In an incredibly digitally connected world, being able to be found on the world wide web is important for the animals you are working to save. The exposure to your mission, share-ability of a link, and an aggregated display of pets looking for homes or assistance can be invaluable in furthering your animal rescue or animal shelter’s impact.
The Prep Work
With any well executed project, having a plan and the necessary items collected prior to starting it can make it go more efficiently, a website is no different. These steps can help you feel confident going into assembling your animal rescue’s website.
Prep Work #1 – Research and Determine What You Need
Get a feel of your wants and needs by researching similar animal welfare organization’s websites. Look at organizations who will have similar programs to yours such as TNR, low cost vetting assistance, microchipping events/clinics, etc. This will help you determine what pages you will need, the kind of content you will need to assemble, and you’ll start to form an idea for the type of design you want to portray for your rescue’s brand or personality.
Prep Work #2 – Choose A Domain and Hosting Platform
Buy a domain and choose a website hosting platform. A domain is the url that people visit to see your website (for example: “www.pawlytics.com”). Many animal rescues and shelters choose to have their domain name be their organization’s name. For example, an animal rescue named Rescue Theory chose as their domain. Hosting is a service that allows your website to be found and accessed on the world wide web. There are even some platforms where you can buy a domain as well as host your website all in one, such as with Pawlytics’!
Prep Work #3 – Budget
As your final piece of prep work, it is important to set aside a reasonable budget for a website to be built. With website design and maintenance, you get what you pay for. You can expect a new website build to cost anywhere from $500 to $5,000 for a basic, modern, responsive, and accessible website. A clean and well maintained website is well worth the cost and is crucial to expanding your rescue or animal shelter’ impact.
The Website Build
The first step of building your website will be determining the pages you need to start. Don’t stress about missing any details or seek perfection. Your website will always be changing and growing and it is more important to start somewhere! Your prep work from above should help you define your first set of website pages. Many rescues will includes pages such as:
- Landing/Home Page
- This is the page that people first see when they visit your domain.
- Mission and About Us Page
- This page should describe the kind of work your organization does. It may answer questions such as: Do you have any special programs? Do you help specific kinds of animals? What is the reason your rescue started doing the work it does? Where are you located or what locations do you serve?
- Adoptable Pets Page
- This page should make it easy to see a quick aggregated view of pets who need homes or assistance. Pawlytics can update your listings as often as 20 minutes for you when combined with PetFinder, saving you precious volunteer hours.
- Adoption Process and Survey Page
- This page typically lays out what a potential adopter can expect once they submit an adoption survey or express interest in adopting.
- Get Involved/Volunteer Info Page
- This page typically makes it easy for people to get involved in helping your animal rescue. This can range from needing donations of supplies, food, or sponsoring sick animals … to needing photographers, dog walkers, or even cat fosters.
- Donation Page
- This page should reduce all barriers to donating to your organization. Using an embedded donation widget, such as the one Pawlytics offers, can increase donations by making it easy for the donor to enter their own details and instantly receive their donation receipt. Many animal rescues and shelters will list what certain donations amount can do. For example: $10 = 2 Bowls of Dog Food through $1500 = Heartworm Treatment
- Depending on your animal rescue or shelter’s unique programs, you may need additional web pages to outline and illustrate your services to the public.
With each page, it is important to determine the specific goal or purpose. Is it to get donations? Is it to get more people to sign up to foster? Is it to showcase adoptable pets? Knowing what you want the page viewer to understand or take action on will help you craft the right messaging and page design.
Keep a Modern and Responsive Design
Keep the page designs looking modern and ensure the website is responsive, meaning that it looks good and functions across many screen sizes such as smart phones, tablets, and desktops. Animal rescues or shelters with outdated looking websites may give the page viewer the impression that your organization is no longer active. A good, clean website design also helps builds rapport with adopters, donors, and others visiting your website to learn more about what you do and how they can best support your work.
Search Engine Optimization
Just being on the internet doesn’t necessarily mean people can find your website easily. Remember that there are millions upon millions of websites competing for attention online and even many other animal rescues and shelters. In order to be searchable on search engines such as Google or Bing, you’ll need to plan for “Search Engine Optimization” or SEO in your website’s copy or text. Think about what your audience would type into Google to find what you are offering. Be sure to state your rescue or shelter’s location and/or the area it serves. Be specific and instead of simply saying “Minneapolis”, try “Minneapolis, Minnesota” since there is also a Minneapolis, Kansas. There are so many common or similar names in the animal welfare world that putting your specific location could be all the difference in being found by someone in your community. For example, people might search “Adopt a dog Lincoln, Nebraska” versus just “Adopt a dog”.
It can be easy to get excited about the potential of a website in its most grand and ‘final’ state. The reality is that the more pages, complexity, and things your website does the harder, more time consuming, and expensive to build and maintain it will be. Managing websites and keeping them up to date as technology and public expectations change is no small effort if done well. Try your best to keep it less custom or overly complex so that it is easy and reasonably affordable to maintain. This will also allow you to make faster changes, additions, or removals to your website. As a final small reminder, remember to link your animal rescue or shelter’s social media accounts to further make it easy to find and support you animal welfare organization across different platforms.
Interested in a new website and database for your animal rescue or shelter?
Give Pawlytics a try! Book a quick 15 minute meeting with me, Lizz, Founder and CEO at Pawlytics. Our Web Developurr Program is an out of the box solution that can help you get a modern website up and running quickly with a full backend database to manage your pets, adopters, donations, and more!
A website can be invaluable in furthering your animal rescue or animal shelter’s impact.