Animal shelters are, of course, all about helping animals. But to continue doing that, they have to focus a lot of energy on raising money and getting donations. It’s an ongoing effort throughout the year, but most shelters have regular events to boost those much-needed donations.
Undoubtedly, the pandemic has made things more difficult in the event sector, which is why many organisations, among them animal shelters, have embraced virtual events and alternate means of donation campaigning.
One of those shelters is the Oregon Humane Society. After two years of going virtual with their “Diamond Collar Awards” event, they felt like their audience couldn’t face yet another virtual event. So instead, they thought outside of the box and pivoted.
They still handed out the three coveted Diamond Collar Awards to people and pets nominated by the community, but they skipped the usual luncheon. Instead, they created an online campaign with a social wall full of user-generated content to drum up donations. The campaign asked people to share why their pets are heroes, and everyone was a winner.
But why am I telling you this when I talked to Oregon Humane Society’s Website and Social Media Manager, Katie Hamlin? I’ll just let her tell you about how the Oregon Humane Society ended up with a social wall full of adorable pet pics.
Website & Social Media Projects Manager, Oregon Humane Society
We used it in a campaign to promote our annual Diamond Collar Awards event, which is typically a formal-ish luncheon for different members of our community. We get people from our community to submit nominees, and then we give three awards to people or pets who have demonstrated some heroic act in some way.
It’s usually an in-person event, but for the past two years, we have held it as a virtual event that people could tune into. This year, we still couldn’t quite do it in person yet, but we also felt like we couldn’t do another year of virtual. People were getting kind of burnt out on the virtual event thing.
So instead, we ended up making videos of our three winners that we posted on our socials and embedded on our landing page on the website. And then, we created the Hero Wall to promote the Diamond Collar Awards, get donations and engage people. The idea behind the campaign was that, while no winners were selected this way, everyone was a winner on our Hero Wall.
I’ll give you an example of what our Diamond Collar winners look like. We had a guy who is a firefighter, and he saved a cat from a burning home. And then he brought it to our shelter, where we were able to save the cat’s life, and now it has this great home.
Another one we had was this girl; I think she’s about 13 and a youth volunteer at our shelter. She couldn’t come in and volunteer for a while because our shelter was closed for a period of time during the pandemic. So she was doing virtual school and everything and got really depressed. And then, eventually, when youth volunteers could come back again, that started to help her. And then she ended up meeting this kitten there, and she fell in love with it. So our winner was the kitten because the kitten helped her and her mental health, it was very cute.
Our Hero Wall was a way for everyone to feel included, to let them talk about how their pet is a hero in some small way. Maybe they just make you smile every day — certainly, many people shared stories like that, and some people went heavier and shared how their pet helped them get out of a battle with depression or something like that. So the stories ranged across many different topics.
The social wall served as a landing page leading to our official landing page on our website, where people could donate.
We get so many of these stories sent to us organically. There are a lot of ways that people can send us stories. We have something on our website called Happy Tails. It’s just a form, but people can send us updates about their pets. We show those stories on the website, and we have an internal weekly newsletter showing some of these stories. But we also get a lot of them in direct messages on Instagram and Facebook. Just people sending pictures and saying, “thank you so much”.
So it was really nice to have a way to give people that moment with the social wall. We get so many messages that we’re not always able to share every adoption story. So I think it was a nice way of doing that.
We shared it in all our digital marketing efforts. There was an email campaign, and we plugged it on our social channels. It was linked in the link tree on our Instagram bio, and we shared it on our Facebook and Twitter to encourage people to share their stories. And then, there was also a way for them to donate if they chose to.
Quite frankly, we wanted it to be easier for us to be able to find the posts, and we kind of just wanted a more permanent landscape for the stories to live in. And to have one page full of these nice stories that people could go and look at and read was great. We thought about having it on social media with a hashtag. And we could have pulled stories that way. But we really liked the idea of having it be a static wall.
And we liked that there was a bit of anonymity with it, and posts didn’t include people’s full names and access to their social profiles.
When we started, I made a post about my dog to kind of get things rolling because we didn’t want a blank wall. Because you know how that is, no one wants to be the first person to do something like that. So I got it started. And then I had a few coworkers post something. And then it just seemed like, overnight, logging back on to work the next day, we saw that we had gotten all these submissions.
We shared different stories where we could talk about heroes, and we would sometimes feature one of our shelter pets and how they’re heroes. And then we would have some kind of plug like, “Is your pet a hero? Tell us!” and link to the Hero Wall.
We primarily used social posts and stories, and anything we sent out an email for had a link to the wall in it. It wasn’t terribly hard because people are very willing to share about their pets. And then, every Friday, we would pick a selection of stories that people had posted to the wall and share them with the hashtag #FeelGoodFriday. And I think that was an excellent way to get more submissions.
And it’s fun. So it was an enjoyable part of my workday for a while. Picking the ones I wanted to share on Fridays and just reading those was really fun.
I would personally love to find a way to use it again in some capacity. I think the next Diamond Collar Awards event will probably be in person, but we may end up doing something like a social wall again to get the momentum going.
Because, yes, people are excited about in-person events, but there’s also a little bit of hesitation, and it feels like right now we’re having to remind people that this is a thing and it’s actually happening. So I could see us potentially setting up a social wall again to get the word out about it.
We often talk about the benefits of adding social walls to events. They boost interaction and engagement before, during and after events and can create a lasting connection between brands and attendees. But a social wall can also be used to campaign for an event or, as in OHS’s case, even as a companion to an event.
The social wall Oregon Humane Society set up worked three-fold. First, it functioned as a self-contained campaign, engaging people and letting them share their stories — something people love to do, especially when it’s about their pets. It also thematically tied into the Diamond Collar Awards, creating attention and awareness for that important event on OHS’s yearly calendar. And both together served as a campaign to encourage donations for the shelter.
But it’s not just about asking for something. Oregon Humane Society also gave back with this campaign by giving everyone (and their pets) their proverbial 15 minutes of fame. There can only be three winners in the Diamond Collar Awards. But by adding the Hero Wall, OHS gave everyone else an opportunity to be seen as well. And people love that.
Emotional content works
Ultimately, the Hero Wall also worked so well because it hits the people-animals-emotions trifecta. People love reading about other people’s stories of overcoming struggles — that’s why the project Humans of New York works so well. People love animal content, as is well proven by numerous zoo webcams garnering hundreds of thousands of viewers around the world. And last but not least, we love emotive content. And I can tell you from writing this showcase and trying not to cry at all those lovely posts on the wall that the Hero Wall definitely fulfils that part as well.
Direct Posts for more anonymity and easier access
Using our Direct Posts feature allowed the Oregon Humane Society’s community to post their stories without having to necessarily log into a social media account. They could stay as anonymous as they wanted, putting the Hero pets at the forefront.
Direct Posts are also pretty straightforward to use, so they don’t require much explanation or a high level of technical knowledge. The idea is that even people who aren’t familiar with social media can very easily upload an image and a bit of text to a social wall.