How to do a Shelter Makeover

Widget-PetNet2011According to a recent poll, nearly 85% of people who have adopted pets say it was a positive experience. Today, we’re driving awareness of adoption and its positive effects. The 2011 Pet ‘Net Adoption Event  features a hub page of related content from a consortium of the web’s top pet-focused bloggers and a social media donation campaign in partnership with Iams that will make it easier than ever to support pets in need.

“Adoption is a cause near and dear to Petside’s heart,” said Wendy Toth, Editor of “We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to revisit our inaugural topic and dedicate this year’s event to pet adoption, giving it the attention it so desperately deserves.”

I couldn’t agree more, so here is my contribution to Petside’s Pet ‘Net Adoption Event!

An Introduction

Creating a patio for outdoor events.

Creating a patio for outdoor events.

For the past four years, the employees of my company (P&G Pet Care) have taken a day off work in September to makeover an animal shelter in the Dayton-Cincinnati (Ohio) area. It’s a day for all of us to get out of the office, work together and accomplish something wonderful—to help homeless pets by improving where they stay while they wait for their forever homes.

Do you know of a shelter that needs a face lift? What follows is a guideline for how to organize your very own shelter makeover. How big you make the face lift depends on the needs of the shelter, the people available to participate, and the resources you have available.

Leaders and Teams

A fence facelift.

A fence facelift.

The Pet Care Example: Since we’ve done this for a number of years, our leaders already have experience in their jobs. Our core team is led by Bruce, our Project Leader. He oversees everything. Working with him is Mike, who is a general contractor and acts as Project Foreman. And Diane is in charge of Logistics & Supplies. These three people oversee the big stuff and each works with a group of Team Leaders who specialized in individual chunks of the work.

Being part of a large company has the advantage of a built-in workforce. And knowing that our company’s leaders—Mabe Rodriguez (Vice President – Americas, P&G Pet Care) and Dan Rajczak (Senior Vice President, Global Snacks & Pet Care)–will be working with us side-by-side at the shelter encourages everybody to take part.

Break It Down, the people you need:

At the top is a core of people who lead the entire project:

  • Project Manager: coordinates all the team leaders
  • Project Foreman: a general contractor or very experienced in construction; worth paying for if necessary. Advises on needed materials, needed skill sets, numbers of workers.
  • Logistics & Supply Leader: Oversees communications to all; lines up all supplies including things like building materials, buses, port-a-potties, and catering.

Team leaders support the Project Manager, Project Foreman, and Supply Leader. Some of the areas they cover are:

  • Carpentry
  • PR and Communications
  • Shelter Liaison
  • Painting
  • Artistic Design
  • Landscaping
  • Fund Raiser/Donation Scrounger
  • Catering and Comforts (for the workers)

Most important of all, you need a work force. It can be the employees at your company, your church group, a youth group or organization, your fraternity or sorority, or any group of people who care about animals and want to do a good deed. Finally, don’t assume everybody can drive a bobcat, but know that you will discover unknown skills among your workers.

Tip: Make sure you understand which insurance policy will cover any injuries that might arise.

Pick a Shelter

Updates to landscaping

Updates to landscaping

The Pet Care Example: Traditionally, we do our shelter makeover in September. Our Project Manager (Bruce), Project Foreman (Mike), and Logistics & Supply Leader (Diane) start considering shelter candidates in January. We look for a shelter where we can do lasting good and that is not scheduled for renovation in the upcoming year. We look for a shelter that matches our skills and the size of our work force. We look for a shelter that maintains a good adoption rate.

Break It Down, things to consider:

  • (Obviously) pick a shelter that needs help; that’s not scheduled for a future renovation.
  • Does the shelter have the infrastructure to maintain your renovation and put it to good use?
  • Does the amount of work fit with your worker numbers?
  • Does the type of work fit with your worker skills?
  • Can the shelter support your efforts by raising matching donation dollars?

Tip: Not every shelter has a large enough parking lot to accommodate all the cars that might show up on the day of the shelter renovation. Leave the cars parked at the office and use school buses to bus everyone in to the event.


Cleaning the kennels!

Cleaning the kennels!

The Pet Care Example: Bruce, Mike, and Diane sit down with shelter and create a project list. We set a budget, and we work with the shelter on how best to spend the money. Our only requirement is that the money be spent on improvements that will last for a few years and helps set up jobs the less skilled volunteers will be doing the day of the makeover.

Break It Down, things to consider:

  • The shelter Director knows what’s needed; you know what your team capabilities/resources are. Use this to mutually create the project list.
  • Especially important to use your Project Foreman’s professional judgement to advise whether the work is doable given your workers’ skills and your resources.
  • Now’s the time to settle on a date for the renovation. Fall or spring are usually the most comfortable to work in.


This gazebo will be a special spot for families to meet their new four-footed family members.

This gazebo will be a special spot for families to meet their new four-footed family members.

The Pet Care Example: We generally spend around 20% of our budget for tools, rentals, and materials. Another 10% goes for catering, buses, porta-potties, worker tee shirts, and a DJ to keep the tunes rolling and our energy up. We’ll also allocate approximately 10% to pay for the expertise and contacts of our Project Foreman/General Contractor. It’s important to mention that our Project Foreman is someone who is very passionate about this annual project and really does much more than what we pay him to do. We also hold approximately 10% in reserve as a kind of “slush fund” for emergencies. If we don’t need it then we use it to purchase a nice surprise for the shelter. The rest of the budget goes to pay the up front costs of the contract work. This past September, the shelter appealed to their supporters and was able to generate a matching amount which doubled the work we were able to accomplish.

Tip: As a “Not-for-Profit entity, typically, a shelter can get better discounts than we can. So we give the shelter the money for the renovation, and the shelter pays the bills.

Break It Down, things to consider:

  • The size of your budget will determine how much you’ll be able to do (and the need to adjust the % for each of the support areas)
  • Is the shelter able to appeal to their supporters to match your donation?

Don’t depend on donations to make the renovation happen, but consider contacting and asking for donations or discounts from:

  • Local home improvement stores/big box retailers for donations of landscaping equipment; plants/shrubs/trees; paint equipment; paint; lumber; tools.
  • Local radio stations to do a remote broadcast providing  music to the workers and community awareness of the event
  • Local restaurants/bakeries/coffee stores for food to feed workers at the event
  • Supermarkets, warehouse store, or big box stores for bottled water, soda, snacks,
  • An event rental company for chairs, tents, tables
  • Tool rental companies for big tools (make sure there’s someone who knows how to use)
  • Contractors doing the pre-work
  • Landscaping companies (especially items they are reducing due to change of season)
  • Pet food stores for donation of pet food
  • Office stores (or even extras from your own office): computers/equipment; office furniture; printer paper.

 The Project List

Some tools and supplies

Some tools and supplies

The Pet Care Example: We have found that there are four things that shelters consistently need: a laundry room makeover (usually involves a contractor); landscaping/beautification (great for lots of “non-skilled” labor); creating a meet/greet area or making it more “friendly” (great for creative mural painting); and power spraying the kennels (all you need is a power sprayer & a hose connection), so we usually recommend these to start the list.

Most people don’t realize how important the laundry room is in a shelter. Towels, rags, blankets, scrubs, rugs, are just a few of the items that need to be washed when caring for orphaned pets. This room seems to nearly always be stuck in a corner as an afterthought that includes bad plumbing, little space, and always needs sprucing up.

Landscaping and painting are things that nearly anyone can do–with a little supervision. And both add a layer of polish to a shelter that invites people to come in to find a pet. Creating a pleasant area for adopters to meet orphaned pets and interact with them encourages the adoption process. And power spraying the kennels–again a low skill task–makes for a nicer temporary home and a nicer environment for adoption.

Break It Down, things to consider:

  • Update the laundry room–do they need new shelving? New washers/dryers?
  • Spruce up public areas with paint and low-maintenance landscaping
  • Full cleaning and updating to kennel areas
  • New office equipment
  • Build new structures–how about a new gazebo for meet and greets (be sure you have the skills)
  • Can a portion of the shelter’s property be turned into a dog park for the shelter dogs?
  • Replace old fencing, or paint it to give it new life

Project Prep Ahead of the Event

A sweet observer!

A sweet observer!

The Pet Care Example: We know that we can’t get everything done in one day, and some of the work is beyond our skills. So a portion of our budget goes to pay skilled workers (contractors) to do some of the carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work that usually needs to be done ahead of our renovation day. Also, Pet Care employees with drawing skills will spend time in the shelter prior to the event sketching out the wall murals that their lesser skilled colleagues will paint on the day of the renovation.

Break It Down, things to consider:

  • Break your project list down to what should be completed ahead of the renovation event, and what can be completed by your unskilled labor force on the day of the event.
  • Sketch out wall murals and pictures ahead of time–make the wall a coloring book that unskilled painters can “color within the lines.”
  • Complete projects with multiple steps that take additional time–like hanging and taping dry wall or setting wall posts in cement–ahead of the renovation date so that they’re ready to be completed or painted on the day of the renovation event.
  • Have a plan for what to do if the weather turns bad

The Time Line

The Pet Care Example: This is generally what has worked for us:

~ Pick the shelter

~ With the shelter, agree upon a date: We like a Thursday in mid to late September because it gives us Friday to clean up. Avoid holidays and most people’s summer vacation/back to school schedule.
~ Get approvals from management. Also put the date on senior managers’ calendars—we want them at the event!

March, April

Painting murals

Painting murals

~ Monthly meetings for Project Leader, Project Foreman, Supplies & Logistics Leader and shelter.
~ Establish project list with shelter and Project Foreman; start prioritizing the projects.
~ Challenge the shelter to begin a matching grant/fund raiser especially with their top donors; fund raising can continue up until approximately 6 to 8 weeks away from the renovation.
~ Line up contractors to work for free or at discount

May, June
~ Bi-weekly meetings
~Start lining up logistics and supplies (busses, port-a-potties, catering, tools, etc),

Ten Weeks Out
~ Announce the event to the company with a celebratory kick off that includes the shelter director.
~ Send an email meeting invite to entire company so the event goes on everybody’s calendar
~ Create an online signup that includes asking about skills and tee shirt size (shirt colors designate work team; shirts take 4-6 weeks to order); online signup helps establish a broad idea of the skill sets available and a rough idea of total number of participants.
~ Start the tools needed list

Eight Weeks Out
~ Finalize project list with shelter
~ Contractor work lined up and their project list set
~ Recruit specific volunteers based on their advanced skill set to lead work teams
~ Logistical planning for organization of work teams (how many people needed for each project; what tools needed; what materials needed; etc)

Three Weeks Out

Power wash!

Power wash!

~ Group Leaders assigned and begin work with Team Leaders.
~ Team leaders assigned specific tasks and tour site to see area they will work; fully briefed on materials needed, project needs and volunteers’ skills.
~ Photographer takes “before” photos at the shelter

Two Weeks Before the Event
~ Contractors do prep work
~ All lists finalized
~ Volunteers assigned to specific work groups; work groups finalized
~ Tool rental plans completed
~ Supplies for the event are collected
~ Email notice sent to all involved that includes date, time, what to bring (gloves, shovels etc), when the bus leaves
~ Agenda for the day is planned and set.
~ Bonus list created (usually unskilled manual labor that doesn’t need any prep like weeding a fence line) in case the renovation is finished early and we have extra time.

Tuesday/Wednesday, the Days Just Before the Renovation
~ Make up name badges with team names on them
~ Pass out name badges and tee shirts

Thursday, the Day of the Renovation
~ The Project Foreman directs the work teams for an efficient flow of labor (re-assigning people as they are freed up to help finish the things that are taking longer to do).
~ Photographer takes photos of the event and the work as it progresses. We do a group shot before we start and another group shot at the end of the day when we’re all dirty.
~ Our DJ starts cranking up the tunes to energize the work force!
~ Our company leaders and the shelter leader give kick off speeches.
~ Each team leader has a sign so people can find their work groups
~ Each worker has a name tag that includes their team name.
~ Team leaders take their teams and tell them what to do. If team leader doesn’t know answer bumps up to group leader. If group leader doesn’t know bumps up to general contractor or general foreman.
~ Lunch breaks accomplished through team rotations.
~ End of the day closing speeches—big thank yous.

The Friday/Monday Afterward:

Paws 4 a Cause

Paws 4 a Cause

~ Follow up with shelter
~ Do any needed clean up
~ Return tools

Four to Six Weeks After the Event: Celebrate!
~ We have a company meeting to thank leaders and volunteers,  and show pictures/video of the event.
~ Helps us keep our eye on the mission and vision

Break It Down into basic blocks:

  • Pick the shelter.
  • Agree on the date.
  • Make sure the date is on any VIPs schedules.
  • Create project list; priortize the projects.
  • Start fund raising.
  • Start detailing the logistics of the project and supplies needed.
  • “Hire” any contractors/professionals
  • Alert your volunteer work force; get their commitment to the project.
  • Finalize the project list.
  • Finalize the contractor work list.
  • Finalize logistics and supplies.
  • Finalize the voluntary work force.
  • Do the renovation.
  • Celebrate!
Vicki just finished laying sod!

Vicki just finished laying sod!


P&G Pet Care employees consistently rank our annual shelter renovation as the #1 team building experience of their Pet Care careers. It’s an opportunity for us model our mission statement of enhancing the well being of dogs and cats, and a chance to work and bond with others outside of our company who share our passion for pets.

What I’ve detailed is a basic outline of how we make the renovation happen. I hope this will act as an inspiration for others to reapply our guidelines in order to help more orphaned pets find forever homes.

7 thoughts on “How to do a Shelter Makeover

  1. Ashley

    What a great, thorough article! This would be a great thing to send to companies to show them what a difference they can make and how to do it right. Awesome job, Bev!

  2. Joanne McGonagle

    What a great post. You have provided a complete guideline for others to help their own local shelter. Breaking what seems like a huge task into the basic blocks makes the task more manageable and more people will be encouraged to take the steps to help out when the task does not seem overwhelming. Thanks for writing!

  3. Paris Permenter

    A great resource for shelters that are considering a makeover! I love the step-by-step breakdown; this will make it easy for shelters to divide tasks between volunteers. I’m bookmarking this post!

  4. Petside

    What an excellent post! Really, an awesome step-by-step breakdown of what shelters need if they are considering a makeover. Wonderful!

    Shelters are an integral element of the adoption process, and having shelters that are neatened up is only going to help further that cause.

    Thanks for participating in our 4th annual Pet ‘Net event!

  5. Jaime

    Fantastic info — and what a great company that takes time to do this, I dont know of any other that does. I mean, this takes employees time and funds to complete – time off, its amazing what PandG does.
    Great article and wonderful advice for those looking to help somehow.

Comments are closed.