Maddie’s® Foster Express Challenge called on participating shelters to focus on short-term fostering to help get more dogs and cats out of the shelter during the hectic holiday season, get them more exposure and attract new foster caregivers. We’ll be sharing exclusive interviews on Maddie’s Pet Forum as well as on the blog with several of the winning shelters in hopes to inspire your own foster program.
For Ohio Alleycat Resource & Spay/Neuter Clinic, the Foster Express Challenge was a chance to try something new. “Prior to the challenge, we already had a robust foster program, but we did not present our fostering plans as “short term,” says Amy Baker-Jones, Executive Director of the Cincinnati, OH-based organization. “We thought we knew that cats needed a longer period of time to adjust to a home for their personalities to shine.”
During the Challenge, the organization focused on finding short-term “on deck” fosters who could open their home as soon as a cat was taken in, get to know them and help market them for adoption. They presented the program to their fosters as a quick way to give a cat a home for the holidays, learn about them and get some momentum built up with potential adopters right away.
Another new thing the group piloted during the challenge was reducing barriers to fostering to allow more supporters to participate. “Part of the recent success of our foster program has been changing how we recruit fosters. We don’t ask people to “apply” to be fosters, we ask them to “sign up” to be fosters,” says Baker-Jones. “It doesn’t matter if they live in an apartment or are a college student. If they are wanting to share their accommodations, we welcome them into the program. Some of our most amazing bottle baby fosters are college students who can easily split nighttime feedings with a roommate.”
The changes they made brought in more fosters than they expected, and not just for their easy-to-place cats! During the Challenge, they increased placement of cats with medical conditions such as FeLV and ringworm as well. In less than 2 months, the group sent 233 cats to short-term foster and 168 of them (72%) were adopted!
“We really had to stop our own assumptions on what cats in our care needed. We were worried about cats in a constantly changing environment, and we did slow down the process for cats that struggled, but we really pushed through on cats that seemed to thrive with the extra attention,” says Baker-Jones. “Even if you are an expert level shelter, you can still make changes and learn from some changes.”
Head on over to Maddie’s Pet Forum to view examples of marketing, resources used and to ask Ohio Alleycat Resource & Spay/Neuter Clinic any questions you may have!