Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter in Georgetown, Texas took home the first place prize for the most creative adoption tactic with Blackout Bingo in the Get 'Em Home Challenge!
We're all familiar with the classic game of Bingo. Adding a unique twist to the game, Williamson County Regional issued a blackout bingo challenge to their fosters and volunteers that focused on getting their long stay animals adopted by completing a variety of tasks.
The Bingo Card
The shelter's Advocacy Team, made up of volunteers who focus on animals that have been at the shelter for over 30 days, compiled a list of all the methods that had been successful and turned them into tasks for each square on the bingo card.
The list turned into a fun, competitive roadmap to helping each individual animal find the right family for them with tasks like:
- Make sure your animal has 3 good profile pictures
- Post an image on Imgur
- Make a kennel sign specifically for your animal
- Create a video
- Teach your animal a trick
Volunteers and fosters turned in their cards when they completed all the tasks OR when their animal was adopted. At the end of the month, 32 cards were submitted and 3 cards were selected at random for a prize.
The best part? NONE of the volunteers had reached a blackout before their animal was adopted! This fact spoke volumes as the volunteers, fosters and staff learned that their extra effort to highlighting a particular animal worked!
Thanks to the success and buy in from the volunteers, there are plans to continue the game quarterly as a way to reward the volunteers and fosters for their hard work, remind them that their work truly matters, and help more long stay animals find the perfect homes!
Long Stay Pets Adopted
Barbara, 4 years old, 42 lbs, 120 days length of stay
Barbara was not an easy placement. However, during Blackout Bingo, she found a family with no kids, no other pets, and who had been following her online for four months. Out of all the squares, what finally worked was Barbara being featured in a Pet of the Week post. The family said they saw it and was afraid if they waited longer, someone else might get her.
The Facebook post that did it (above) was a combination of two bingo squares: a good bio and good photos!
Panda, 3 years old, 12 lbs
With tons of kittens available for adoption, getting adult cats adopted can be challenging especially with owner surrender notes like "peeing outside the litterbox" and "territorial." Lucky for Panda, she went to a home with lots of children, but no other cats.
The square that worked for Panda was her bio hanging outside her kennel. One of the girls in the family even asked to take it home because that is what drew her to Panda.
1.) The remarkable power of our volunteers! Creating and organizing the Blackout Bingo game took minimal staff effort and oversight. The heavy lifting came from the amazing volunteer team.
2.) The importance of well written and creative bios paired with photos that not only show what the animal looks like but their personality as well were a winning combination. Since the challenge, the weekly Pet of the Week social media content has been adjusted to focus on those priorities.
Recommended For You
Want to try this idea at your shelter or rescue? The Advocacy Team recommends that your organization creates a list of what has worked for you and new ideas that have been tried and proven successful by other organizations.
Each organization's card might look different depending on your protocols and your community.
More Help For Long Stay Pets
With the $5000 grant Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter won through the challenge, they will be rolling out a new pilot program called WCRAS Honor Roll.
This new program will focus its attention to aid the longest resident dogs and cats in the shelter. In this program, they are recruiting community trainers who utilize positive reinforcement-based training to come to the shelter twice a week to work with the specific needs of the animal. They then communicate their plan to staff and volunteers so that the animal can receive multiple practice sessions.
When the pet is adopted, the shelter will pay for one session for the new family to meet with the trainer and receive the tools for a successful adoption. If this program proves to be successful, they'll reach out to the community for donations to provide "scholarships" to these long-stay dogs and cats to help as many as possible!
"We were stunned to be awarded for our winning tactic! Our primary focus was not necessarily on winning any of the challenges, but winning homes for our long-stay dogs and cats. We are grateful that this challenge spurred our creativity to get so many shelter animals into loving homes – and to be awarded funds that will be focused on the same mission. Thank you!" - Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter