CASE STUDY: Lymington Cat & Kitten Rescue
- The ravages of recession brought a sharp increase in people no longer able to afford their pets, and therefore bringing them to the rescue – or abandoning them
- Three other animal rescues within a ten-mile radius had closed as a direct result of the economic downturn
- Policy changes by other charities including Cats Protection, the RSPCA and PDSA meant that these much larger organisations were either unable or unwilling to accept as many cats and kittens as before
- Amid the economic uncertainty, fewer supporters were making donations to the Lymington rescue and shop takings were also down significantly
These factors combined to place an unprecedented strain on Lymington Cat & Kitten Rescue’s limited resources. Faced with almost certain closure unless the tide was turned, charity founder Janette Frankland and her “senior lieutenants” resolved to raise the rescue’s profile.
CuCo Creative Ltd was duly approached by the charity in April 2010 and tasked with designing and building a website that would not only encourage donations but also provide a regularly updatable “shop window” for cats and kittens in need of new homes. Until this point the charity had no web presence what-so-ever. A launch date of June 2010 was requested but, recognising the urgency of the situation, CuCo delivered the “live” site by the third week of May.
Phase one – website design, set-up and launch
CuCo Creative was briefed to a design and build an easy-to-navigate, CMS-based website that gave the client’s volunteer online editor the ability to add and update content at any time. Essential components included:
- Headline prominence for a ‘Save Our Shelter’ crisis appeal, including Paypal facility for online donations
- ’Home a Cat’ section to contain photographs and details of all cats and kittens available for adoption
- Dedicated pages to promote shop sales and explain charity’s history and day-to-day operations
- Facility to add news/blog items as required
- Search Engine Optimisation
The site, built on a WordPress platform and registered with the domain name www.lymicat.org, was trialled successfully and went live on 21 May 2010.
Phase two – marketing and promotion
CuCo Creative enlisted the services of its PR, marketing and media representative to promote the website and SOS appeal across the charity’s heartland. This resulted in:
- A full page feature in the Bournemouth Echo (audited daily circulation 32,000)
- Prominent news coverage in the Echo’s Southampton edition (39,000)
- Picture story plus regular updates in the Lymington Times & New Milton Advertiser (audited weekly circulation 21,000)
- Interviews/features on local radio – BBC Radio Solent, Wave FM, Fire FM
To build on the momentum generated by the website, CuCo Creative was further tasked with designing an e-newsletter for the charity to mail to supporters and other interested parties. An opt-in subscription link was added to the website and the first edition of the newsletter was released just before Christmas, timed specifically to include a ‘Santa Claws’ appeal for contributions towards the rescue’s food and heating bills over the festive season.
Reaction to the website has been 100 per cent positive, both in terms of critical acclaim and material benefit to the charity. In the first six months of the site’s existence:
- Nearly 100 cats and kittens were rehomed successfully as a direct result of enquiries generated by site visitors – a 45 per cent improvement on the gross figure for the previous six months
- Online donations reached four figures in a matter of weeks, with individual sums ranging from £5 to £150
- Contributions were received from as far afield as New South Wales in Australia and Florida in the United States; 70 per cent of contributions received so far represent “new business” from well-wishers who had not given to the charity previously
- The launch edition of the e-newsletter achieved an open rate of 73 per cent and click rate of 24 per cent
“Response to the website has exceeded our wildest expectations and, while our charity’s financial position remains acute, things look a lot brighter than they did this time last year.
“To receive contributions literally from the other side of the world has been an eye-opener. Local people still provide the bedrock of our support, but when £100 arrives out of the blue from deepest Australia you sit up and take notice.
“The content management system built into the website by CuCo Creative enables us to constantly update our gallery of cats and kittens available for adoption. Consequently our success rate with rehomings has shot up since we went online.
“CuCo’s ongoing technical support has been exemplary, including the design and launch of our e-newsletter, which went out just before Christmas and was very well received.”Janette Frankland (Founder, Lymington Cat & Kitten Rescue)