Did you know that most people outside of the animal welfare industry don’t understand how fostering helps save lives? That’s just one key takeaway from our market research study on foster caregivers. If you are looking to grow your foster program, keep reading!
Nearly 2,000 prospective foster caregivers, experienced foster caregivers and pet care professionals recently participated in Foster Caregiver Market Research conducted by Edge Research. The goal of the research was to determine target audiences for prospective foster caregivers and ways shelters and rescue organizations can engage them.
“We know that foster care is the most humane, cost-effective solution for housing homeless pets, but many shelters and rescue organizations tell us that difficulty recruiting foster caregivers is the biggest barrier to their program’s success,” says Dr. Sheila Segurson, the Director of Research for Maddie’s Fund. “This research was done in order to help organizations recruit more foster caregivers by refining their communications about foster care.”
Here are some of the key takeaways:
Most people don’t understand how fostering helps save lives. The general public is confused about the role of foster care in lifesaving and adoption. Clarifying the role of foster care in your messaging can increase your chances of success with recruitment.
Several messages were tested in order to determine which had the most potential to turn prospective fosters into applicants. Here’s the top message:
Fostering is an important step on a pet’s journey to their forever home. A home environment is best for their health and wellbeing. Fostering cats and dogs allows them to thrive in a home environment and practice forming bonds with their caregivers. For pets who have been waiting longer for adoption, foster caregivers can help reassure adopters that these pets are a good fit for a home and speak to the type of home or family that would be the best match for the pet.
After reading this message, 33% of potential fosters became more interested in fostering. Those that became the most interested were those who were most familiar with fostering and who could see that there was a homeless pet problem in their area.
Potential fosters need reassurance that fostering is something they can do. They have mixed feelings about providing foster care, with most feeling excited (37%), hopeful (37%) and happy (36%) about fostering, but also anxious (32%) and worried (29%). By familiarizing supporters with fostering through communicating key messages, like the fact that support is available, organizations can encourage them to apply.
Empowering foster caregivers to share their experiences with family and friends is likely the best way to recruit new foster caregivers. Over a third of current and prospective fosters heard about fostering from someone they knew. Foster caregivers don’t often talk about their experiences with friends and family, and they should be encouraged to do so. Potential fosters have a lot of misconceptions about what fostering entails, but 73% of potential fosters would trust information on fostering from family and friends who have done it.
Potential fosters want options for the length of time they foster. Lowering the threshold for participation can allow more people to join in, helping to increase the number of foster caregivers overall. Options include field trips, sleepovers, team fostering and respite fostering. Dipping a toe into the water by starting out with short-term fostering may be just what supporters need to get comfortable with longer-term fostering.
Giving potential fosters an understanding of how fostering fits into the big picture and reassurance that fostering is something they can do, can help to convert potential fosters into applicants.