The northwest is a magnet for amazing non-profits utilizing social media. A treat to share an excellent example of a non-profit using social media to support current marketing efforts as well as strengthen their community. Since 1967 PAWS, a northwest non-profit has been the human voice for cats, dogs, bunnies, birds and even bears. Entering into social media looks to has been a natural transition communicating their support of animal welfare and northwest wildlife, raising awareness for events, adoptions and even beginning to use social media to support donation efforts.
Throughout my life I have looked to PAWS for when I found an injured wild animal and has always been at the top of my list when recommending places to adopt a new furry family member. I am delighted to share with you an interview that Brian Thurston generously took the time to share.
PAWS Social Media Presence
Our social media efforts are led by Mary Leake Schilder, Public Affairs Manager, and Brian Thurston, Online Communications Coordinator, with assistance from 6-8 other “front line” bloggers who write about their experiences working hands-on with animals or educating the community.
PAWS is a regional organization located in Lynnwood, WA serving Washington State, primarily the Puget Sound area.
We also have a cats-only adoption center called PAWS Cat City in the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle. I think our services are summed up nicely in our new mission statement (just approved by the board Tuesday night!):
PAWS is a champion for animals – rehabilitating injured and orphaned wildlife, sheltering and adopting homeless cats and dogs, and educating people to make a better world for animals and people.
Why did PAWS decide to use social media?
While we had been using our website as a repository of information, it was not a living, breathing, constantly changing source of information. Our rebranding and new website in 2009-2010 gave us the perfect launching point to delve into social media to better keep our supporters and the public up-to-date on our work to make a better world for animals. Venturing into Twitter, YouTube and Facebook has really allowed us to reach more people where they already are, rather than depending on them to come to our website.
We’ve been able to have great conversations around animal welfare issues simply by putting forth PAWS’ stance or a call to action, and responding to questions and comments (both for and against our position). No matter how someone responds online, it opens the door for our supporters to have a conversation amongst themselves, and allows PAWS to chime in when needed to fill in gaps with our expertise in animal care or animal welfare issues.
It’s also been a fantastic way for us to showcase the beautiful, fascinating, and unique animals we help every day. Not only does this help the animals get adopted or get financial support for care, it also helps our supporters and the public feel more connected to what we’re doing. Since most aren’t able to make it to our campus every day, and some areas (especially wildlife care) are not public, it’s a great way to really help people understand what we’re doing and why it’s important.
Starting Social Media
We developed the Online Communications Coordinator position last fall specifically to be the point person for taking on the joys and challenges of social media. While the job also does website maintenance and technical tasks, its central role is to help our staff and volunteers tell their story online via the best media possible.
Funding, Donations & Adoptions
PAWS receives more than 80% of our funding from private donations. While our efforts in social media are too new to see any statistical trends toward increased donations and adoptions, we have anecdotally seen many of our existing donors coming closer to PAWS and the animals through social media interactions, and have also had many more online volunteer applications coming through.
Can you share some frequently asked questions you receive through Facebook and Twitter?
We get a little of everything, from people wanting updates on the animals we’ve featured online to people wanting to know what to do about a wild animal visiting their yard.
Staff & Volunteer Involvement
PAWS staff and volunteers are contributing bloggers, and they also help spread the word to adopters, visitors and the public about our great new website and social media outlets.
We are currently developing a social media policy for both staff and volunteers. While it hasn’t been completely finalized, it boils down to common sense: don’t start or engage in arguments or negative talk online, share only knowledge and photos that are public already (i.e. don’t break a story on your Facebook wall before PAWS has a chance to do so officially, with all the correct details), and be a positive, enthusiastic ambassador for the animals at PAWS.
We track several statistics such as click-through rate for posted links, number of page views on our blog, and number of times a video has been viewed on YouTube. Ultimately, though, we measure our success in the overwhelmingly positive reactions we’ve received from our supporters, volunteers, staff and the public. Even if we only get 10 clicks on a particular link one day, if it brings one person closer to our work and turns them into an advocate for the animals, it was a successful endeavor!
Connect with PAWS!
Facebook and the PAWS Blog are where most of our action is at right now, and they can also subscribe to our e-newsletters. Oh, and I also highly recommend registering for PAWSwalk on September 11, 2010. It’s a really fun event with more than 1,500 people and their canine friends. Anyone can register online! The online fundraising tools available once you register include social media integration on your personal fundraising page.
Participate in Supporting PAWS & Animals
Spread the word about our social media outlets, register for PAWSwalk online and use social media to help bring in donations for the animals, and share our posts and videos with your friends and family!
Thank you for reading about PAWS and their social media journey. I encourage you to learn more about PAWS at their website and if you are ready to for a new furry family member consider adoption first.