In the last edition of the Rescue 101 Blog, I talked about adoption events and how to hold a successful event. One of the things I didn’t touch on at the time is specifics about the equipment that will really help you pull your adoption events together, after starting on some of the descriptions I realized there’s enough information to warrant an entry just for equipment! The equipment that you purchase to use at adoption events should be built to withstand some rugged use, these are things that are going to get thrown in and out of cars, stacked, packed and put in and out of storage. The right equipment will hold up over time and help you make a good impression at your outreach events.
Before you dig in to this article, I want to mention that this is a pretty exhaustive list and it’s not likely that you are going to start doing events with everything I’ve listed her on hand. When holding events for North Star Rescue, I found myself acquiring a new piece of equipment at least every month until I had my fully equipped set, and whenever possible I’ve included direct links to the specific products that I found myself using that worked and endured the best over time. I’ve included links to most of the products available on Amazon, but it’s always worth checking your local stores to make sure you can’t find a better price since the cost of adoption fair equipment can add up quickly.
Table and Booth Related Equipment
Depending on the type of animals you are bringing to events, you may need a different assortment of cages, pens or equipment to contain them safely. We’re not going to cover species specifics here, but instead focus on the general things that you can use at any adoption event.
The first thing you’ll need is a table to present your materials or small animal habitats on. Some venues where you are having adoption events might have tables on sight for you, which is definitely a plus, but if they don’t I recommend picking up one or two folding tables, preferably 8′ long folding tables that have legs that fold underneath, and fold in half with a carry handle for easy transport. These kind of tables will fit into any vehicle that you might be bringing to adoption events and are handy to have for a variety of applications. You can find these often for a decent price at your local hardware store, or you can order them from Amazon (Best ChoiceProducts Folding Table Portable Plastic Indoor Outdoor Picnic Party Dining Camp Tables, 8′ on Amazon).
A few fabric folding chairs, often used for camping or picnics, are a great addition to your adoption fair equipment. Having somewhere to sit and take a load off will be a welcome relief for you and your volunteers, and you can also put out a chair for visitors to your booth if they want to be able to sit and spend some time getting acquainted with an animal they want to adopt. Check out your local retail and hardware stores that often have sales on these types of chairs, that can be found in a variety of colors. (Quik Chair Folding Quad Chair with Carry Bag on Amazon).
A tablecloth in your rescue’s color helps make a great backdrop for all of your other materials. You can find plastic table cloths in lots of colors at your local party store or big box retail store, but I really recommend investing in some fabric table cloths that you will be able to wash and re-use. many times. After trying out several different options for table cloths, I found that my very favorite have been polyester tablecloths made by a company called LinenTablecloth that you can find on Amazon. They are available for $10-$20 in a variety of colors, hold up well to use, and mine never lost their color after many wash cycles. (LinenTablecloth 60 x 126-Inch Rectangular Polyester Tablecloth on Amazon).
A table skirt serves a double purpose of making your booth look more polished, and also giving you some out of sight storage space for your spare equipment by hiding anything you stash under the table. Table skirts can be pretty heavy, and while you can get velcro clips that attach to the edges of the table to hang your table skirt, I’ve found the weight tends to drag table skirts off of those when I’ve tried them. Safety pins and patience has always worked for me when hanging a table skirt, but it’s worth it for the final appearance of your table when it’s properly wrapped. (LinenTablecloth 21 ft. Accordion Pleat Polyester Table Skirt on Amazon).
If you are going to be doing outdoor events, a pop-up canopy does double duty by really making your booth stand out as well as providing portable protection from the elements. Pop-up canopies are pretty pricey when you buy them new, but you can find models around $100 that are intended for camping and picnic use primarily that will work great for you out of the box. The company I have had the most experience with is E-Z Up Canopies, which are relatively easy to pop up once you learn the process and come at a reasonably affordable price point in several colors. (E-Z UP Swift 12-Feet x 12-Feet Instant Shelter Canopy on Amazon). You can find companies that will also do custom color canopies and print your logo on them as well, which is a great look for your events, but generally a luxury item for rescues who tend to be running on a tight budget.
Signing and Display Equipment
Using hard plastic sign holders to display signing on your table can help you provide important information, like your adoption fees and notes on the process, to people visiting your table. There are a variety of sizes of plastic sign holders, but I found that I always got the most use out of 8.5″ x 11″ plastic sign holders (Source One 8.5 x 11-Inches Slant Back Thick Acrylic Sign Holder Ad Frame, Clear, Pack of 3 on Amazon) and occasionally appreciated having smaller 4″ x 6″ sign holders (Source One 6-Pack Acrylic 4 x 6 Slanted Sign Holders (SB-4×6-6) on Amazon) to fit in smaller spaces. In all sign holders, I prefer the angled kind displayed to the left that tilts the display up towards the person reading it, since most of your displays will be on a table at waist level this makes them easier to read.
You’ll want to put a donation box out on your table, it never hurts to be able to collect a few extra bucks from visitors who might not adopt or follow-up with your rescue otherwise. Putting out a donation box and tossing a few dollars and coins in there will help give people the idea that a donation would be appreciated to help with your animal care costs. You can customize your donation box by putting in an insert, and some of them even have a built-in business card holder so you can make the most out of the real-estate this item will take up on your table. Make sure you put it in a fairly conspicuous area when you use a donation box. Donation boxes are surprisingly costly, you’ll probably have to do a handful of events before you’ve collected enough money to pay for the box itself, but I’ve found that a clear donation box gets more money dropped in than a handmade box that you can’t see through. (SourceOne Donation Box Oblong With Lock Keys Sign Holder and Business Card Holder, 5 Inch Wide, Small on Amazon).
There’s a variety of brochure holders out there, including single brochure holders (Source One Premium Counter Top Full Size, 8.5 x 11 Inches Wide Acrylic Brochure Holder (S1-CT-FS) on Amazon) or multi-tiered brochure holders (Source One Premium Large 4 Tier Magazine Organizer, Brochure Holder, Wall Mount or Counter Top Use Clear Acrylic (S1-85-4-DCI on Amazon)). For North Star Rescue’s events, I always preferred the 4-tier brochure holder with removable dividers since I could place regular full-page items in there, or use dividers to keep care brochures for different species separated. There are tons of options in brochure holders, from standing displays, to combination sign and brochure holders, or brochure holders with business card holders attached. Think about how much real estate you have on your table top when purchasing brochure holders, a single big holder might work great to take up an empty space or you might have limited room and find that single brochure holders strategically placed separately look better.
Cage card holders are a great item to put on any animal enclosure so that you can provide a card with an animal’s basic information. It will help you save a lot of time talking to adopters since they will be able to get the animal’s information at a glance and ask you for more detail if they are interested in learning more about that particular animal. I recommend that you look for a local business to source cage cards, because they are oddly expensive when you look for them online. Bass Equipment, a maker of animal equipment, was able to do a special order for our rescue and bring the cost of the card holders down but you have to contact them directly for information about ordering cage cards, and I do recommend checking with them since they have always been easy to work with. You can also check with your local feed stores or pet stores to see if they can help connect you with the right supplier.
A custom vinyl banner is a big eye catcher and can be positioned in a variety of ways at different adoption events. If you are having an event outdoors and using a canopy, you can hang it from the back of your canopy to provide a nice back drop for your event display. Indoors, you can hang the banner on a wall behind a table, or display it outdoors to let people know that you are there. You might even want banners in multiple sizes. A large banner might make a good wall or back drop display, and you can use smaller, narrower banners to hang in front of tables and make sure your logo and rescue name are out there front and center. Vinyl banners vary greatly in price so it’s worth checking with your local signing companies to see what prices they offer on different banner sizes. I’ve also found that GotPrint.net offers inexpensive vinyl banners, while I haven’t ordered banners from them before to attest personally to their quality, I have used their printing service for business cards and other small items and have been satisfied with the quality.
An A-Frame sign holder is another great asset to have, especially if you are having an event indoors and want to bring passing foot traffic inside. You can find a variety of A-Frame sign holder styles, from the simple to very decorative ones. You can have a custom A-Frame sign printed with a static message, or get one with a chalkboard or whiteboard background for you to add your custom messages and drawings to. A-Frame sign holders can run a pretty penny, if you are handy you could certainly assemble your own A-Frame from scratch, but if you don’t feel comfortable making your own be sure to check out different stores to score the best price. (Displays2go A-Frame Sidewalk Chalkboard, Menu Sign, Teak Wood (AF2134RMTE) on Amazon).
Paperwork Handling Equipment
If you find yourself handling a lot of paperwork at events, a portable file organizer can help you keep your paperwork and spare pens together so that you can get to things easily when you need them. Just add some hanging file folders and your paperwork before events, you can store plenty in these boxes so you can generally work off of the same supplies before you need to restock your paper box. You can generally drop your clipboards and other small things you might need to keep organized in the same container. You don’t necessarily need to go with a fancy paper bin, depending on your needs a couple of regular file folders in a storage bin along with other small items that you will want at events will suffice. (Storex Portable File Box, 10.88 x 13.25 x 11 Inches, Black (STX61504U01C) on Amazon)
Having clipboards ready and set up with adoption applications and adoption agreements will help you keep the paperwork process streamlined at your events. Bonus points if you find clipboards that match or compliment your rescue’s booth colors, but really any standard clipboard will do. You’ll readily find clipboards at reasonable prices at big box retail or office stores, but you can also find them for comparable prices online as well. (Sparco Transparent Plastic Clipboard, 9 x 12-1/2 Inches, Blue (SPR01863) on Amazon).
You’ll probably need more than one kind of writing utensil for your event equipment. You’ll need ballpoint pens for adopters to fill out paperwork, and to fill out cage cards. Sharpies in a variety of colors are great for customizing paperwork or signing on the spot. If you are using an A-Frame sign, you might also need chalk or whiteboard makers that are appropriate for the type of surface you will be writing on. Bring more pens than you think you’d reasonably need, in my experience those little suckers grow legs and walk away when you need them.
Accidents happen, and you can bet they will happen when you’ve got a bunch of animals in tow far away from home. Keep a pack of sturdy paper towels on hand to deal with messes so that you don’t have to go running for supplies when one of your foster animals decides to add their own personal flair to your event space. I am fan, personally, of Scott’s Shop Towels, which you can find at most stores including auto stores where they are favored for standing up to greasy messes. (Scott Shop Towels Pack of 2 on Amazon).
A small broom and dustpan will help you tidy up little messes quickly during an event. If you are working with small animals, a small broom can be a lifesaver when you are trying to keep things looking neat and clean and your foster animals are having a blast throwing small pieces of bedding or hay out around your displays. (Rubbermaid FG6C0100 Comfort Grip Duster and Dustpan Set on Amazon).
Grooming wipes will help you deal with messes that end up on your animals, helping you keep them looking their best for potential adopters who might visit. Grooming wipes can also pull double duty to clean dirty hands or surfaces at your event. My favorite grooming wipes are made by Earthbath, they are safe for use on all types of animals and you can find them in a variety of scents, or opt to use hypoallergenic wipes that are scent free. (Earthbath All Natural Grooming Wipes on Amazon).
Hand sanitizer is a good item to have on hand, you can ask people who want to visit with your animals to clean up before and after they handle their animals. Providing hand sanitizer will help prevent people from handling animals with food scents on their hands as well, which keeps your visitors safer from animals who might think they are getting a snack instead of a guest in their personal space. I prefer to use a plain, unscented, regular hand sanitizer instead of one with any scents since they are more universally tolerated. I’ve included a link to a big pack of hand sanitizer on Amazon, but you really will only need a bottle or two for your table and can pick it up cheaply at any store. (PURELL 9652 Advanced Instant Hand Sanitizer, 8 Ounce Pump Bottle (Pack of 12)).
One thing I have always kept in my adoption fair kits is a bundle of fuzzy pipe cleaners. It might seem like an odd supply to carry around, but I’ve found that pipe cleaners can fix a lot of small things in a pinch. Working with small animals, I use them frequently to hold up water bottles on cages. They can reinforce a weak cage latch, hold pens shut, or hang up hammocks and toys in your animal’s cage. You can put a few together and use them to hang a banner, tie a bag shut, or lots of other little things that won’t come to mind until you find yourself facing a dilemma with some pipe cleaners on hand. If you pack a few colors you can always get crafty and make little pipe cleaner animals for children visiting your table, which is really more of a novelty than a necessity, but a fun application none-the-less. (Creative Arts by Charles Leonard Chenille Stem Class Pack, 4 mm x 12 Inch, Assorted Colors, 1000/Box (65490) on Amazon).
Duct tape is well-known for its myriad of uses, and it never hurts to have some on hand just in case. One of my favorite things is the small rolls of gorilla tape, which I’ve used to fix things like faulty carrier handles, rips in boxes, cracks in plastic containers and more. Any duct tape will do, if you opt to use gorilla tape just remember it really is tough stuff and it doesn’t give up its hold easily once you apply it, so make sure you are committed to whatever you are taping up staying stuck together. (Gorilla Tape To-Go on Amazon).
Bungee cords are a handy item for securing things inside your vehicle while you are traveling, as well as other items at your event. Bungee cords can be an easy way to hang a banner from your booth’s canopy, trees or other items. You can use it to secure your equipment to a rolling cart if you are using one so things don’t fall off in transit. Bungee cords are pretty inexpensive and it never hurts to have a few floating around in your bag of tricks at an event. (Highland (9008400) Bungee Cord Assortment Jar – 24 Piece on Amazon).
Speaking of rolling carts, if you find yourself carrying a lot of heavy items like tables and boxes of supplies to your events, you can save your back a lot of pain by investing in a folding rolling cart. After many years of running boxes of supplies from my car to the event area, I finally invested in a product called the Magna Cart which folds completely flat, making it easy for me to fit in with all of my other event equipment. (Magna Cart Flatform 300 lb Capacity Four Wheel Folding Hand Truck on Amazon).
I’ve mentioned a lot of small pieces and components that might be part of your eventual adoption fair kit. Having a bin where you keep the majority of your event equipment will help smooth your adoption event experience, if you can keep a box packed with the majority of your supplies ready to go you’ll have a lot less to worry about on the actual day of your adoption event. I’ve always found that a simple plastic storage bin, the kind that you can find at just about any retail store, is inexpensive and provides a perfectly good container that is easy to store and easy to pack with you. You can also get a little fancier and get a rolling contractor chest for your small supplies, which can be nice if you don’t have enough equipment to bother investing in a rolling cart alone. (Stanley 033026R Pro Contractor Chest on Amazon).
It might be last on the list, but don’t discount the importance of maintaining a stocked first aid kit along with your event supplies. Having first aid supplies is important for the safety of you, your volunteers, and visitors who will be interacting with animals at your booth. If you use supplies from your first aid kit, make sure you replenish them afterwards so that you don’t get caught with a partially used up and not very useful first aid kit when you need to use it again. It’s a good idea to include supplies that might be unique to caring for the type of animals you will bring with you at events as well so that your animal charges are also covered in the event of an emergency. (Medique 40061 First Aid Kit, 61-Piece on Amazon).