Survey for Animal Welfare Organizations

I wasn’t really required to do this for class, but it definitely helped formulate the research behind my project. I gathered names from 501c3 Animal Groups nationwidonationde, and sent approximately 350 of them a survey. The names of these groups are publicly available via the IRS’s website. You’d be surprised how many non-profit rescues weren’t aware that their names were publicly available through the IRS (I received quite a few “how did you get our info?!?!”)

These were some of my findings.


The survey questions were not thoroughly vetted, because the process started off as some quick questions I had for Fairfax County Animal Shelter. I then decided to keep sending the survey, and based on responses, I learned how valuable refining survey questions could be, because sometimes you get different kinds of answer based on how the taker perceived the question to mean.

Anyway, if you want to criticize my questions, go ahead. I already know.

1) In percentage terms, where do you get funding?
A. Government
B. Grants
C. Personal donation/fundraising

2) Besides needing more fosters, what other kinds of human resources do you feel you need? Examples: marketing, social media, legal, finance, etc.

3) What is your average volunteer retention?  Do you find difficulty in getting certain kinds of volunteers? Do they leave for particular reasons?

4) How tech savvy do you think your rescue is?

5) How many paid employees does your organization have?

Total Responses: 38
Total States Represented: 25
(AL, CA, CO, FL, GA, HI, IA, IL, IN, KY, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, NH, OH, SD, TN, TX, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV)

Observations of #1:

Additional category of “Other” was added as a result of survey responses. “Other” included: adoption fees, fundraising, retail.

Percentage Range # AWO indicated Government Funding # AWO indicated Grants # AWO indicated Private Donations # AWO indicated Other
0-25% 29 36 5 34
26-50% 3 2 4 4
51-75% 1 0 5 0
76-100% 5 0 24 0
Total 38 38 38 38

Top Answers to #2:

Marketing / PR 15
Social Media / Website 9
Legal 8
Finance / Bookkeeping / Accounting 7
Fundraising / Grant Writing 5
Veterinary / Animal Behaviorist 5
Cleaning / Landscaping 4
Volunteer Coordinator 3

From email: “There is a lack of grants and government funding for marketing. When you think about it, marketing is one of the most valuable resources for a shelter because that is the way we break down “the pound” stereotypes and bring in more donors, adopters, volunteers, etc.”

“Technology is often difficult to fundraise for and with limited resources, the priority is always on things that are more directly related to animal care.  This is an area that our organization and our industry struggles with. “

Observations of #3:

This was a poorly written question. Some groups answered 2 or 3 volunteers, others may answer 200+. What some differentiated that others may not have, were which of those volunteers were recurring. Common reasons given for volunteer retention:

  • Because the group is in a university town, volunteer turnover happens on a semester basis
  • Volunteers experience “burn out” when working with animals
  • “Because we do not have a large staff base to assist volunteers, volunteers who are not self-motivated to find projects or coordinate with other volunteers often do not come back. “
  • “Individuals who foster also absorbing majority of other activities (fundraising, accounting, marketing/website management, caring for the cats that stay at Petsmart, answering phone calls/e-mails, board responsibilities) Pressure on fosters already doing so much”
  • It’s not just about playing with puppies
  • Volunteers have full time jobs

Observations of #4:

Tech savy is very subjective; some groups think that having Facebook makes them savy, others believed Facebook alone wasn’t enough.

Finally, #5:

13 of 38 Animal Rescues indicated having 3 or less paid employees. Several groups were volunteer only.



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