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The Richmond SPCA won the 3rd place prize for the Impact Award during the Get ‘em Home Challenge!

Richmond SPCA started out with two goals: to increase the adoptions of pets with stays of over 30 days and to make changes that would benefit all pets with long shelter stays going forward. To accomplish this, they created a “Graduate” program with 3 components: featuring the program’s signage throughout their adoption center, reducing adoption fees for pets with stays of over 30 days and posting unique, engaging content on social media featuring these pets. The idea behind the program’s name was that pets with long stays would “graduate” from the shelter into their adoptive homes, which opened the door for some truly adorable graphics.

The Challenges

“The only challenges were working out what was possible for us to do,” says Tommy DeSanto, the Manager of Adoptions at Richmond SPCA. “We initially thought of dressing the dogs and cats up in graduation caps, but then asked one of our artistic adoption counselors to Photoshop their ‘yearbook photos’ instead. From the time the program was initially conceived, it evolved in a few different ways before it was ready to be rolled out in October of 2018.”

Senior Portraits

The senior portraits helped their supporters to see the pets in a new way, and the Richmond SPCA encouraged them to help the pets “graduate.” They posted signs throughout the building indicating that a particular pet was eligible for the promotion and directing them to an adoption specialist to learn more. All adoption fees for “graduates” were reduced to $75. They promoted the program with the news media, which resulted in several television news stories. They also promoted posts on Facebook and Instagram and celebrated adoptions on social media. “People who’ve followed these pets’ stories were engaged and felt involved in the journey even if they personally weren’t able to give them homes,” says DeSanto.

Adoption Data

Another notable component of Richmond SPCA’s program was the thorough job they did gathering data to analyze the success of their program. The data was conclusive: the strategies they used made a massive impact on length of stay for both cats and dogs! During the Get ‘em Home Challenge they did 161 “graduate” adoptions for pets with stays of over 30 days. During the same period in 2017 they did 107 of these adoptions. This means they saw a 50.5% increase in adoptions of long-stay pets during the Challenge!

Four out of five of the cats who had the longest stays at the shelter (averaging 472 days) went home during the Challenge. At the end of the program, the average length of stay for the new five longest resident cats was 361 days—a reduction of 111 days!

Seven out of the ten longest-stay dogs at Richmond SPCA were adopted during the Challenge! At the beginning of the program, these dogs had an average length of stay of 170 days; afterward this was reduced 44 days to 126.

Saving More Lives

Richmond SPCA used their $2,000 prize from the Get ‘em Home Challenge to save more lives. They brought in cats and dogs from high-risk situations through their partnerships with municipal shelters across the Commonwealth of Virginia. “Additionally, our adoption team found homes for 206 cats and dogs with help from Maddie’s Fund,” says DeSanto. “Combined, adoptions, admissions, and veterinary services for pets in the care of the Richmond SPCA account for 40% of our annual budget, so support from partners like Maddie’s Fund is crucial to our financial health. We are grateful for this grant and your continued partnership."

As for the future? Richmond SPCA plans to feature the graduate promotion for one month annually to help pets with longer stays find homes. They’ve already had another successful reboot this spring! DeSantos tells us, “We repeated the promotion during the May graduation season, and it was again very successful with 61 graduate adoptions.”


Visit RichmondSPCA.org
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  • July 20, 2019 at 07:23 AM

    awesome pawsome! well done!



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