Tigers splashing in pools…
Lions and mountain lions surveying their kingdom from lofty heights…
Bobcats and servals curled up in hammocks enjoying the breezes…
A jaguar and leopard stalking each other as they play hide and seek in the tall grass…
Lynx catnapping under evergreen trees…
Tiny hybrid wild cats enjoying the company of others in their custom-designed wild habitats…
A rare, endangered clouded leopard recuperating in our on-site hospital from another major surgery she’s survived…
These are the sights we see as we make our daily rounds. And we never take one of these special moments for granted! But, we also know all of it comes at a tremendous price. It averages over $50,000 every single month to provide this quality of life to the 100+ wild cats we’ve rescued.
Years ago, we made the decision not to conduct paid tours as a source of revenue. The majority of our rescued cats have come from deplorable conditions in the past, some severely abused and neglected. Once they come to us, we assure they’ll be able to live as free as they can possibly be. We put their needs above all others.
Our habitats are huge, free-roaming, natural spaces in a remote, rural location. For some, rehabilitation and building trust again for humans takes a long time. We made the decision to be a true sanctuary for the animals, not a zoo for people. It was a tough financial decision to make but, as with everything else, we made the decision for the animals, not for the people.
Using Social Media to Help Big Cats in Need
We needed to find a way to share many photos and videos of the cats, so others could learn about them and enjoy watching them flourish, yet allow them the peace and tranquility they so desperately needed. When Facebook came along, it seemed the perfect way to do just that, so we dove into the world of social media.
As with most non-profits, we’re a very tiny organization and all of our staff are stretched so thin. The days never seem to be long enough for all that has to be done. We were only able to devote what studies show is the average amount of time most small non-profits can give to social media; i.e. about four hours a week – if we were lucky. We tried so many things, even having a donor offer to match $1 for every new “LIKE.” But, we just couldn’t seem to grow past 20,000 Facebook fans.
Then, we were lucky enough to have a passionate volunteer approach us about putting her full-time efforts toward our Facebook page. She had a long history in the wild cat rescue industry, both as a caretaker and advocate. She began researching all the latest tips and trends for Facebook success through online articles and non-profit blogs, learning as much as she could. She began devoting over 8 hours every day to our Facebook page. Our Facebook strategy evolved to include:
- Engaging our fans by using interesting visual content
- Answering fans’ questions in a timely manner, the goal being the same day
- Creating quality graphics with our digital images to raise funds for our residents’ support
- Researching and posting relevant current news related to the captive wildlife crisis
- Responding, in a timely manner, to breaking news and current affairs
- Driving Facebook fans to our website for more detailed information about our organization
In the seven months since this new focus on Facebook was implemented, we saw explosive growth in our Facebook page. Our followers grew from 20,000 to over ONE MILLION – and has continued! A year later, our page has close to 2.4 million loyal followers. The Wildcat Sanctuary has even surpassed some of the most respected worldwide animal rescue organizations, like the Humane Society of the United States and WWF, something we never could have imagined possible.
The Amazing Response
This has translated to so many wonderful benefits for the cats here at the Sanctuary. Our sponsorship program has grown, with more sponsor parents enjoying photos and updates about “their” cats. Our weekly Amazon Wish List postings are highly anticipated. This means we save so much off-site time shopping when our fans do that for us. Our legacy program has expanded as more consider naming our Sanctuary in their wills. Our donor base is now worldwide, with donations coming in from countries all over the world. Our educational goals are being met in countries all over the world since our followers are represented in over four dozen countries encompassing almost every continent.
Experts predict that the internet is at a tipping point. Social media is changing the world. Without a doubt, it has changed the world for the 100+ cats here at The Wildcat Sanctuary. They live their life in peace and solitude, wild at heart, yet they are known worldwide – thanks to the power of Facebook.
All image source: The Wildcat Sanctuary