6 Ways Your Shelter Software Should Streamline Your Operations Posted January 17, 2016 by Chip

(If it doesn't do these things, it's time to think about something new...)
  1. Google-Style Full-Text Search For All Your Animals and Other Information
  2. There should be a Search box at the top of every page where you just enter what you're looking for and you get results back. Like typing "Rox" if you're not sure if the animal's name is spelled "Roxy" or "Roxie". Or "217" if you want to find out who's in kennel 217. Or "German" to find all the German Shepherds. Sure, you need forms-based search, too. But basic full-text search does the job 90% of the time, and does it faster.

    Everybody knows how to use Search.

  3. Online Applications for Adopting, Fostering, and Volunteering
  4. Why force people to come to your location to fill out paperwork? Why delay the adoption process and waste your customer service people's time by filling out the adoption application right when the customer wants to take an animal home? Why make your staff transfer the information from the paper application to the computer? Why make customers who have previously adopted or fostered fill out the same information again? Why give volunteers the opportunity to change their minds between the time they look at your web page and the time they can come in to fill out an application?

    Having these forms online saves time and effort for everyone.

  5. Online Scheduling For Owner Surrenders
  6. Let the staff working on intake work on intake, not on answering the phone. Let the system take care of scheduling the appointment automatically. Make the customer answer all the questions about why they're surrendering the animal when they make the appointment, not when they come to intake. When people show up without appointments, direct them to a terminal or tablet where they can fill in the information.

    Spend time taking care of incoming animals, not dealing with scheduling appointments.

  7. Automatically Track Behavior and Behavioral Changes Over Time
  8. You probably have staff and volunteers fill out paper forms and else send emails about their observations. But even if you store the text of the observations in your system, there is no way to collate and analyze the information so you can track the behavior of the animal. Your system should provide online forms that structure and format this information in ways so that it can be analyzed, summarized, and be truly useful.

    Don't guess about an animal's behavior. Don't read a bunch of notes to get an idea. Know.

  9. Make Recommendations to Prospective Adopters and Fosters
  10. Customers at a larger shelter or rescue can be overwhelmed by all the animals. Leverage your system, which has both the inventory of animals and the behavioral information (from #4 above) to select those animals more likely to be what the customer is looking for. Studies have repeatedly shown that when the customer has fewer choices, they are more likely to adopt. No automated system can come up with perfect (or even best) choices - an experienced staffer or volunteer who knows the dogs can always do better. But a recommender system is pretty good at eliminating all of the animals that aren't what the customer is looking for.

    Fewer and better choices help increase adoptions.

  11. Automatically Transfer Information About Animals to a Rescue Partner
  12. You publish a list of animals available for transfer, maybe in an email, and the rescue partner prints it out. They evaluate the dogs (which is much easier to do if your system is automatically tracking behavior) and give you back a list of which ones they'll take - maybe in an email, maybe on paper. You print out all their information and give it to the Rescue Partner, who either stores it in files or else enters it into their computer system. But if your systems were linked, this could all be done online and the information could be transferred automatically. Even if they're not linked, you can still streamline the process by giving them limited access so they can choose the dogs and print (or email) the records themselves.

    Get rid of unnecessary paperwork.