an inexpensive, easy-to-configure shopping cart called Mal’s-e. https://www.mals-e.com/

      I like it because I can accept Paypal, Amazon, and credit card payments (you have to set up Paypal and Amazon account, too, of course). It makes buying easy for people. I also like it because for $8 per month, I can download sales into a spreadsheet. It takes about five minutes to go through the orders, make sure they payments and the shopping cart matches, and have my spreadsheet ready to go.

      I use a fulfillment service back East that lets me to lots of print on demand. We’re actually working on offering a suite of items to rescues for fundraising that can be done print on demand so that rescues don’t have up front costs and can just reap the rewards.

      Google spreadsheets are great for keeping track of things, too. I’ve used the Google online office applications for many things.

  3. This is such a great post! I glanced thru it quickly since I’m “working” but can’t wait to read thru it more thoroughly this evening. One thing that caught my attention right away is your enthusiasm in getting good pictures. This is something I stress with our group but still feel like I’m not getting thru. Would you mind if I share your example of “which dog would you adopt”?

  4. Share anything you like please. That’s why we’re all here, to help each other help more animals.

  5. Shereen says:

    I’ve read thru this post again and I am amazed at all the helpful information!
    From working with a few rescues over the years, I’ve learned that updated website is absolutely the most important! That’s the first hit for most people. Having someone designated to updating it daily is absolutely a must. I also appreciate your ideas on FB, to not ask for donations every time. I agree it’s important to use FB(and other sites) as a networking tool, build your fan base, tell what your group does…I like to post success stories, stories about about volunteers that have adopted, and lots of other success stories. Then when we really need something I can put the plea out and get a good response. MHWR just took in a young Weim/Lab mix named Jackson. He was born with a deformity that causes bow legs now, that will lead to elbow dysplasia and a shortened life if no surgery. I posted the story and got a few hits right away. However, I will admit frustration because the one person that can put the Pay Pal link up is out of town and not responding. So, I admit, this time, we are one of those groups not making it easy to make an immediate donation. It’s frustrating and I’m spending extra time chatting with each person that wanted to donate but couldnt figure out how. UGH!! But we mean well, and our group is experiencing some growing pains. Anyone have advice for groups experiencing that? Rather than a new group starting up? I guess that could be a whole other topic??

  6. Shereen, we have a “Donate” tab on our Facebook page so people can donate directly from there. It has to be done using static FBML app. I managed to add it to ours, but had to have assistance writing the code for the link on the tab, etc.

    You can get the static app at http://www.facebook.com/apps/application.php?id=4949752878.

    Please be aware, when I added this, it removed the link to our “Notes” and I have yet to figure out how to see those again, but I’d much rather have a donate tab than a notes tab, so I’m okay with that loss.

    You website administrator should be able to add this for you. You can see what I am talking about at http://www.facebook.com/legacyboxerrescue.

  7. My latest volunteer montage…it makes me smile that it takes me forever to find a song long enough to accommodate them all. :)

    http://www.onetruemedia.com/shared?p=dd286c4a7cc710298318b4&skin_id=1702&utm_source=otm&utm_medium=text_url

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