5 Shelter Marketing Resolutions for the New Year

A new year means new adventures in marketing and communications! And it’s the perfect time to try something new or double down on the things you promised yourself you’d try. Below are 5 ideas and the resources you can use to widen your circle of support and continue to make the world a better place for pets and people. 


Make Your Plan Simpler: Marketing plans are wonderful things, but many folks feel overwhelmed at creating a year-long plan that they know will need to change in response to emergent needs. Instead, keep it simple: consider making a plan based on specific quarterly or specific program goals (ex: Increase adoptions by 10% in the first 3 months of the year). This allows you to keep things focused, time-bound, and centered around a core component of your larger organizational strategy.


Make Materials More Accessible: In our efforts to get more pets adopted or keep more families together, it’s incumbent on each of our organizations to ensure we’re removing barriers to access. That will mean different things for each of us, but some important places to start may include 1) offering translated materials in prominently spoken languages 2) using image tags on social and websites to make them accessible for the low-vision community 3) ensuring images reflect the entirety of your community and aren’t inadvertently leaving anyone out and 4) learning more about equitable storytelling and how we can avoid perpetuating myths and stereotypes. 

Make your marketing and communications pieces more welcoming and inclusive by using these resources to level up:


Watch Your Words: Closely related to inclusivity and accessibility, words and language have everything to do with ensuring that our messages resonate with our broader community. For too long, we’ve limited our reach by using jargon or making assumptions about our supporters’ and community members’ understanding of our work. Commit to creating a Shelter Terminology Thesaurus for your organization, that breaks nuanced or insider-speak words into plain language (think about words like reactivity, surrendered, TNRM, and all the other medical, behavioral, and operational terms that can be intimidating to those outside our field)

  • Listen or read: How to know when your organization has a jargon problem (and what to do about it)
  • The resource you need: PlainLanguage.Gov
  • An exercise: At your next staff meeting or quick team meet-up, take 10 minutes and ask everyone to think about this prompt: Think about life before you did this work, or when you first got started. What terms that we use every day would be totally confusing for you? What words or ideas did you really struggle with when you started? Make a list. At your next meeting, start to think up alternatives or ways to describe these things in plain language.


Let go of your fear of repetition: Have you heard of the rule of seven? The basic premise is that in the 1930s, movie studio executives found that it took an average of 7 impressions for someone to go and see one of their movies. Today we’re bombarded with much more content than in the 1930s, and research is all over the place in terms of the actual number that will drive action (somewhere between 10 and 26 times it would seem), but one thing is clear: we need to repeat our messages multiple times, and in the age of social media and urgent needs we often neglect this.

A sage piece of advice for 2022: Don’t confuse your boredom as the messenger with the boredom of your audience – they are only seeing a fraction of what you are.

  • Quick Read: Classy’s Rethinking Repetition in Nonprofit Marketing
  • An exercise: Do a self-audit of your social posts or blog in just an hour or two. Look back at past campaigns and messages (super easy to do using Facebook’s “search on page”)  and give yourself permission to reuse and recycle! Take notes, download images you forgot about or never saw, screenshot good language or promotion ideas, and create an Inspiration folder to draw from throughout the year.


Go (a bit) Analog: There’s no denying that social media has been a game-changer for most of us working on promoting a cause or service. It’s inexpensive, responsive, and perfect for urgent, fast-paced communications. It’s not time to abandon ship on any one platform, and we’re not here to discourage you from TikTok or other new adventures in digital media! That said, existing solely in the digital space or only on social media will not help any of us widen our circle of supporters or reach new community members. Increasingly so, we’re talking to a somewhat limited audience on social. Marketing needs to incorporate a multimedia approach that includes things like updating websites, search engine optimization, strategically using printable materials, and investing in relationships with the media and other community organizations to get the word out.


? What would you add to this list? Drop your thoughts in the comments below! 

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Caitlin Quinn

Caitlin Quinn

Caitlin is passionate about working with shelters and rescues to reimagine the way they tell their stories and connect with new audiences. She has served in the animal welfare field since 2008 and early on had the honor of working closely with diverse organizations across the U.S. to maximize resources, redesign policies, and find life-changing marketing solutions. In 2015, she got her MPA with a concentration in nonprofit management and in 2021, she began teaching marketing + communications for the University of Florida Master of Veterinary Science, Concentration in Shelter Medicine program. She lives in NY with a petite brindle pit bull named Sally who owns her heart.