It’s a very happy day when one of your animals finds their forever home.  You’ve put a lot of time, effort and sometimes money into finding that perfect adopter for the animal.  How do you groom and maintain that relationship so that they can support your organization in other ways. Here are 5 tips and ideas to get started with.

1) Automated not annoying

One of the mistakes that organizations make is immediately adding a new adopter to their newsletter, email distribution, donor registry and any other marketing propaganda that they have.  So the new adopter suddenly gets inundated with massive amounts of contact points from your organization the first time they do a transaction with you. This does not create engagement and has the opposite effect from what you are looking for in a long-term relationship.  Instead, focus on automating the communication without being annoying. For example, maybe you have a quarterly newsletter for your organization that you can add them to. If you use online tools like MailChimp or ConstantContact, they can help you create fabulous looking newsletters for free that give you a reason to engage with your new adopters. But the key to success here is to segregate your audience instead of dumping them into one giant bucket. New adopters should be placed into a separate distribution group from the donor list and longtime supporters because the information you want to target them with is very different. The online tools make this easy to do.  Now you can focus on sending them tips, insights, and even stories about recent adoptions and this content will be relevant and timely to them. You can cross-promote and offer them the ability to become a donor or to subscribe to other publications that you do and allow them to “opt-in” instead of automatically signing them up.

2) Share and share alike

After the adoption, what are you doing to encourage your adopters to share pictures, stories and videos of their recently adopted animal?  Like new parents, new animal adopters want to show off the newest addition to their family and they usually take to social media even on the ride home to post and share photos, videos and updates on their new family member.  Do you allow them to cross-post to your page?  Do you encourage them to share their stories, photos and videos back with your organization so you can use them to promote your successes?  While this may seem like a difficult undertaking to manage, it’s not as hard as you might think so here’s a few tips. 

First, you need to let them know that you want the stories, updates and all of that.  Do not just assume that they know this.  Often times the adopters will assume you’re too busy to hear about updates on their new member and that you’ve moved onto the next transaction.  Use your new adopter newsletter (see the tip in #1) to encourage them to share.

Next, determine how you want them to share with you.  You can use a simple approach like asking them to email photos, videos and stories, and then you can post them to your social media pages or website, or you can get more advanced and allow them to share automatically on your website.  There are a number of wordpress plugins that allow you to accept uploads and stories right to your website.  Or talk with your website administrator about what they would recommend.  Finally, be sure to recognize them for their contributions.  Shout outs on social media, in your newsletters and on your website are a must to get others to want to share their stories as well.

3) Reunite & reconnect

Do you have an annual or semi-annual reunion for new adopters?  This works particularly well for dogs and new adopters are always looking for a way to meet new people that have similar interests.  We’ve seen many organizations again take a generic approach to this and just hold an annual walk and invite everyone.  While this is certainly much easier to manage, this approach misses the opportunity to engage with your new adopters and to encourage them to engage with other new adopters.  Remember that we’re intentionally segmenting our new adopters from the rest of the names that we have to create a more meaningful experience.  So think new adopter picnics, walks, or just get togethers at your location or a nearby park.  It’s a great way to chat them up and get them involved in your organization long-term.

4) Educate to involve

As animal rescue professionals ourselves, we often forget that the general public does not always know the many ways they can get involved to help animals and to support our organizations.  We miss the opportunity to educate them on a variety of things that they can do that fit with their lifestyle.  For example, do you discuss with your new adopters how they can get involved with rescue relay transport?  Sites like automate this and make it easy for them to sign-up and get involved in their local area.  Simply educating your new adopters is key to success here and you can do this without being too aggressive or overbearing.  Ideas include: transport, fostering, photography, lost pet support, wildlife rehabilitation, walking dogs at the shelter, pet food banks, just to name a few.  Sometimes providing them with a handout or email that explains how things work will be just enough to get them over the learning curve.

5) Competition not cooperation

Humans like to compete.  It’s just a fact.  While sports generally provide the outlet for our competitive spirit, with a little creativity, you too can engage this drive within all of us to best the next guy or gal.  What if you run a competition for best costume, funniest sleeping position, or most unusual pet trick?  The prizes could include a t-shirt with your organization logo, some free training sessions or maybe a new toy for the pet.  Imagine what you can do with all of the pictures, videos and stories that will be generated from these types of events.

Got an idea we haven’t thought about?  Let us know!