July 5, 2018
Categories: Organizational Management, Foster Programs
family with dog

Austin Pets Alive! was putting in a lot of work each day to let its foster dog network know about its pups that need temporary homes. The rescue organization would send out daily foster pleas to roughly 2,000 recipients. With 300 to 400 dogs needing foster care at any given time, the group was sending 12 to 15 emails a day!

Luckily for APA!, a volunteer offered up a solution to streamline the process: Trello.

Now, just one morning email is sent that includes a rundown of who is available with a link to the foster dog board. Emergency foster pleas are still sent out as needed.

What is Trello?

Trello is a free web-based project management tool. It offers a place for companies and organizations to keep track of projects, all in one place. It uses a system of “boards,” which contain “cards” organized in columns. Cards are where individual projects or tasks live, and within those cards, you can add as much or little information as possible. In this case, information about the foster dog including photos, temperament, age, medical needs and more, is included.

How it works

Think of Trello as a board with Post-its in different columns. Once you complete a task you either move the Post-it elsewhere or trash it. At first glance a lot is going on, but the APA! board’s organization leaves little room for questions or confusion. (You can check it out by looking at their handy how-to video.)

The columns are organized into different categories, including Pups Most in Need, Adult Dogs, Medical Needs Dogs and Puppies. Regan Goins, Dog Foster Assistant Manager at APA!, says this  allows potential foster caregivers to see what the shelter’s greatest needs are and to find the dog who is right for them.

Each card contains as much information as possible for each dog. Even before clicking into a card, you’ll know the dog’s age, sex, size, energy level and any other pertinent information. Click into the card and you’ll see a very thorough description of the dog. Within the card, you’ll find how they score with children and cats, information on any issues they have, personality traits and the perfect home setup for the pup. Of course, some dogs have very little information available, but Goins likes to give as much information as possible. She said this has allowed fosters to make the best decision possible and limits the number of returned fosters.

Once a foster finds the dog for them, they will reply to daily email update from the dog foster team and go from there. The board is updated in real-time, so your fosters are getting the most up-to-date information.

Goins stresses that the horizontal scrolling of the Trello board is quite intuitive. When APA! first started using the board, they were concerned about this, so kept columns to a minimum. This made the columns very long, and sadly, dogs were being overlooked. So they branched out, added more columns and got more specific.

Currently, only the dog team uses the board, but it can be easily replicated for cats.

Benefits and concerns

The foster program plea board has been a great recruitment tool. Potential fosters are able to see available dogs without having to sign up. If they are interested in fostering, the board makes it very easy to sign up to foster. Another unexpected benefit of this new tool was giving foster caregivers the ability to filter what kind of pup they would like. If someone prefers to have seniors in their home, they are able to filter the board and see only seniors.

When the new system was announced, there was a slight dip in active foster caregivers for about two weeks. Now, it’s higher than before.

Goins suggests playing around with the board to learn more. Once you get the hang of it, it really is quite simple. View APA’s board to see if this system is right for you. Don’t forget to view the video for a succinct explanation of the whole thing.

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