HEADLINE: A Virtual Furry Scurry? Dumb Friends League Pivots Marketing, Fundraising, and Communications During COVID-19 BY: Mallory Feeney, PRSA Colorado Communications Committee Member

    Don’t get too hung up on the finish line in a virtual race. Like many organizations, the Dumb Friends League had planned a group event for their largest fundraiser of the year – but plans quickly changed.

    Maia Brusseau, Interim Director of Marketing and Communications with the League explained her team’s decision to move the 10,000 in-person event to a virtual experience.

    “The 27th annual Furry Scurry was presented with two options, postpone or go virtual. We chose virtual, and the majority of the people who already registered rolled with our decision,” she said. “What was very encouraging is the number of people who were willing to support us through fundraising and virtual registration from March to May,” said Brusseau.

    During the virtual event, participants were asked to take a walk around the block, get up early for a hike, or get some miles in on their treadmills. Building the sense of community was accomplished through an Official Facebook Event Page, specific hashtags, videos, and other original content.  

    “We really leaned on our social channels, specifically Instagram stories, to make the Furry Scurry feel like an event on event-day,” explained Brusseau.

    However, the Furry Scurry is only one piece of Brusseau and her team’s responsibilities. The Dumb Friends League is known for pet adoptions, which were halted during the statewide “Stay At Home Order” in late March. “We felt it was in the best interest to suspend in-person adoptions to stop so many people coming through our doors,” she said. “However, this situation has forced us to look through a different lens and become creative with virtual adoptions and YouTube classes,” said Brusseau.

    And for the League, working remote was a necessary adjustment to ensure the safety of their bottom line – the animals in their shelters. As Brusseau explained, her team and others within the organization could be on-call as animal caregivers if shelter workers became ill. “As we cancelled volunteer shifts to limit the number of people who entered our facilities, everyone pitched in to ensure the animals were cared for – and that’s what we’re here for.”

    On the communications and advertising side, the League changed its messaging to inform the public about the status of low-income pet clinics, spay and neuter services, and more. Brusseau said their strategy was mostly reactive, as rules and regulations for pet shelters were modified, but her team updated website headlines, banner ads, and website content to reflect the changes.

    This month, a Dumb Friends League commercial will be airing on local television stations. Brusseau said the advertisement’s angle is acknowledging everyone who helped the 100% donor-supported organization during the pandemic.

    “During COVID, we have been accepting pets every day,” said Brusseau. “And we were able to do this because of all the people who have supported us.”

    The League has a broad and dedicated audience. Brusseau said their Facebook inbox was flooded with messages from locals asking what they can do to help, and more than 2,500 people signed up for pet fostering in less than a week.

    “We made it a point to give people actionable things they can do to help – including buying pet supplies for the shelters, setting the League as their Amazon Smile, and donating online,” she said.

    Communicating a new set of missions was no easy task. The Dumb Friends League is still pivoting their marketing strategies to reflect the latest information from the State of Colorado and CDC.

    “People have been understanding and driven to get involved with us in some way or another,” explained Brusseau.

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