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Groupon Goes to the Dogs

A Note from Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views: This guest post comes from Sonia Charry, who is mom to a rescue dog and a writer for PawPosse. You can read more of her writing by following her on Facebook and Twitter.

Many of us have bought restaurant vouchers and tickets to local attractions through Groupon. But have you ever thought about getting a new family member through the discount site?

The Arizona Humane Society (AHS) thought it was time they used new social applications to reach a broader audience. So this year, they decided to reach out to Groupon’s vast local audience to find homes for homeless pets in their shelter. AHS had two goals with this venture: increase awareness and adoptions through a meaningful promotion. “Summertime is the most difficult time for our shelter,” says Bretta Nelson, public relations manager for AHS. “That’s when we see the most animals that we take in each year.” The timing was perfect: the Groupon came out at a time when they were most in need of adopters. 

So What Happened?
In Nelson’s words, “We were very willing to try it at least once and we were very pleasantly surprised.” Nearly 400 people bought the $25 Groupon, which was redeemable for puppies, dogs, and small critters whose adoption fees normally run up to $160. (A separate promotion was being run at the same time to encourage cat and kitten adoption, so they were excluded from the Groupon deal.) Nearly half of those Groupons were redeemed in the three months following the offer.

It was such a success that Groupon approached AHS to do a second offer. They agreed, and over 300 more vouchers were sold. To date, 90 of those have been redeemed with time still left in the redemption period.

With two Groupon offers, 700 vouchers were sold and over 200 homeless animals – so far – have found homes during the shelter’s busiest, most crowded season.

That’s quite a success for a promotion run almost entirely through social media. With the exception of one radio interview, all promotion for this offer was done through Groupon, Facebook, and Twitter. As a result, the group that bought the most Groupon vouchers were people in the 26-30 age range. For AHS, this was a major step forward with a new audience. Nelson, AHS’s PR manager, says this was a positive outcome for the group. “When your shelter is taking in 46,000 animals a year, anytime you can get in front of a newer audience it’s so well worth it.”

Nelson added that throughout development of the offer, AHS staff and Groupon put a lot of thought into ensuring the well-being of the animals in their care and the perception of the promotion. For the protection of the animals, Groupon adopters followed AHS’s normal process of filling out an application, meeting with an adoption counselor, and being approved before finding the right pet match. This process has helped AHS find the right adopters for each pet to make sure that once the animals are adopted, they are placed in loving homes that won’t boomerang them back to the shelter.

To Nelson, the promotion was about connecting with the community, not the adoption fees. “People really react to the fact that you’re doing everything in your power to find these animals a home and that’s what it’s about.” The organization believes that saving a life is priceless, and the message resonates with community members. Says Nelson, “They know by (adopting), they’re helping to save a life and I just don’t think there’s anything more profound than that.”

There are many ways to support animal rescue. Kudos to the Arizona Humane Society for trying a new approach and finding one more way to increase awareness and adoptions.

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