As soon we started Ruffugees we began to look for events where we could tell our story. We started with a quick Google search for “Pet Events in Virginia” and “Pet events near me”. As I began to weed through the results I ran across a flyer for the 2017 National Night Out. I immediately became excited as I had attended National Night Out a year prior with a different animal rescue. I read through what would be required of an organization to sign up and realizing that we were qualified to attend I filled out the paperwork, agreed to the terms and e-mailed my application to the event. Within a few days I was confirmed and the planning ensued.
We decided the table would be made up of the following:
We truly thought about our audience for this event. Our audience would be families with children and we wanted to cater the the animal lovers within that sect of the community.
We started to work on the largest piece of the event, the fun piece! Our face-in-a-hole. My husband and I needed to decide on what we would feature and what was more perfect than a cat and a dog. We started with a sheet of plywood and a jigsaw and a router.
My husband cut the hole out for the face, built the legs and then drew the characters. I believe I stepped in at some point, however, he being the Artist he is, pulled most of the weight here. We then painted the panels, which did require about three layers of acrylic paint over a three day period. We were quite pleased with the finished pieces as they were quirky, imperfect and just right for something fun!
We worked on the Raffle next. Who doesn't love a raffle? We thought this would be a great way to get people to sign up for our blog and a good ice breaker. We decided to go with two raffles, one for school supplies as it was early August and a second for two Ruffugees t-shirts. We drew up tickets for the raffle next. Avery sells “Ticket” printing paper, which worked out well for us as we could use the short end for people to provide their contact information and the long end to handout as the stub with all of our contact information on it.
We then decided on what information we wanted to share about our organization at the table. We started with a template from Pages. There were many different formats and we specifically used one meant for real estate showings. I felt this one had the best of both worlds, pictures and easy to read content. We used pictures of several of our foster pets and added information about our mission, social media, non-profit status and where to mail donations.
We were not able to accept donations at this event as it was a completely free, no money can be exchanged event, so we printed out small envelopes to hand out if anyone did want to give us a donation.
Then also printed out sign-up sheets for people to sign up for the Transport list, the Blog and as a member of The Pack. These were obviously very easy to put together. To add a personal touch, I cut out the dog from our logo using black construction paper and stapled those to the top of the sign-up sheets.
Finally, we worked on the decorations for the event. We first needed some coverage from the sun. We purchased a 10 x 10 pop-up tent from Target for around $70. We already had a table and chairs to use, so next we focused on how to cover the table. We decided to use a table cloth for this event. In the future we will upgrade to a table skirting with our logo, however, we started small. We then designed a banner to hang within the tent. We used Staples design center to do this and we purchased a 4 x 2 banner for around $25. We chose to pick it up at the local Staples location and in doing this we were only able to purchase a banner for interior use. Finally, we then cut out the dog from our logo using black construction paper and punched holes in the top and strung the holes with clear fishing line.
We arrived about an hour and a half prior to the event to set up. It was a hot day and we were thankful for the little shade that the tent offered. Once the items were set up, we waited for the audience to arrive. People started to trickle in and we told those who were interested our story and what we were here to do.
Those interested in animal rescue we intrigued and asked great questions. The questions we received ranged from “Where can I find low cost spay and neuter services” to “How do I re-home my pet”. Our Face-in-a-hole stands were a hit, too! Families, children and friends came to have their picture taken. It was a fun part of the event and we had a lot of great laughs. Throughout the event we stood the entire time and spoke with a lot of folks, but it was a lot a wonderful interaction with others who really just want to help animals, too.
At the end of the day, the event went off without a hitch. We really couldn't have asked for a better situation for our first event. Looking back there are a few improvements I can learn from for the next time. The Face-in-a-hole was wonderful and we did have our name on the stands, however, I wish we had a separate stand that read “Take your picture and hashtag Ruffugees” to remind people what the stand is associated with.
In retrospect we need to remember to, again, consider the audience. This was not a pet-centered event and in that we were aggressive with the amount of handouts we needed, which is not a terrible problem to have as we will be able to use these in the future. We just certainly had a lot of it. Information was our best seller though. People like to be able to take something with them and it was certainly nice when people would ask if we had something they could take with them. I also could have pushed signing up for our Transport list or Blog more when speaking with people.
Overall, it was a great time. My husband and I were covered in sweat and exhausted by the end of the three hour event, however, this was the best place to test ourselves simply because it was a cross-section of pet lovers and non-pet lovers. We were able to practice our interactions, pitches and people skills, all while getting our mission and logo out there.
Please give us your feedback of rescues and shelters at events. What do you like to see?
See you on the wild side,