Changing Hearts and Minds in Your Community about Shelter Pets
In the latest episode of the Individual Animal, “I’ll Send You Some Tips,” we interview Caitlin Quinn of HeARTs Speak to talk about marketing shelter pets.
While the entirety of the episode isn’t about Covid-19, one of the reasons we wanted to have Caitlin on the show was to discuss ways shelters can market their dogs during this time. How do you discuss current events and bring levity to a situation without crossing a line that gives off a dismissive vibe?
This can be a challenge, especially if you’re a lover of dark humor. That’s why we asked Caitlin that tough question of how the heck do you market shelter pets during a pandemic? To hear her expert opinion, push play below!
Listen to the Episode
For those interested in general marketing tips, we’ve got those, too! HeARTs Speak is full of resources for shelters and rescues. So, we asked Caitlin to share her general wisdom on marketing and how to connect with your community to find resources like photographers to help you.
We also have some fun at the end where we ask her 5 non-animal welfare related questions. All of our guests are really cool people and we thought these questions would give everyone some insight into who they are as individuals!
*The transcript for this podcast will be available tomorrow.
Want to be on our podcast to talk about the intersection of animal welfare and social justice? Want to yell at us for our opinions? Email us!
Read the transcript
Nikki [00:00:09] Hello, everyone, and welcome. I hope everybody is staying safe and finding fun things to do inside these next couple weeks. I am struggling with finding stuff to do inside. So if anybody has any ideas, they want to send along that would be fantastic.
Regina [00:00:31] I’m inside all the time anyway. I like never leave my house. So this is normal for me. I’ll have just some chips.
Nikki [00:00:41] But now I think it’s probably a really good time since we can all work from our computers in the comfort of our own home to try and work on some really great marketing ideas to help market our dogs or cats and our guinea pigs and whatever else we have in our shelters. So today on the podcast we have Caitlin Quinn, who is the director of operations and much more at Hearts Speak. And Caitlin, why don’t you go ahead and start out by giving us a little rundown of what Hearts Speak does for the people that don’t already know.
Caitlin [00:01:22] Sure. So Hearts Speak is a nonprofit organization and our entire mission and our goal is really to make marketing accessible to shelters and rescues. Especially, I think the folks that sometimes get the most out of our programs are those folks who are wearing many different hats in shelters and rescues. And I think that most people in small organizations and even large ones. So really we focus our efforts specifically in that lean of marketing and communications just to try to make the act of marketing pets or marketing services or, you know, changing minds in the community about shelter animals. A little bit easier for the folks with boots on the ground.
Nikki [00:02:10] So have you had an influx of people asking you for suggestions on how to deal with the current situation that we’re in? I’m sure everybody’s aware at this point. You know, we do have a pandemic going on in the entire world at Covid-19. And it’s hard because I think a lot of shelters are working really hard to find ways to either get their animals adopted or foster. And also, like you can speak to this a little bit better Caitlin, we try to market our animal and use current events, but that’s sort of a hard thing to do right now because this is such a serious situation that we don’t want to make light of it, but it is still something that’s going on. And you know, what can you tell us a little bit about like what you have been seeing and advice you’ve been giving to shelters in that respect?
Caitlin [00:03:11] Yeah, absolutely. So we’ve definitely had an influx in requests for resources, requests for kind of advice about how to handle marketing and communications around the coronavirus. And I think you’re exactly right with you know, as you’re saying, we try to leverage current events typically in marketing to, you know, kind of ride those waves of exposure and get more eyes on animals who need eyes on them. But when you’re dealing with something that is a matter of public health or, you know, the same way that we wouldn’t use a hurricane or an earthquake to leverage levity around animal, you know, animal promotion? I think we have to think about something like a pandemic really similarly. I think it’s really important to really balance those messages that we’re putting out and make sure that we are still respecting the fact that there is a loss of human lives with this virus. And we need to really kind of walk that tightrope a little bit. And now that doesn’t mean that we can’t put out, you know, amazing content that is positive and that is that kind of bright spot in people’s social media feed or in their inbox because we have the magic solution, which is animals. And people are being laid in with a ton of really heavy kind of scary information. And there’s a lot of pretty prevalent anxiety around a lot of this right now. So it doesn’t mean that we need to be completely serious all the time. But it does mean that we have to really stay on the right side of making fun of, I think that that’s the difference there. We don’t want to make fun of the idea that there is a pandemic. We want to put out pleas for help that are really heartfelt, that really are clear in their communication of what we need as organizations. And then I think that we can balance that with some really amazing stories of animals who are in foster animals who are still available for adoption of the people who are coming forward and the many, many different ways that people are reaching out to shelters and rescues and wanting to help. I think that we have plenty of positive content to take advantage of. And I think that, again, doesn’t mean that we have to be doom and gloom in the way that we market this. We want to stay away from that as well. But I think we want to be really respectful of the human component here.
Regina [00:05:52] Yeah and I think not by not being doom and gloom is so important because like I was just saying before we started that for AFF, I’m really just want to focus on a lot of positive pictures of our dogs and maybe not even go heavy with our messaging. I mean, obviously, we’ll still be on mission. But I think what people need right now is happiness. And like you said, animals bring that. So I think that the more positive shelters can be, the better. It’s almost like, you know, we serve a dual service now. You know, it’s like getting the dogs adopted, but also kind of keeping a space for people that is joyous in this time of absolute stress.
Caitlin [00:06:39] Absolutely. And there are a lot of shelters that are in a position, especially earlier this week when a lot of states of emergency and really everything became a little bit more real for us in the United States, I think earlier this week or late last week, I should say. And I think a lot of shelters were put in a position of really needing to be super clear and in some cases more clear with their public than they have been in the past. We need your help because our lives are literally at stake in this situation. And I think that that was excellent the way that that was handled. You know, in terms of, you know, how this affects animal shelters and people. Social distancing is amazing but it also means that in some areas, fostering and adoption were down. And I think a lot of shelters handled that communication really well. And then they think you’re exactly right once you put out that plea when you start getting that response. Then I think our role is a lot of bringing joy to people and giving them a little bit of a break from this news cycle. That can be really overwhelming.
Regina [00:07:42] All right. So this is a little bit of a veer off of talking about marketing, but I know that I can’t remember which shelter it is or even where it is. But some shelter is doing a drive through Fosters, temporary fosters. And I think that’s a cute way, you know because there they are kind of doing a riff off of drive-through testing. But I feel like, I think that’s probably an OK thing to do to use like that kind of language. And also it’s just great that they are making it easier for pets to get into homes.
Caitlin [00:08:16] Yeah. I think that there’s a real practical element to that as well. You know, like I think that I’ve seen a bunch of shelters actually doing that kind of drive-through fostering or drive through adoptions or virtual adoption counseling. And I think I’m really, really proud of being part of an industry where I feel like people have gotten really innovative really quickly, you know, and I know that it’s out of necessity, but I’m really proud of the shelters that are really stepping up that way and finding solutions so that they don’t have to completely closed down, you know?
Caitlin [00:08:53] You know what? I want to just go back a second. Have Caitlin, talk about how she got involved in animal welfare. I think we may have missed that part.
Nikki [00:09:04] Yeah, we can jump right in now. I don’t think people care whether we talk about that kind of stuff, though.
Regina [00:09:10] So tell us, Caitlin, when did you get involved in animal welfare.
Caitlin [00:09:13] I got involved in animal welfare completely by accident.
Regina [00:09:21] Just like that two of us.
Caitlin [00:09:24] So I and started that career with Animal Farm Foundation, which I should definitely mention. So I graduated from college with an English degree in the very beginning of the recession. And so what I hadn’t figured out anything about what I wanted to do with my life and college. Except that I knew for some reason that I wanted to work for a nonprofit. And part of that was just informed by, I think, the other options that people had presented to me as a writing major, as an English major were, you know, working in publishing or, you know, things that didn’t necessarily appeal to me at the time. And so I had done some of my internships and externships and things like that with nonprofits and had worked for my last year of college really closely with an after school program that was part of a subsidized housing development and just felt like even though the resources were really tight and even though there were some serious challenges about that work, that I felt good about what I was doing every day. And I kind of wanted to hold on to that feeling of purpose. And so I basically because it was the recession was looking for any job in a nonprofit. Like it was very a very broad search and came across this listing for Animal Farm Foundation had no real idea what I was applying for or what I was getting into. And I think I used to joke around with Stacey that I think the reason I got the job is that they asked me a question about how I felt about, you know, some of the things that people think and say about “pit bulls.” And I was like, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I wasn’t aware that there was any kind of issue. And I think they were like, oh, this, this is the girl for us. Because we can kind of help her along this journey.
Nikki [00:11:33] Help her be who we want her to be.
Caitlin [00:11:34] Exactly, could mold me. And I am really, really grateful for that experience because I was able to get a ton of experience that I would never have gotten on kind of the national level of animal welfare, and really work with so many different shelters in a way that I think continues to inform the way that I, you know, now do this very different job in some ways and very similar job and other ways. But I am really grateful for the exposure to a lot of diversity in terms of sizes of organizations and the way that different organizations are operating and things like that, and probably the last few years of my time at Animal Farm Foundation that was almost, you know, most of my job was working with other shelters, either on the grant-making front or in speaking engagements or in workshops that we were doing around the country. And that kind of experience, I think, is still the bedrock for the way that I think about my position in animal welfare. And what I want to do to effect change.
Regina [00:12:48] Well, since we’re on the topic of Animal Farm. what advice do you give people for how to market their quote-unquote, “pit bull” dogs.
Caitlin [00:12:59] Oh, I do sometimes get those questions. Although thankfully not as much as I used to. I’m very, very happy about it. I think my answer always starts with this idea that good marketing is inclusive and not exclusive of animals. And so, quote-unquote. And during my air quotes right now that you can’t see, “pit bull” marketing is just marketing. There is no national “pit bull” market. But what I do think is really important that I do end up talking to people about a lot is if you are marketing never includes “pit bull” dogs or only includes stock images of purebred animals or, you know, isn’t reflective of the reality of working and living in the sheltering world than I think we’re really missing the boats. I think that when we are including “pit bull” dogs as equally as we are other animals in the way that we market, whether it’s in our, you know, our internal stock imagery, the photos that we’re taking on our own and using in our general marketing, or if our feed is only filled with dogs that aren’t necessarily representative of our population at our organizations, then we’re not really doing that kind of important low level changing of minds. That I think still really needs to happen in a lot of communities where there is still some misconception about dogs being labeled “pit bull.”
Nikki [00:14:40] Yeah, it’s sort of a disservice for the dogs that you have in your shelter. I’m really surprised, I’ve actually had a few organizations reach out to Animal Farm asking like, my superiors don’t want to put any “pit bull” dogs in the brochures that we have or the marketing material. I find it really interesting that that’s such a barrier that people are so worried that if they like I’m guessing the worry is if we put “pit bull” dogs in the marketing material people will think that’s all we have in our shelter. And there is already this misconception.
Caitlin [00:15:16] Yeah, I think that there’s inherent in that like belief and in some of those questions, I think is like almost like this shame that we have “pit bull” dogs in our shelters. You know, like that, we’re trying to just like kind of scoop that under the rug or something, Sweep that under the rug. And I think that the shelters that I see just doing really good marketing, in general, are the ones who don’t have that attitude. You know, who are, and those are the communities where I think people don’t have these hangups about, you know, all you have, quote-unquote, all you have in your shelter, “pit bull” dogs, because they think the shelters that are doing it well are truly kind of hitting that balance of being able to show that each of those dogs as an individual. And so they’re not caught in that trap of having, you know, kind of like the token “pit bull” that shows up once in a while and marketing that then becomes representative of all the dogs who look like that. I think that’s why it’s so important for your marketing, your general marketing to reflect your population because then you are able to zero in on individual behaviors and individual needs and just the individual animal.
Nikki [00:16:30] Yeah, if you focus less on what you think your dogs are and more on the individual dogs and aren’t just like this is an adorable dog, this is the cute thing in here and move on. I do think organizations sometimes hinder them by being too, wanting to do a really good service for quote-unquote “pit bull” dogs by saying like, look at all these awesome “pit bulls” We have. These “pit bulls” this, these “pit bulls” that. So there’s like a fine line between the two of, you know, just celebrating your dogs is probably the best you can get for somebody not completely excluding them and not overly marketing them as this big group of similar dog.
Caitlin [00:17:18] Yes. And I’m so glad you said that because I think when I’m saying that they need to be included and pretty prevalent in that marketing. It’s always without a big neon sign that says this dog is a “pit bull” we think. You know, like it’s always just like they’re just included, very kind of quietly and normally in the marketing without any kind of, any of that, that you’re talking about. Of pointing to them as a group, but rather just talking about shelter dogs and showing dogs who are representative of our population.
Nikki [00:17:54] Do you have any? Because I know you travel to shelters and you hope about with a perfect exposure project. Maybe we should start there a little bit and talk about what the work you do with the perfect expose project. I just really am interested in hearing like this, I’m sure, I’m hoping at least that you have some really emotional stories about going out to shelters and seeing their progress, which I’m sure happens all the time. But is there anything significant that you can tell us about that that has really helped a specific shelter or shelters in general?
Caitlin [00:18:35] Yeah, I mean, I am really lucky to be able to, you know, deliver our perfect exposure project, which is one of our three core programs, and is bringing Hands-On workshops and marketing of photography to shelters. And the program is actually kind of exceeded our ability to meet the needs of the program. We have a pretty limited funding, in general, every year and very limited funding for that program. So we ended up having to start taking applications because there was just more interest and then we could meet the need of. And that has been one of the most gut-wrenching kind of exercises, is reviewing the applications and needing to choose where we go. And so we’re very thoughtful about that based on, you know, existing resources and the location in the country where different shelters are and things like that. And there are always stories, you know, both big and small that come out of that program. But one that I think really always sticks with me is that we were at a shelter in South Carolina. And at the end of the photography workshop, which is the first day of the two day program, the staff asked if they could bring out a dog who had advanced heartworm. And to the point where, you know, her, her belly and her chest were kind of distended and they were looking for a hospice home for her. And they were having issues because the only photos that they had of their marketing her with were her intake photos. And she’s in the back of the kennel and really, really scared and obviously she doesn’t look well because she’s very ill. And they just had never gotten anything that was a little bit more connective of this dog. So we brought her out and she was very, very timid. And those dogs are sometimes, you know, and cats are really challenging to get good photos of on a great day sometimes. But what I loved about this story was, you know, someone was trying to learn how to use a DSLR camera and one of the big nice digital cameras. And they were getting our settings and kind of, you know, getting ready to take this photo. And a volunteer, who was not a volunteer from that shelter, had just met this very timid dog kind of bent down and was whispering to the dog and kind of just having this really sweet, quiet moment and this sweet dog just kind of tipped over into this woman’s arms and was just like full on cuddling with her. This person she had never met before. And a bunch of people took cell phone photos of that happening because it was kind of that in the moment and the person with the fancy camera wasn’t quite ready to take that photo. And the photos were amazing, which is why it’s one of my favorite stories to talk about, just like how important it is to use the tools that are at your disposal, you know. Like that, it’s not all about having the fanciest, most amazing camera. It’s about, you know, using the equipment that you do have to the best of your ability. And what is even more kind of memorable about that is that they posted that photo than that day. And before we left South Carolina, that dog had a hospice home.
Nikki [00:21:50] That’s amazing! What I love about your organization is that you guys have such awesome resources for people, even if they can’t get to have you guys come out, which is the best case scenario. You guys have like these awesome booklets that tell you how to work in DSLR camera. But also how to take really good cell phone camera and how to readjust the settings. Where I’m like I don’t know what the ISODQSA.
Regina [00:22:34] I need to look at your resources for using a fancy camera because I have one and I don’t know what I’m doing. And I’ve had it for a while and I just like, occasionally I take a really awesome photo, but a lot of them are crap. So I decide, well, I can figure it out.
Caitlin [00:22:53] Yeah it ends up being kind of by accident, right? Like when the photos are amazing. Yeah. So I’m really proud that we have the resources that kind of span that spectrum, you know, so we do have the resources that will help you, you know, use your DSLR, your digital camera better.
[00:23:11] And we also work with a lot of shelters where even with a donated camera, their day to day operations are gonna include, you know, ACOs who need to be able to take a camera, an intake photo with a tablet or with a cell phone or staff who are wearing many, many hats and need to be able to upload those photos more quickly and more easily than a digital camera will allow them to. And so that is one thing that I think we are the most proud of, is really trying to meet everybody along this pretty wide spectrum when it comes to marketing and to promotion, trying to meet everybody where they are and give them the tools that will help them up their game wherever they are, and not say, hey, you have to do this the way that we say you have to, but rather in a really kind of make content and make tools that are adaptable to different situations in sheltering.
Nikki [00:24:08] So if you give tips to shelters with extremely limited resources so this is where I always have trouble even with the stuff we do with Animal Farm, when I go out and I want them to focus on removing breed label and I want to do this and do that. And it’s like they have two staff members, they’re just lucky if the dogs are getting out or it’s really hard to make that connection to help them make those changes when they have like so much already on their plate. So, yeah, if you could, I’m sort of putting you on the spot here but if you could give or maybe like three tips to shelters that are understaffed, under-resourced like what three tips could you give them to help just take like one step forward in their marketing.
Caitlin [00:24:59] Yeah, that’s a really great question. And I think some of this one of my first recommendations sometimes for folks that are in that position is not being afraid to use some of the resources that we have on our site or just that you have at your disposal to reach out into the community and find a volunteer or someone so that you don’t have to do it all yourself. You know, and I think that that’s sometimes such as simple, such a simple thing. But it’s really hard to step back and see that sometimes when you’re in the middle of it. To see that just bringing in another person who maybe does have expertise in something like taking photos or someone who really would love to work with you to help your social media presence or something like that, sometimes it’s just a matter of tapping another person on the shoulder and saying, like, I need help with this. But I think the other two things that I would say, you know, with that being kind of the first tip. And in that broader sense of marketing, not necessarily photography related, is embracing the fact that you can be a human and social media and that that kind of authentic connection on behalf of the animals is really, really valuable. So if the best you can do is take a quick cell phone shot and maybe it’s not perfect and that’s totally OK. But to post that animal with kind of your heartfelt thoughts, like what you do know about them, and even if it’s just something silly, like one of the shelters we worked with, didn’t know anything about this dog on intake other than the way that he was behaving right when he was getting his intake photo. But they named him Egg McMuffin and he was adorable and waggy and smiley the whole time. And so it’s all you can say is this dog captured our heart because he did this, you know because he was waggy and smiley and all these things. His name is Egg McMuffin. And please come meet him. I think sometimes we take for granted that it’s OK to share the simplest of information. But when you do that and it’s more authentic and it kind of comes from that, that your heart, that it’s much more effective that way. So I’d say that would be my second tip and I’m sorry I’m being so verbose. And the third tip would be just to not feel so isolated in terms of. There are so many other people struggling with these same issues. And it’s hard to feel that again when you are in the weeds, when you’re by yourself. But there are some communities online, whether it is, you know, the Heart Speak resources and our edu program and getting to know how to use some of those tools. But even more importantly, things like Facebook groups, there’s a group called Animal Shelter, Social Media. That’s just a place where you can share those kind of problems and other people are going through that same thing and can offer you their solution. So you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel. You don’t always have to come up with the idea yourself. There’s a lot of other shelters doing something similar and some of the best ideas are, you know, borrowed and shared and things like that. And that’s really what we hope for. Our edu program is to be that place where you don’t have to come up with the whole campaign from start to finish. Here are some tools that you can just jump right in the middle and make this whole active promotion a little bit easier.
Regina [00:28:29] And I’ll go just with that group, the Animal Shelter Social Media Group. One thing I notice is people will post something and say, I need help with the language for this. Like, this is kind of what I had, but I know it’s not right. And, you know, shelters aren’t in competition with each other. Right. So nobody is, everybody gives you their ideas, you know. So it’s a great place to brainstorm. It’s helpful.
Caitlin [00:28:56] Yes, absolutely. And I think that that’s just one of the most important things we can do, and especially right now, like if we can touch on the current moment of, you know, coronavirus and everybody kind of working from our own corners of our own homes in some cases or from our isolated offices. It’s a way to break through that. That feeling of isolation is to lean into these kind of digital communities where people are ready to help.
Nikki [00:29:21] So can you talk a little bit more about your edu program? I was on the Web site and I’m there every once in a while, but I’ve noticed that has gotten quite robust since I had last visited. And I am so excited to start diving into all the videos and resources that you guys have. So can you tell me a little bit about what you offer with the edu?
Caitlin [00:29:44] Sure. Absolutely. It is one of my favorite programs I love all of our programs. But I love that program kind of grew out of, you know, seeking a solution to a problem that we’re having. We were not able to say yes to every single shelter that applied for one of our perfect exposure project workshops. And the idea of bringing some of that content online was really a game changer for us. And being able to reach more shelters. So the program really is multimedia in that there are videos that teach different components of marketing from photography through to some very light editing and editing, always with tools like Canva or Pick Monkey or something that is accessible to most of us. And what then kind of also came out of the perfect exposure project was when we would finish those workshops. People now had these new skillsets, but didn’t necessarily have the next set of tools to make all of that a little bit easier. Right. So if you talk to people about marketing for two days straight, but then you kind of release them back into the world where there is not necessarily custom made materials for them to take some of those ideas and make them a little more turnkey. And that’s where the second kind of half of the edu program evolved so that we’re providing design tools. And right now, the majority of those are in the form of digital overlays and things that are kind of holiday specific and in these different seams and things like that. But what I’m really excited about is we now are also and really because of this moment in time with the coronavirus outbreak providing Canva templates. So you’ll be able to hopefully tomorrow we’ll have our first set of canva templates live on the site so that you can click and it’s basically a ready to go social media piece or digital marketing piece, you can use it in email or whatever. And be able to customize that to your message or your needs in hopefully what is just a couple minutes so that you’re not in this position of even needing to use these overlays in any kind of creative way, like most of the work is done for you. Customize your logo, customize whatever the call to action is for your shelter or rescue and just be able to download it and go. And I’m hoping that that will be kind of the next level of ease of use that comes from that program. And then we have a couple of more kind of.
Nikki [00:32:25] I’m sorry to interrupt but is it going to be on Canva like your templates will be on Canva for people to buy.
Caitlin [00:32:31] So they’ll be able to use Canva. You’ll need to get the link from our site. So you’ll come to our site, go to the edu Library, click on the box that I’ll say canva templates and then it’ll be a whole collection of canva templates, the same way that our overlays are currently kind of housed there. But when you click on the link instead of downloading it will take you directly to the canva site. But the great thing about the way that we built these templates is we used all either free materials or designs that were creating internally so that people have free use of those things. They don’t have to worry about paying for a stock image or anything like that.
Nikki [00:33:14] That is beyond excited. My jaw has been dropped this whole time.
Caitlin [00:33:24] And I think, you know, a couple of years ago we had this idea for a tool called petblicity and we were part of Petco Foundation’s innovation showdown at the Humane Society of the United States Conference. And essentially what we were pitching was a design program where you could do exactly what we’re now using Canva for. So I’m really excited that canvas platform has evolved to the place where we can kind of leverage it this way. But I’m even more excited that we can now take this next step to just truly making this hopefully a lot easier for people to accomplish.
Nikki [00:34:08] One more thing I feel like I interrupted you on.
Caitlin [00:34:10] No, I think I was gonna say is right now the first templates that we’ll put up are going to be related to marketing during, you know, around the coronavirus and calls for foster and calls for adoption. And just like general marketing pieces about how we’re in this together and really trying to build that community. And then we hope, you know, that we’ll get some good feedback on those templates and be able to just build from there even more content that will be useful all year long.
Nikki [00:34:42] That’s awesome. Have you guys done any Research about how better marketing has increased adoption? Like we see it day to day So we know that it’s happening. Do you have any sort of a solid research behind that that you guys have been ding currently?
Caitlin [00:34:57] Yeah, you know, I wish we had more solid research. And it’s something that we are constantly applying for funding for research projects around this. But I think, unfortunately, sometimes the idea of marketing, even though we all use a form of marketing every single day, you know, no matter what size our organization is or what resources we have, it still doesn’t rank quite high enough, I think, in the big scheme of things. And I totally get it. You know, when we’re doing direct care of animals. Marketing ends up sounding like something that is a luxury item or something that is maybe not as critical when we’re dealing with triage and things like that. But what I would consistently argue is that with all the good work that’s happening behind closed doors, at our shelters and rescues is only as good as getting that out to the community and letting people know about it, because that means more support for our programs. That means more donors. It means more volunteers. And ultimately, if we can move animals faster through our systems, we’re saving more lives overall. And so I wish that I could answer that with like really super solid research and data. And it’s something that will continue to kind of fight for. But I can say that just based on our program data, you know, our delivery of things like the Perfect Exposure project, we’ve moved to a place over the last couple years of gathering data and looking at things like adoption numbers but also looking more critically at length of stay as kind of a number that we want to track around marketing. And we some of the shelters that we’ve worked with before, they’re before and after stats related to the perfect exposure project saw up to a decrease of 60 percent in their length of stay for a very extreme case. It’s more of an average of somewhere between 10 and 20 percent for some of the shelters that are more, you know, maybe doing a little bit more when we get there.
Nikki [00:37:03] It sounds like a small number, but it’s pretty substantial I think when it means a dog is going home faster.
Caitlin [00:37:11] Yeah, I think so, too. And I think adoption statistics are great and we will continue to kind of gather that information as well. But for most organizations, there’s so many, that’s a moving target that so many different programs kind of have their finger on the pulse of. And there’s many different efforts being made to impact that specifically that I really am proud when we can see that kind of shift in length of stay, because that means more spaces being made for animals who are coming in. And hopefully, if we can keep that kind of trajectory going that at the end of the year it does mean more lives saved, hopefully.
Nikki [00:37:48] And you have one other program.
Caitlin [00:37:50] Artists Helping Animal.
Nikki [00:37:52] Could you talk about that?
Caitlin [00:37:54] Yeah. And I’m glad for the opportunity because so this is Hearts Speaks tenth anniversary year. And the organization really started because of that Artists Helping Animals program. Our founder, who’s name is Lisa Prince Fishler, was kind of as someone who was a photographer at the time, really inspired by adopting her dog Iggy and also moved to action because as a photographer, she saw that there was really this gap in photographers being able to or being willing to I should say he kind of freely provide their services to shelters without a whole lot of strings attached. So there were some photographers doing some of this work, but it was, you know, maybe they needed to really control the rights of those photos in a lot of cases or they weren’t just quite sure how to work with the shelters effectively to the benefit of the animals the most. So she kind of saw that that problem immediately as she was kind of going through this effort of trying to work with more shelters and rescues and started a network so that, you know, photographers could come together and share some of the things that they were running into and really kind of problem solve how to better provide services to shelters, but also so that there could be more of an educational component so that we could also create photographers and artists who are more effectively helping the shelters as well. So that it’s really kind of this a two way street, so to speak, you know, so that there is effectiveness on both sides of that, so that it is beneficial to photographers who want this way to give back. And so it is also beneficial to shelters who really could use that content. But it shouldn’t be a headache for them to get it or it shouldn’t be such an effort that it no longer feels worth it. And to date, we have about six hundred artists of all kinds. I shouldn’t keep just saying photographers and a growing kind of body of graphic designers and folks like that who are giving time in shelters and who are willing to provide services at no cost me.
Nikki [00:40:06] And you guys have helped also a few times and hooked us up with some really great photographers. We appreciate your help there as well.
Caitlin [00:40:15] Thank you. I’m glad to hear it.
Nikki [00:40:17] We decided like yesterday we wanted to do a new.
Regina [00:40:23] It was the day before yesterday.
Nikki [00:40:25] So we decided the day before yesterday, my days are all squashed together now, like, is it Friday or is it Monday? I don’t know. But so we wanted to do sort of a new format because we wanted, we originally talked about doing podcast episodes, about spotlighting shelters or people working in shelters and people in organizations that help shelters. There are so many really great people out there that go above and beyond to help animals in whatever capacity their work is in.
Regina [00:41:06] And the working title for that was Crush Worthy People in Animal Welfare.
Nikki [00:41:13] So we think or we would like to do it if you’re OK with it, is asking some more questions about yourself. We want to get to know who you are outside of your organization and what makes you tick. Our first question coming straight from your mouth to mine. So when Caitlin work for Animal Farm Foundation we used to have interns come to the shelter And they would come the first night we would do dinner. You know, we’d go around and we introduce ourselves. And Caitlin, so very meanly, would ask these interns what was one non-animal related things about themselves at every time.
Regina [00:42:01] This is like my worst nightmare. This is my worst nightmare.
Caitlin [00:42:08] That is everyone’s worst nightmare.
Nikki [00:42:10] Everybody ‘s faces like dropped, you could see that we’re all crying inside. Oh, my God. What do I do that doesn’t involve animals like, oh, my gosh. Because when you’re passionate about the work that you do, you know, you sometimes tend to, you know, get little bit too involved. But everybody’s got their own hobbies outside of animal welfare. I would hope. So Caitlin to put you right on the spot, tell us what you enjoy doing that don’t have to do with your animal or your work?
Caitlin [00:42:51] Oh, it is. Dreaded question. I love gardening, actually it’s become one of my favorite things. Yeah, when I’m not working. I find it very calming. I like being outside. I planted a bunch of seeds this weekend because I was so stressed out about everything that’s happening in the world.
Nikki [00:43:16] What seeds were they? All kinds of seeds or were they like a specific thing? So I was so jealous.
Caitlin [00:43:27] So all sorts of things, but mostly flowers. I started this weekend and then just some lettuce and peas as well. But mostly flowers.
Regina [00:43:36] OK, so then.
Nikki [00:43:36] That’s really cool.
Regina [00:43:38] Oh, Go ahead Nikki.
Nikki [00:43:39] No go ahead.
Regina [00:43:40] I was just gonna move to the next question, which is like potentially an incendiary question. It depends on how strongly people feel about your answer. What’s your least favorite color? Like what color is just ilckh.
Caitlin [00:43:56] Oh, my goodness. That is a really hard one. I have a real problem always with like least and best, you know, like what’s your favorite and what’s your least favorite. I guess I just don’t have a lot of strong feelings. But I am not a huge fan of purple, which I guess is probably going to be incendiary. Purple is not my fave.
Regina [00:44:19] A lot of people love purple. Purple is a popular color.
Caitlin [00:44:23] It is. Yes. I guess I’m putting myself out there.
Nikki [00:44:29] Haters gonna hate.
Nikki [00:44:34] What about. I feel like, Regina this is our first time so what should we do? Separately or do you want to say early favorite color?
Regina [00:44:42] No, I think we need to interview each other. So there actually are well, not twenty yet. We are gonna have 20 questions that we’re just gonna do a podcast with people answering all these 20 questions. Some of them are related to animal welfare. Half of them are. But I think we should just interview each other.
Nikki [00:45:01] OK so well just keep Caitlin on the spot. I’m actually really excited for your answer for the next question, because I think that you have really interesting taste in music. And you know, like the undergroundy sort of things. I don’t know if I’m remembering that right, but I feel like you always know the songs that aren’t on the radio, but are super cool. So why did your favorite band or current, it could be all time and then what’s your favorite song right now that you just like listening to over and over again?
Caitlin [00:45:44] That’s so hard. I think you are remembering that I do have really eclectic taste in music. I don’t know if I have a favorite current song, but I do know that my current kind of playlist on Spotify has Like Lake Street DIve, Lizzo, some, a band called Ripe that probably nobody will know that I love.
Regina [00:46:12] Is your playlist, I don’t know much about Spotify, but like, you can have, are all playlist public or do you have to make them public? Because if you want to share your playlist with everybody.
Caitlin [00:46:22] Oh my goodness. No, I think you totally only make them, which I really don’t know how to.
Regina [00:46:30] You don’t have to, I was just thinking that would be fun.
Nikki [00:46:31] Are you one of those people that wants to not have people know these bands are that I like. There’s a lot of people that have that mentality. What I want is to keep as my own.
Caitlin [00:46:46] No, I mean, I’m probably the opposite. I come from a musical family and it’s more like it’s the opposite. It’s like evangelizing about bands that you love. Like my brother will call me, just be obsessing over a band and just like, say, the name of the band and hang up.
Nikki [00:47:07] That’s fantastic.
Caitlin [00:47:09] It’s pretty amazing.
[00:47:14] What about your favorite book or what book are you reading now?
Caitlin [00:47:19] So my most favorite book in recent memory is called “On Living” and it’s by I think her name is Carrie Egan. She’s actually a hospice chaplain. And the book sounds like it would be depressing. I promise it’s not. It’s incredibly uplifting. It’s an incredibly hope filled and honestly a very good one for this moment in time, if you need that, that in your life, which I think we all do. But basically, she’s talking as a hospice chaplain about different stories, different people that really impacted her. And they’re all dying, all the people that she talks to, obviously, in hospice. But the story is that she has about them are not about death. It’s about the things that people kind of learned in their lives, things that, you know, realizations that people had about maybe things that they would have done differently, but that I think we can all kind of learn from and benefit from. And it’s a book that I reread a lot. It’s one of those, you know, where you got a little something different out of it every time. And then if you need a different kind of escape. Because I also have a wide ranging taste in books as well, I guess, as music. But I also just read The Girl Who Drink the Moon, which is more of like a fantasy. Good for like Harry Potter fans. Just kind of fun escape book.
Regina [00:48:52] I’ll have to read it. I mostly like fantasy and sci-fi stuff. So yeah. So I have to read it.
Nikki [00:49:00] We didn’t have this on the list but what about podcasts? Do you listen to podcasts? Do you have a favorite?
Regina [00:49:05] That’s what I was going to say.
Caitlin [00:49:07] I love podcast. I am addicted to podcasts. Oh, my gosh, there’s so many good ones. But I do have to say that probably like my old standby favorite one is how I built this Guy RAZ. And as a tiny nonprofit, anybody else who’s kind of especially in that position where you’re sometimes going like, I don’t know how I’m to get paid. Those stories are really, really inspiring because it’s all startups and all businesses. You know, even then, some of the most successful businesses like Starbucks and things like that, were you would think that maybe that has always been the success that it has been. But to hear that they almost weren’t able to get it together and continue on is for me very inspiring to hear all those stories of kind of going to the brink and then being able to be successful after that.
Nikki [00:50:07] That sounds really interesting. I like that.
Caitlin [00:50:10] Yeah, it’s a little different, but you can find a lot of stuff to relate to.
Nikki [00:50:15] Yeah. There’s so many podcasts out there, so it’s really nice to get recommendations every once in a while to switch it up a bit.
Caitlin [00:50:24] Yeah. Radiolab is my other like most favorite podcast ever. I like that one too.
Nikki [00:50:32] So to end everybody’s favorite topic is, tell us about Patty and Sally.
Caitlin [00:50:45] Oh, my goodness. My dogs. I love them. They’re both adopted from Animal Farm Foundation, which is extra special. Both kind of by accidently adopted. I think Interesting.
Regina [00:51:00] I don’t know if Sally, Sally wasn’t an accident because we all badgered you too adopt her.
Caitlin [00:51:09] I was so staunchly, you know, she’s just a foster dog. And then what’s really funny is the same thing happening with both of them, which may be, maybe was orchestrated now that I think about it over. Patty’s ten now.
Nikki [00:51:28] Oh, my Goodness.
Caitlin [00:51:28] Patty. Yeah. Ten. And so this is almost 10 years ago. But he was a puppy. It’s like four or five months old and had an adoption appointment. And so I brought him and I was very teary. And he was one of my first fosters that I was like really, really having a hard time letting go. And so I dropped him off and then got my car and was crying, driving down the road. And I only got to like the end of the farm. And Bernice called me and said they just called and canceled the adoption appointment. And I’m like, sobbing into this phone going like, I’m coming back. I want to adopt him. So that was what happened with Patty. And then Sally had actually gone home once, and it just wasn’t a good fit with the other dog in the family. And then she had another adoption appointment and I took her. And there Sally and Patty are very different in terms of their personalities, like Patty’s old party pants from the moment you meet him and Sally is a little bit more reserved and then ultra party pants, once she knows you and she’s got a lot of get up and go. But I brought her to her adoption appointment and she was terrified and those people didn’t show up. And so at the end of that kind of waiting for them to show up, I was like, you know, I’m just gonna take this one I’m going to take her home.
Nikki [00:52:46] You already had the paperwork printed so might as well sign it.
Caitlin [00:52:49] I think, that is exactly what. They were like well. And we can put your name on it. Take her home. I’m so pleased with them. Again different dogs, but they they get along great. They’re like attached at the hip and definitely make life worth living.
Nikki [00:53:11] And they take great Instagram photos. I mean, you take great Instagram photos of them.
Caitlin [00:53:20] It’s totally not me.
Regina [00:53:22] Amazing.
Caitlin [00:53:25] Yeah. They’re good pups.
Nikki [00:53:28] They’re really cute.
Caitlin [00:53:28] And they’ve been quiet this whole time. So that’s a plus. Like the dog.
Nikki [00:53:37] When this is all over. We should like we should all get together right down the road. Like were always so busy. I wonder what Caitlins doing.
Caitlin [00:53:49] I thought that last year. I saw you at a conference and I was like, I should not be seeing you in a different state. This is silly.
Nikki [00:53:57] Well. Yeah. So where can you give us all the detail? The website, where people donate, what else do you want to tell people about?
Caitlin [00:54:14] So heartsspeak.org is where you can donate. You can check out all of our programs. And Hearts Speak has two S’s in the middle which, its hearts speak. And sometimes people miss those. The double S in the middle, so heartsspeak.org. We are going to be hopefully before the end of this week. We’re kind of on track to release those canva templates specifically for the Coronavirus kind of response that shelters are doing. We also have a project called Images with Heart, which is that artist community that I was talking about. It’s members of that community that sell stock imagery and a portion of the proceeds go to hearts Speak to help us sustain some of our programs. And a portion goes directly back to the artists. It’s kind of a doing double good kind of thing. But what’s really amazing is I think over around 30 of those artists have volunteered to have to waive the fees for the stock until the end of April. Right now, we may extend that if this continues, but we have about fourteen hundred free stock images that we’ll be putting up for shelters and rescues to use really just with, you know, the idea that we know that some communications folks are considered non-essential staff so they may not be physically at the shelter. Those stock images include the actual shelter pets, which I think is really beneficial for just general communications and just you know, there’s, it’s hard to figure out what you can do at a moment like this. You know, especially when you have a very particular focus and this is what we feel like we can do is just respond by providing, you know, as many tools and resources for free that we possibly can to try to help support. And we also are gonna have t-shirts for sale. That say instead of like dog as my copilot dog is my coworker. So those will be in our store in the near future. For all of those folks and Cat, as my coworker as well, I should mention were not going to leave out the cats. Just for you know, a bit of levity and for all of us who are, I always work from homes so this isn’t quite so different for me, but I know it’s a big adjustment for a lot of people and just provide a little levity in fundraising all at the same time.
Nikki [00:56:40] Well, thank you so much.
Caitlin [00:56:43] No problem at all. And really, this is so much fun. And I’m really happy to do this. And thanks for the opportunity to talk a little bit about Hearts Speak.
Help Us Keep Dogs and People Together to End Discrimination
Please click “donate” to proceed to payment information.
Animal Farm Foundation is a 501c3 organization. Your donation is tax-deductible.
News and Articles
An interview with Animal Farm Foundation’s Director of Behavior and Training
A conversation with Kim Wolf about ageism, ableism, veterinary social work, and dogs.
Our hearing alert dogs alert people to sounds to assist with their daily life and keep them safe in emergencies.
P.O. Box 624
Bangall, NY 12506