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    Digital Tools Your Animal Sanctuary Can Utilize During The COVID-19 Outbreak

    The Open Sanctuary Project's logo displayed on a laptop screen.

    Other COVID-19 Sanctuary Resources:

    Financial Measures For Animal Sanctuaries In The United States Impacted By The COVID-19 Outbreak (As Of April 7, 2020)

    More Questions And Answers About COVID-19 For Animal Sanctuaries (As Of March 20, 2020)

    How Should Sanctuaries Respond To COVID-19? (As of March 11, 2020)

    What Can Sanctuaries Do During The COVID-19 Outbreak?

    Barn Sanctuary’s COVID-19 Resources For Sanctuaries

    As animal sanctuaries around the world must restrict visitors during the COVID-19 outbreak, it can be challenging to find new ways to continue to engage with supporters and the public without being physically present at the sanctuary or with the residents. Luckily, there are a variety of digital tools (beyond a website), many of them free, that sanctuaries can creatively implement to keep in touch with their community! This resource covers some of the options out there that sanctuaries have been utilizing in this time, both for reaching out to their supporters and keeping their staff and volunteers organized.

    Live Streaming Services

    Many sanctuaries have hosted live streamed video events in the past, but given the current shelter-in-place requirements that many are facing, these tools have become even more crucial to connect with supporters and the public. Both Facebook and Instagram have simple tools built into their services to make live streaming video a breeze from a phone, tablet, or laptop with internet service. These simpler tools allow sanctuaries to broadcast without a lot of technical know-how. Combined with the comments section of these services, which can allow for direct interactions with audiences, sanctuaries can do everything from hosting digital tours, question and answer sessions with staff about residents, hosting cooking or craft demos, and more!

    One major benefit of both Facebook and Instagram Live is that it will automatically save live streamed broadcasts as video clips that supporters who were not available during the broadcast can watch and enjoy.

    As an alternative to Facebook and Instagram Live, sanctuaries have been having success hosting digital events using services such as Zoom (be aware that there may be some caveats to this recommendation), which allow for more technical control and access to tools like selecting video responses from an audience, live chat, and a lot more. Some sanctuaries hosting exclusive events have been doing so using Zoom (or similar services), sending special supporters with private invitations to Zoom chats that can be accessed either using a phone or internet-connected device.

    Making Your Live Streams Fancier

    For sanctuaries who want to have more technical control of their live streams, there exist capture cards to live stream video from higher end cameras and camcorders with high quality audio and video via the internet, and with an affordable HDMI switcher, a sanctuary could relatively simply create a professional multi-camera broadcast setup to have a more professional presentation. This might be a valuable investment if a sanctuary is planning to host paid or otherwise exclusive events over live streaming services.

    Non-Live Streamed Video

    For sanctuaries who may want a bit more editorial control over their video content than a live stream can provide, there of course still exist a myriad of digital tools for creating and publishing videos for followers. Services like Youtube, Vimeo, Facebook, and Instagram TV (which requires a bit of different formatting than traditional online videos, but offers longer video durations and a wider available audience than posting videos into a regular Instagram feed) all offer platforms to share videos, and sanctuaries have created videos to share with their followers for all sorts of reasons; Sanctuaries can utilize video to share updates, tell resident stories with more depth, on-screen text, supporting imagery, and a whole lot more. Creating a video can be as simple or advanced as a sanctuary wishes it to be, and there are many tutorials available for free online to help a sanctuary get started with learning how to accomplish practically any video feature they’d like to implement in their videos.

    Tik Tok

    If your sanctuary is interested in trying out new things, or is interested in reaching new audiences, you might want to give Tik Tok a try. This free app allows for the creation of very short videos (typically intended to be humorous in nature), and is hugely popular at the moment. Although the service doesn’t allow for much interaction other than direct messaging, for sanctuaries with ambitious social media goals and a willingness to be creative, it may be an interesting platform to explore. Just make sure to provide ample context of the sanctuary and where users can find more information! For more information on nonprofits utilizing Tik Tok, check out this article.

    Other Ways To Keep In Contact With Your Supporters

    While social media sites like Facebook are a great way to keep in touch with supporters, they often have limitations with regards to how they process donations- Facebook in particular currently has an issue in that it does not tell organizations who are donating, which can make for many challenges with donor retention. For this reason, some sanctuaries are moving their communications to services like Patreon. Patreon can be used as a way for organizations to communicate and give special perks to monthly donors, and can distribute special content by the amount of money being donated. This can be a great way for sanctuaries to offer a little more to those who are giving more. Some sanctuaries are combining services, for instance, offering private Zoom chats with specific tiers of Patreon donors as a special perk at this time.

    Patreon offers a newsletter service for supporters, which can be helpful to create specific messaging to donors. For sanctuaries who want to expand their communications beyond donors, there is always the tried-and-true online newsletter, which we’d suggest using a digital service to manage. Services like Mailchimp, Constant Contact (or the many alternatives) are free up to a certain amount of subscribers, and there are many more services out there for sanctuaries who have specific needs out of their mailing services, especially if they need to integrate with other web services, their website, or CRM tools. (As an aside, have you subscribed to our free newsletter yet?)

    All of these services, much like establishing a following on social media, require time and frequent communication in order to grow and retain subscribers and members, but this time investment can be highly valuable if it results in reliable monthly donations!

    Keeping In Contact With Your Staff

    At a time when sanctuary staff and volunteers may be adjusting to working at different times of the day and week, and more staff and volunteers likely working remotely than ever before, sanctuaries who haven’t yet might want to look into digital workspace solutions. Slack is extremely popular and offers free plans for registered nonprofit organizations. Other solutions for digital workspaces include Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts Chat, Chanty, Discord, and many more. These tools can be great in that they offer a centralized place for messaging, the creation of separate groups, file sharing, video and audio chat, and a lot more in one place. If your organization doesn’t have a lot of experience with these types of tools, it might be valuable to check out a few of them (as they all offer free versions with some limitations) and decide which one most fits your needs and preferences.

    For sanctuaries who need to expand their digital storage and file organization for newly spread out teams, we highly suggest making use of Google’s free G Suite offerings for nonprofits, which give registered nonprofits a ton of free goodies, including many gigabytes of shared storage in addition to their G Suite tools, which are excellent for collaborations and tracking updates.

    One final staff contact solution to consider looking into is the free app Marco Polo. This service is extremely simple, offering users the ability to make short video messages and share them to individuals or defined groups. While this may sound identical to many other services, its simplicity and ability for users to engage with the videos when they’re ready (rather than having to be on live), can make for efficient communication in a much less stressful way. Sometimes simple is exactly what a staff needs to better connect with one another!

    While this is by no means a comprehensive list of tools sanctuaries can use at this time, we hope that they offer inspiration for continuing to make connections with the public and supporters, even if physical events may be off the table for some time to come.

    Is your sanctuary utilizing a digital tool creatively in this time to reach your community? We’d love to feature you! Get in touch!

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