Imagine how many lives your shelter or rescue organization could save if you had more foster homes. Try some of these tips from the Charleston Animal Society, and you may not have to imagine at all.
In a webinar with ASPCAPro, Christina Ellwood and Jodi Osborne of the Charleston Animal Society (CAS) gave an overview of how they recruited their 600 foster families who fostered 2,407 animals in 2016, out of a total CAS intake of 8,733.
“There are several different ways to recruit, from social media to going on TV and radio, to attending events,” said Ellwood. Social media is one of the most effective recruitment tools they have; they regularly put calls for foster homes out on their own social media and onto popular, relevant hashtags including #foster.
But it’s not hashtags that power social media foster care recruitment; it’s storytelling. “The most important thing you can do is tell stories,” Ellwood said. “I’m sure all of you have animals in your care, and people always want to hear their stories, and they want to hear about the animals.”
CAS doesn’t only use social media, however, “We go on live TV three times a week,” she said. “We do seven different radio stations weekly. We’ve had foster parents come in just because they heard on radio or TV that we were looking for homes.”
How do you get local media to feature your pets and your pleas for foster homes? It can be is hard when you think about trying to get your foot in the door on radio and TV,” Ellwood said. “But you can message them on Twitter… or stop at an event and ask how you can get your animals on TV with them. Establish lasting relationships with them. You don’t want to just go on once. Talk to them about coming on once or twice a week.
Osborne said CAS also leveraged its involvement in community events to recruit foster homes. Their tactics include:
- Hand out flyers asking for foster homes
- Use nice, big banners on your booth
- Use the same colors and theme on all signage
- Use a consistent tagline on all promotions; theirs is “Be a foster; save a life.”
Finally, she said, rely on word of mouth. Encourage fosters to post photos of their foster pets to their social media, and create Facebook pages for the pets, too. Ask your volunteers as well as local youth and school groups, and even your neighbors to spread the word, too.
In addition to tips for foster recruitment, the webinar covers choosing pets for the program, how to assign animals to foster homes, and nuts and bolts like paperwork, foster recheck appointments, supplies and more.
You can view the archived webinar at Foster Programs: Animal Selection & Family Recruitment.