Who will donate to put portals in your shelter’s cat housing? You’d be amazed!

July 27, 2017

Would you like to create portals in your shelter’s cat housing, but aren’t sure how to pay for it? The surprising answer is that your community will pay for it.

In a recent webinar for the Million Cat Challenge, Karen Green of the Portland Cat Adoption Team (CAT) shared how her shelter realized that, although their current housing and welfare for cats were relatively spacious compared to plenty of shelters and veterinary clinics, they were not meeting their own standards for the care they wanted to provide. In response, they made the decision to change things for the better. They began, she said, by putting portals in the main adoption floor cages, then for adult cats, then over time went on to portalize housing in all areas of the shelter.

Their first source of funding was a 2013 grant from the ASPCA, and their most recent was an innovation grant from Maddie’s Fund. “Those are kind of the bookend funding for our portal projects,” she told attendees. “But we also did a direct mail appeal for our portals. We were not sure how this was going to go. This was very different than any direct mail appeal we’ve done before. You know, usually they’re really focused on, ‘This cat came in and was sick and in terrible shape, and please help us help more cats like this.’”

CAT wondered if their supporters would respond as well to a message focused on improving cat housing in the shelter and speeding cats to adoption, saying, “Each portal is going to cost $171. Will you fund a portal?”

And fund them they did. “This appeal made almost three times what the next two appeals made,” Green said. “It basically has outperformed almost every quarterly appeal that we have ever made.”

The average gift for that appeal was $90, compared to the usual average gift of $60. What’s more, a lot of people sent in gifts of $171. “People were really moved and motivated to support us doing this,” Green said. “I’ve had many donors who I’ve talked to, at that time and even years later, who’ve said, ‘Oh yeah, we funded one of those portals.’ They really connected to that.”

While the team at CAT initially worried that admitting that life in a shelter isn’t all that great for cats would damage the way their supporters saw the organization, their concerns didn’t come to pass. “They all know that no one wants cats to live in shelters, but they get that the point is to get them out of there and into homes as quickly as possible,” she said.

Green encourages shelters considering an appeal like this to be sure to engage their donors about the specifics of improved housing for cats, including how it prevents health and behavior problems, and can shorten the time it takes the cats to get adopted. “They want to help your cats be happier and healthier in the shelter, too,” she said.

Green shared the actual appeal, as well as the envelope in which it was sent and the return remittance envelope, so shelters can have a starting point to raise money to install portals in their cat housing, too.

Fundraising for portals appeal letter

Fundraising for portals appeal envelope

Fundraising for portals return remittance envelope

The Million Cat Challenge thanks the Portland Cat Adoption Team and Green for their generosity in sharing these resources with their fellow shelters.

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