by Myles Chadwick
Knowing that you are serving the “right people” and that you are making a real impact on the number of homeless pets in your community can be a tough task to manage. For years, Emancipet offered low cost and free spay/neuter in low income neighborhoods and thought we were doing everything that we possibly could. About 10 years ago, at the request of the then Director of Animal Services, we brought a transport van and a handful of staff to a “Free Rabies Vaccine Fair” and offered free, same day spay/neuter to anyone that wanted it. This event was only advertised inside the neighborhood it was in, and no services other than a free rabies vaccine were advertised.
At the time we were not expecting much of a need for, or response to, our presence at the fair because our mobile unit had been visiting this same park to offer free spay/neuter every month for years. The idea that we would be able to fill the clinic at an event that was not even advertising free spay/neuter, in a location where we had already been messaging the community, was beyond us. But it sure turned out to be an eye-opening experience to say the least; no one said no! We filled our clinic for that day and handed out vouchers to dozens of people that could be used in the following weeks.
In the wake of this very successful and illuminating experiment, we literally went back to the drawing board and came up with our “Programming Rings for Free and Low Cost Services” model. It helped us differentiate between clinics that are serving “Seekers” and programs that are built specifically for “Non-Seekers”. Before our experience at the city’s free rabies drive, we had unknowingly only been offering services for those already looking for them. However, after realizing that there were pet owners out there who did not know about our services or how they could benefit from them, we began successfully designing programs for the non-seekers too!
Using this model, we have built on our Rabies Drive success and added new programs, including door to door community engagement and partnerships with service providers for homebound individuals. We believe that thinking in terms of Programming Rings can help your organization do a few different things:
- understand the gaps in services and programs in your community
- identify the groups of pet owners whose needs are not being met
- plan for the resources you will need to fill in those gaps
Take a look at our downloadable handouts on programming rings and then try drawing the programming rings, as they are currently, for your own organization. You may be surprised at what you find by doing so!
If you have any questions about Programming Rings, feel free to email us at [email protected] and if you want more exercises and tools like this, consider joining us for Beyond Spay/Neuter: Why You Need a Healthy Pet Clinic & How to Build It on June 26-27.