Why PetRescue’s new system will spell the end for growth in mid-sized rescue groups.

July 21, 2016

The ‘Matchmakers Project’ is designed to pull enquiries into the PetRescue communications system, so they can better track WHO is adopting, and create a 'donate-to-PetRescue' solicitation strategy to target these people too.

PetRescue’s end of year tax time donation solicitation signified a major shift in strategy for the organisation:

“... The Adoptables campaign was the very first time PetRescue has run a fundraising and adoption drive at the same time… the success of the Adoptables fundraising campaign means we are able to begin development of the long-awaited Matchmakers Project - an innovative tech solution to lighten the workload of rescue group members, cut down the number of unsuitable applications, improve the experience for all potential pet adopters and find the right home for pets faster. The Matchmakers Project draws on our learnings from Carsales and Airbnb to develop a new adoption enquiry management system that’s faster, more efficient and, most importantly, will save more lives. This is a massive development project that will be rolled out in phases between now and Christmas. We aim to have the whole system live by the beginning of 2017...”

This combo donation/adoption strategy looks to firmly position PetRescue as part of the adoption ‘process’ in the minds of the public.

This matters for rescue groups and here’s why.

For the smaller rescues - especially those who are majority self-funded - this probably won’t affect you. You can use PetRescue to adopt pets, and not much will change, as you don’t directly solicit donations.

However, for you mid-large sized guys who have an ongoing relationship with your donors and supporters (including a donor recruitment strategy based on the back of your adoptions), you guys have some serious choices to make over the coming months. Because you’re about to start sharing your adopter's contact details.

The ‘Matchmakers Project’ is a tool to help PetRescue better manage their overall communications strategy. Certainly, a bit to help groups and pets - but also a lot to help themselves.

Up until now, once a person is referred to you (a rescue group) via email, PetRescue loses touch with them. They want to be able to keep their finger in that pie right up until that enquirer becomes an adopter. From there, they can start to work to turn these now known adopters, into donors. And they want these donation from adopters to come to them, and not you.

This new ‘Matchmaker’ system will keep a history of successful enquiries on the PetRescue site and fully traceable for solicitation purposes.

Think of it like this. You buy a phone charger off Ebay. Is the relationship - in your mind - with AAAMark’s Mobiles? No - likely it’s with Ebay.

Ebay has a sophisticated communications strategy called ‘on-boarding’ - which starts the moment you sign up for an account with them. First, they’ll get as much detail as they can from you (address, email, phone), then they’ll gently start communicating with you. If you purchase an item off Ebay, you’ll become a fully fledged member and they can start marketing to you in earnest.

What happens to AAAMark’s Mobiles in all of this? Well, to be honest it doesn’t really matter if Mark’s business model is selling loads of product to loads of people. In the case of Ebay, it works for both parties. Ebay get commission (and the security of being the ‘go to’ website), and Mark gets sales.

But of course, those running charities from the medium, to the enormous (such as the state RSPCA’s pulling in tens of millions annually) know the ‘big money’ isn’t in selling (adoptions), but in donations and bequests.

Sure, adoption fees (probably) pay for (most) pet’s expenses. But it’s donations and bequests which grow your rescue group's resources. That bequest which buys you a vehicle - or helps you get your first property. Those regular supporters who give $25 a month, which help you generate enough capital to buy some equipment.

These contributions are what take medium charities to the next level - even to the point where they can start paying their core staff. And you get there through the brand recognition which comes from interacting with your community time and time again until they know who you are and are willing to invest in you through a donation.

The ‘Matchmakers Project’ is designed to pull enquiries into the PetRescue communications system, so they can better track WHO is adopting, and create a 'donate-to-PetRescue' solicitation strategy to target these people too.

So the question to medium to large rescue’s is - how strong is your own donation solicitation strategy? Will it compete? Is your own organsation's brand strong enough to outshine PetRescue’s brand? (Even when they are muddying the waters as to being responsible for making the adoption happen themselves?)

If the answer is yes - great! You too will likely make it through this change of process unscathed. Lucky you and seriously, well done.

However, if you’re already finding people can’t tell the difference between you and PetRescue - then you have a problem. A really big (and potentially valuable) one.

So you need to ask yourself; is the value PetRescue providing in terms of adoptions, worth losing a significant chunk of - maybe even all of - your future donation income to them?

(The answer will be different for every group, and really is as simple as comparing adoption income (after your expenses) to donation income).

Okies, this seems a bit shit. What can we do?

Start preparing your organisation, now. What other avenues for adoptions work for you? Polish up your website and social media channels. Investigate the cost of paid Facebook advertising, local media classifieds and community news tv. Diversification is an insurance policy for what is likely to be seen in the coming months.

Secondly, go ahead and ask PetRescue to include an ‘opt out’ strategy for the new ‘Matchmaker’ system. You should be able to continue to do your rescuing as you do now IF IT WORKS FOR YOU. Opting-out would go a long way to protecting your adopters (your potential donors) from their on-boarding and solicitation strategies. You shouldn't have to share this information - your adopters list - if you don't want to.

Thirdly, invest in your own supporter engagement/donation strategy. Take the time to start messaging your own supporters regularly to build and secure the relationship. Even phone them to introduce yourself and invite them to be more involved. Real-life relationships are what develop fans into supporters, who will fund the work you do.

But mostly, remember PetRescue is just a website. A very good website - and one that targets the adoption audience very well - but one that can also be replaced with your own online tools, real life adoption events and a bit of help from your community, if required.

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