Economic Impacts of Adoption and Fundraising Strategies in Animal Shelters

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Short Description:

This study presents a model that can be used by animal shelters to compare the effectiveness of various management strategies. The authors present the model along with a number of hypothetical adoption and fundraising scenarios including: 1) general strategies – altering adoptions fees and associated adoption numbers; creating a continued giving environment; promoting adoption events; and re-evaluating adoption criteria; and 2) specific strategies – altering adoption fees and total numbers of animals handled; analyzing low, fair, and high returns to additional promotion spending; and investigating zero-fee adoptions. The study found that increasing animal numbers without increasing adoption fees or donations caused costs to increase faster than total revenues. The model, the authors suggest, can assist shelter staff in improving their fiscal health as well as their ability to save lives.

[Abstract excerpted from original source.]

The adoption strategies used in animal shelters can have a large impact on the total number of adoptions and donations that take place. Reducing adoption fees during peak kitten or puppy season is one way to reduce inventories and increase the number of open spaces to save more lives, but does not necessarily increase the financial well-being of the shelter if the per-animal costs exceed the revenues generated. We developed a stochastic model to simulate the expected costs, revenues, and net income of a hypothetical animal shelter for various alternative management strategies, based on US conditions. A total of 8 scenarios were developed and compared to the base-case scenario (BC).

In the model, scenarios which decreased or waived adoption fees caused total costs to increase due to the escalating costs associated with increasing the total number and density of animals housed. This effect was especially pronounced when adoptions were free. When the return on money invested in additional fundraising was predetermined to be ‘good’ (rather than ‘fair’ or ‘poor’), net shelter income did exceed costs – but even ‘fair’ return increased net shelter income compared to the BC. Of the eight scenarios compared to BC, the mean monthly net income was significantly different from that in the BC in all eight scenarios (p < 0.01). In contrast, variances were different (p < 0.01) in five of the eight scenarios (and the uncertainty that comes with high variance would make planning difficult for shelter managers); however, the variance in net income did not differ from the BC for any of the scenarios investigating returns to additional spending on promotion and fundraising. In these scenarios, because the extra cost involved is relatively low compared to the other scenarios, the potential risk of a reduction in net shelter revenue is reduced.

When shelters are aware of the positive and negative impacts of various adoption strategies on mean net income and variation in net income, shelter managers can better strategize saving animal lives and meeting shelter goals, while maintaining the financial health and functionality of the operation.

Spot Check Number: 2433
Sponsor: Purdue University
Researcher/Author: Emily Lord, Nicole Olynk Widmar, and Annette Litster
Animal Type: Companion Animals
Research Method: Experimental/Modeling/Applications
Geographic Region: United States National
Year Conducted: 2013
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Real Agenda? Promoting Kill Shelters over No Kill?

Didn't see the full study but wondering if they considered the moral factors as well as the wasted revenue on housing and then killing a pet rather than adopting it out regardless of price. Does the study take into account marketing of the animals? That maybe the promotion of low or free pricing brought adopters in but then they choose a different animal they paid for rather than the one(s) in the special. Did they take into account unquantifiables like the goodwill and other benefits of the promotion/advertising that at a minimum provides awareness of adoptions and results in bringing in potential adopters and volunteers to the shelter? That in turn will eventually result in donations and volunteering offsets many fixed costs. If none of this was considered we can wonder what the real purpose of the study was since their specious"conclusion" seems to be that if the "inventory" (yes that is what they are referring to pets as)is costing the shelter too much maybe they should stop lowering their adoption prices and just kill them.


I may be reading between the lines, since I don't have access to the full text, but if a shelter is not getting animals out the door during peak seasons by giving them away or adopting them at a lower cost, they will do the traditional 'shelter' thing and kill the animals. That will ultimately result in lower donor support from the community, because donors don't want to support killing of healthy or recuperatable animals. I don't know what factors were considered, and how many shelters (and what kinds of shelters) were studied. It would be interesting to know if they had done the analysis of any No Kill shelters, which is the shelter movement of the future (but one which activists have to work hard to achieve).

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