March 23, 2023
Categories: Grants

The Open Arms Challenge starts next month, and we’re highlighting Salem Friends of Felines (SFOF) in Oregon to provide a little inspiration! SFOF is a rescue organization that won a grant for the Most Effective Use of Open and Welcoming Menu Items in the 2021 Open Arms Challenge. The Challenge was instrumental in obtaining the support they needed to implement changes including a more concise adoption questionnaire by removing questions about income, living arrangements and removed the landlord permission requirement prior to adoption. They also translated the materials into Spanish and offer an interpreter via phone call when needed.  

As a result of the practices implemented during the Challenge, the organization noted changes in the demographics of both volunteers and adopters. “Prior to this Challenge, we had sent out a questionnaire to current fosters and volunteers. Respondents noted that although our community is diverse, they felt that our demographic within our foster and volunteer base did not necessarily reflect that diversity,” SFOF shared. “We acknowledged this and knew we needed to make purposeful changes to reach a broader range of people. As we continue to expand and become more accessible, we have noticed that we are reaching a wider range of people, including a wider age range for volunteers. We have seen a dramatic improvement in the reviews left on Yelp and Facebook as well.” 

During the Challenge, SFOF decided to not be as strict with its “required age of 14” and partnered with a local school district. A group of adult mentors and four to six students volunteered each Wednesday and Friday for morning cat care. The high school students were part of a volunteer work experience program for kids deemed to be high-risk or who have an educational or behavioral special need.  

The mother of a high school volunteer expressed just how much the partnership affected her daughter in a positive way. The pre-teen daughter struggled with depression and anxiety disorders. Being allowed to volunteer at SFOF each week improved her daughter’s mental health, her grades, and her overall outlook on life is more positive. The school district recognized SFOF as an outstanding participant in their program. 

Wanting to be more open and inclusive at your organization? View resources, ask questions and more on Maddie’s® Pet Forum!