How Can Pet Bloggers Help?
How to make engaging with nonprofit animal groups a win-win for everyone.
Pet Bloggers supporting nonprofit animal welfare groups would seem like a no-brainer, right? I mean bloggers have some mad skills when it comes to creating and managing an online presence in order to reach a wide audience. Many bloggers are expert writers, photographers, website developers, and/or social media mavens. These are all skills that could benefit animal welfare groups. Most importantly, bloggers have an audience and a relationship with that audience that can often translate into action – even if that action is simply creating awareness. As animal welfare groups often struggle to get their messages out in an effective manner, you would think pet bloggers and animal welfare groups would be a perfect match.
Then why is it often so difficult to engage with an animal welfare organization or independent rescue?
I hear my fellow pet bloggers express a desire to help. Unfortunately, we often approach helping through our own lens and forget that what we see as an exciting and even necessary project, may be perceived by the organization we want to help as an overwhelming activity that they simply can’t manage or sustain.
I hear my fellow animal welfare colleagues say, “We’d love the help but we don’t have the resources to implement what is often suggested” or “We don’t need another ‘consultant’ giving us a plan to implement. We need people who can actually implement for us.”
Unfortunately, there is often disconnect between what the blogger wants to do and what the organization actually needs or can accomplish with limited resources and time.
The problem is that the organizations that would benefit most from our help are often the organizations with the least amount of infrastructure to support our efforts. The larger groups with marketing and development staff don’t often need as much help but typically do have the support staff to assist with initiatives.
While all shelters and rescues are hopefully working towards the same goals, they often have fundamentally different operating business models. Your local municipal open-admissions shelter is different from your grassroots volunteer run rescue that may not even have a bricks and mortar set up and, your private managed admissions shelter will have yet another different model. Understanding the different types of animal welfare agencies will help you hone in on the best match for what you have to reasonably offer.
So, Where to Begin
Start with “How can I help?” as opposed to telling the organization what you think they need. You may be right but, especially with smaller founder-run groups, they can get prickly about feeling perceived as not being savvy.
Do your due diligence before approaching an organization. Review their website, read online reviews, attend a couple of their community events and, if they have one, visit their facility. Figure out who the appropriate contact is at the organization. It may not be the Executive Director.
Even though you are offering your services in a volunteer capacity, treat the approach as you would any other professional outreach. Tell them who you are and what you have to offer and show them that you have done some research and have an understanding about the challenges they actually face.
Define the Scope of Work
In effect, you are volunteering for a very specific type of project so set a scope of work that you can actually accomplish without feeling overwhelmed. In other words, don’t offer to arrange a major gala for a volunteer-run organization that has twelve people, no budget and no infrastructure. Sometimes what an organization needs may not be as sexy as what we might want to provide so finding common ground will create a much smoother relationship and a more positive experience for everyone. The old saying, “give them an inch and they’ll take a mile” does apply here. Not because the organization intends to take advantage but because we fail to provide clarity around what we can actually commit in terms of time and deliverables.
Once you’ve come to an agreement, write up the scope of work and the approximate value. It is absolutely acceptable for you to request an “in-kind” donation form for your professional services to include in your taxes upon completion of the project (or at an end-of-year milestone).