At Pets for Patriots we work hard to be good stewards of our contributors’ money; 87 percent of our 2015 income funded mission-driven programs and services. Here are the ways we are putting donor dollars to work.
Donor dollars fund life-saving programs
The vast majority of program-related income funds our signature companion pet adoption program for military veterans. This program has three key phases:
Pre-adoption outreach and counseling: our primary goal is to make it easier for veterans to adopt dogs and cats in need. We answer questions they may have, see if they need more personalized help at the shelter and address any obstacles to pet adoption. For veterans who have been approved and not adopted a pet within a particular period of time, we ask if their plans or life circumstances have changed, if they acquired a pet through another channel, or have changed their minds.
Adoption: Pets for Patriots provides immediate, direct support once veterans adopt an eligible dog or cat from any of our shelter/rescue partners. We order a generous gift card usable only at a major pet retailer to help with the purchase of ‘welcome home’ pet food and other essentials. Veterans are given access to savings on various pet-related goods and services, such as Petplan pet health insurance, and discounts on quality brands of pet food, treats, medicine and supplies. At this time the veteran’s pet becomes eligible for discounted healthcare through local veterinary partners.
Post-adoption follow up: we reach out by both email and phone to see how our veterans and their new pet friends are getting along. As needed we provide information on common pet training issues, help mitigate minor problems so that they do not become major ones, and let our adopters know that they are not alone. This effort is led by a Marine Corps combat veteran who served in Vietnam, a pet lover who has walked in the same shoes as the veterans in our program.
The most intensive part of this outreach occurs over a six-month period, during which time we ask veterans to share their stories about how their adopted pets have changed their lives for the better. We are honored that many veterans in our program choose to stay in touch with us for years – including one of our very first adopters: Bee, a WWII veteran who saved an adult dog named Laddie in 2011. In 2015 we instituted a one-year post-adoption follow up a well.
Donor dollars fund essential veterinary care
A founding principle of our mission is reducing the lifetime costs associated with pet guardianship. It is one of the biggest obstacles to pet adoption, a primary reason animals are surrendered to shelters, and the reason we partner with veterinarians who agree to offer ongoing, discounted medical care to dogs and cats adopted through Pets for Patriots.
As our companion pet adoption program has matured veterans started to approach us for help with extraordinary pet medical costs that exceeded their ability to pay. They faced serious financial hardship or the prospect of surrendering their beloved pets to the shelter. In many cases these animals are a veteran’s only family.
At the same time veterinary medicine has become more sophisticated – and costly. Diagnostics, surgeries and therapies that were once only the province of human medicine only are now available to improve the duration and quality of life for companion pets.
In 2013 we used a third-party crowdfunding platform to raise funds on a case-by-case basis. This worked as long as we had only a handful of requests each year. Through 2014 and 2015, however, the number, complexity and range of requests started to rise.
In late 2015 we launched our hero fund to help defray the costs of essential veterinary care without which a pet would suffer, live a diminished quality of life, or face surrender. Recipients of this fund have included a senior dog who has outlived her cancer prognosis, maintenance medication for an older dog whose veteran lives on a low-income, dental surgery for two older dogs who suffered previous neglect, and prosthetics for a dog born with deformed feet.
All disbursements are paid directly to treating veterinarians after we have secured a nonprofit discount.
Earlier in 2016 we were blessed with a generous $25,000 donation from a long-term donor who is passionate about our work and mission. This gift provided the stability and agility we need to support veterans who seek our help. Yet with the increased costs of even routine veterinary care, the types of support we provide is increasingly expensive as well – and we continue to seek both major and ordinary funding to our veterinary care program.
Donor dollars fund critical program infrastructure
Many people are surprised to learn that Pets for Patriots operates with just one full-time and two part-time employees (plus a small army of volunteers, most of whom write for our blog). As part of our commitment to be both efficient and effective with donor dollars, we invest in the greatest force multiplier of all: technology.
With astute guidance from our Board of Directors, we have made investments in technologies that enable us to manage, track and communicate in ways that are personal, timely, accurate and scalable.
Through a generous grant from the Salesforce Foundation we use a state-of-the-art customer relationship management (CRM) system – a database – that allows us to keep track of every email, document, phone conversation, application, adoption and donation. We use a marketing automation system that allows our team to spend more person-to-person time with our veterans while assigning routine communications to a smart, semi-automated system.
Anchoring all of our technologies is our website, redesigned by Akavit in Denver, Colorado in early 2016. The site is mobile-friendly, and “talks” to all of our other technologies so that someone who completes an online application shows up nearly instantaneously in our database. Most of all, it provides a beautiful and engaging palette on which to present the heart of our work: the real-life stories of veterans and pets saved through our donors’ generosity.