Until recently anyone intending to adopt a dog only had one choice – to go down to the local rescue centre. The choice was limited to what was available in the immediate community. Today, there are local, national and international organisations offering to match dogs to owners. Demand for shagged out Shih tzus may be met by a supply of ex-breeding dogs in Ireland. How do we know? Because we grew up with the internet. We use technology in our daily lives to book travel or bank online, we bring similar expectations to ‘dog shopping’. We search online. Yet many organisations continue to operate on a face-to-face basis. Anyone with an interest in a cause, in this case rehoming dogs, needs a website.
Yes, in my experience there will be a website. However, it will be out of date perhaps to discourage the fickle from acting on impulse, demanding “I want a whippet and I want one now” while hammering fists on the floor.
With so much choice there needs to be a quick way of narrowing it down: by geography for example. The website advises ‘we do not rehome outside our area’ without giving any clue as to where that would be. The ‘about us’ section is fulsome and detailed, outlining their approach, values, history, fundraising efforts and so on, but there will be no address. The search for contact details starts with ‘about us’ and ends with submitting the enquiry form, the only content in the ‘contact’ section.
An automatic email immediately pings back saying to wait 15 days and then, if you hear nothing, to assume you’ve not been successful. Time passes. You hear nothing. The website hasn’t changed. The dogs up for adoption remain the same – you can see two tantalisingly close, who are desperate for a ‘forever’ home.
You manage to track down a phone number by surreptitious methods that could get you recruited by M15, and you call, even though it says not to, because you’re so very keen.
To find they’ve been so busy with an influx of dogs (so many looking for homes, you understand) the inbox hasn’t been checked for ooh, weeks, perhaps months. Spurred into action the email is unearthed but unfortunately the dogs on the website are no longer available – they haven’t been since 2010 when the web agency handed the site over. Oh dear. By now it’s only fair to wonder, how many give up and don’t make the follow up call? How many dogs could be re-homed but for want of a website that works?
So my appeal on this Blog Action Day is this: make it easier to join in. Here’s how you can, by taking your cause online:
Do you have a website? In this day and age, you are expected to have a website and won’t be taken seriously without one. Sorry, but that’s just how it is. You can get away with a blog (I’m preaching to the converted here if you’re blogging for Blog Action Day).
A website will extend your reach – bringing a global audience within one click. It is open 24-hours a day, meaning you can share information with the whole world while you sleep (or up all night soothing a distressed dog).
Start and learn as you go You don’t need anything slick – some websites almost seem to be overly sophisticated begging the question, has it been produced in order to tick a funding box? Many suggest, from the lack of content, that they were created by an external party and never adopted – perhaps no one knows how to update it (no shame there, but training is available): there’s an empty news section, blog under construction and tumbleweeds blowing through the ‘subscribe to our newsletter’ section.
Produce something Anything is better than a blank screen. Your first attempt may be terrible. But you can bury it. No one will know. Or care.
Refresh content It tells us you still exist and gives visitors a sense of urgency – blogging is the easiest way to add new content. Otherwise, think video, case studies and integrate social media (for example display your Twitter stream). Content doesn’t need to be polished or lengthy – web writing is more chatty and less formal, and little and often is better than perfect and never. On behalf of my inner proofreader and editor I appeal to you to please run a spell checker and correct any glaring typos as best you can. But don’t get hung up on the ‘correct’ way to write – enthusiasm can be conveyed in effort and is killed by endless revision and rewriting.
Find the time Many see updating the website as another task on their to-do list. But it’s the most effective way to raise awareness when budgets are tight (or none existent). It brings people together, and turns me into we. Do you want to harness the power of we (the theme chosen for this year’s Blog Action Day) or like Marlene Dietrich, do you prefer to be alone?
But what do I know? What do you think?