October 13, 2014

Kansas City Pet Project Wins ASPCA Community Engagement Award

Volunteers are the heartbeat of many an animal welfare organization, and Kansas City Pet Project’s volunteers proved their mettle during the organization’s efforts in the 2014 ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge.

KCPP, a nonprofit, open admission shelter in Kansas City, Missouri, won the Challenge’s “Community Engagement Award”—a $25,000 grant, plus an additional $5,000—for a total of $30,000, for doing the best job of getting its community involved in saving more animals: 1,989 cats and dogs were saved during the three-month contest, an increase of 491 animals over the same period in 2013.

The prize was presented October 7 in person—to KCPP shelter executives, staff and more than 50 volunteers—by ASPCA representatives.

“We could never have done this without our volunteers,” said Kelly Walsh, KCPP’s volunteer coordinator, beaming with pride and recalling how volunteers promoted KPCC’s initiatives non-stop during June, July and August.

KCPP took in more than 1,000 pets per month during June and July, coinciding with the shelter’s busiest intake months of the year. “We then broke adoption records in July and again in August,” said Tori Fugate, KCPP’s manager of marketing and development.  

“We hardly have any advertising budget, so we rely heavily on social media,” she continued, explaining that KCPP’s public Facebook page increased its members by 86 percent (17,000) during the contest. KPCC also has private Facebook pages for each of its adoption locations so volunteers may spread the word about foster opportunities, the need for drivers, or shelter wish lists. “We post adoption and intake numbers daily,” Tori added. “We keep our volunteers informed and updated all the time.”

Tori also credits large organizations like the Kansas City Royals—current World Series contenders—who supported KCPP during the Challenge. “They were huge; one of their staff even adopted a dog from us,” she said. Other major organizational support came from Sprint, the Kansas City Visitors Association, and Boulevard Brewing Company, among others. KCPP also ran cross promotions with other shelters, elementary schools and local businesses.

Kansas City Pet Project Wins ASPCA Community Engagement Award

All the while, volunteers continued their groundswell of buzz and heavy lifting.  The result: Newsletter subscribers increased 67 percent (4,000), and volunteers multiplied. By the end of the Challenge, 296 new volunteers had signed on.

Chad Ackerman, director of institutional research at Park University, serves as volunteer community outreach coordinator for KCPP.  “We worked hard expanding our presence, especially north of the river,” explained Chad, who organizes adoption efforts at KCPP’s 4,400-sq.-ft. storefront center in Zona Rosa, north of town, where 533 animals were adopted during the Challenge.

Volunteers also helped drum up the 13,695 votes that helped clinch the shelter’s award. A gigantic sheet cake, complete with those seven digits squiggled in orange frosting, was presented to KCPP by the ASPCA before being cut and distributed by Teresa Johnson, KCPP’s CEO/executive director, who explained how the much-needed funding would be put to use.

“Our medical fund always needs money,” she said. “Saving lives is expensive. We treat parvo, heartworm, animals with broken legs and other injuries; everything that’s treatable.”

Kansas City Pet Project Wins ASPCA Community Engagement Award

“This is a big city and we’re a new organization—we’ve had to change our image,” added KCPP board president Brent Toellner, who founded KCPP with his wife, Michelle Davis, in January 2012. “We showed our community that we care about animals, and it’s been great to have volunteers and others involved and be part of our progress.”

Beth Rice, who has volunteered at KCPP for just over a year, told how the sheer number of kittens coming in during the summer months convinced her to foster. She recalled how KCPP took in one to two litters of kittens per day—1,200 under the age of three months—during the Challenge.

“We were bottle feeding all summer long,” said Beth, as she monitored her Facebook feed closely before KCPP’s award was announced. A message appeared—from another volunteer: “Still waiting to hear the news! Did we win???” it read. “Yes!!!” Beth excitedly typed back.

“I’m just a volunteer, but I say that with pride,” she said.

Kansas City Pet Project Wins ASPCA Community Engagement Award