Workshops are an excellent first step in educating others about outdoor cats, Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), and services available at a local level. They’re also a great way to network with volunteers, caregivers, and people who care about cats.
Not every community has an animal welfare group that provides information and advice to the community. It’s up to cat advocates like us to step up and be that source of knowledge. Alley Cat Allies holds workshops all across the country, and you can do the same in your own community!
DID YOU KNOW? Alley Cat Allies has a “Helping Cats in Your Community” webinar! View a recording anytime or find upcoming sessions at alleycat.org/webinar.
If you’re interested in hosting your own workshop, the videos and materials below will get you on your way.
How to Host a Helping Cats in your Community Workshop
Alley Cat Allies has in-depth tools and guides to help you host a successful community cat workshop.
- Workshop Outline – A quick look at how your workshop can be structured. (Suggested length: 90 minutes.)
- Workshop Script – A longer guide for presenters.
- Videos – You can show our educational videos during your presentation.
Give attendees take-home materials after the workshop to make sure all of that new information is handy and accessible. Assemble packets of educational materials beforehand with the help of volunteers (a great job for teenagers wanting to help).
Be sure to include a business card or your organization’s contact information for follow-up. If you can, have extra packets on hand so attendees can share with neighbors and friends.
Alley Cat Allies has great educational brochures that are a perfect part of any take-home packet. These are available for download or can be ordered through our online shop.
- How to Help Community Cats: A step-by-step guide to Trap-Neuter-Return – A step-by-step guide on how to trap, spay and neuter, vaccinate, eartip, and return community cats.
- Colony Care Guide – An in-depth guide to caring for a community cat colony. Learn the best practices to keep cats healthy, safe, and living peacefully among people.
- Community Cat Colony Tracking System – Tracking each cat in your colony is an important part of Trap-Neuter-Return. This chart will help you collect and maintain valuable information.
- Post-Surgery Recovery – What to watch for while community cats are recovering from spay and neuter surgery.
- Socialized Cat and Kitten Guide – If you trap a friendly cat or kitten during a TNR effort these guides walk through how to socialize and find forever homes for adoptable cats.
- How to Live with Cats in Your Neighborhood – This brochure addresses common cat-related concerns and provides quick solutions. It includes an overview of easy, safe deterrents that will help keep neighbors and cats happy.
- Make Your Own Flyers – Create flyers for local resources, like low-cost spay and neuter clinics, helpful organizations, and any other useful information. Advertise volunteer opportunities and provide contact information for anyone interested in getting involved.
Getting the Word Out: Promoting Workshops
Post an announcement on your organization’s website. Include a link on your homepage about outdoor cats and any workshops you’re holding. If your website has a calendar, make sure the workshops are clearly listed.
If your workshop is taking place at the local shelter, ask them to post an announcement in the shelter and on their website.
Direct calls for help to your workshop. Every call from a concerned local is an opportunity to educate. Empower the caller to learn more about the cats they care for or are seeking help with.
Use the internet to find community event lists. Most communities have online local event listings where you can advertise your workshop. Check your neighborhood newspaper, neighborhood social networks, your local www.craigslist.org, and your municipality’s government site.
Local television stations have community calendars online and might even incorporate announcements into their newscasts. Call or email their news desks to see how you can get your workshop announced.
Many local radio stations also have community calendars online where you can upload details about events. Some local stations will include information about events on the air.
When contacting the news media, always provide the following information: name of the event; date; time; location, with specific details (e.g. the workshop will be provided in the basement of St. Kitty Church); indicate that the event is FREE; include your organization’s website; a brief description of the event; and a phone number where you can be reached for media questions.
Advertise to online community groups. In many areas, neighbors come together online to share information. Use the search feature and some keywords to look for community associations, local neighborhood groups, people interested in animals, and rescue groups. When you find a group, send an announcement with the details of the workshop to the list manager, or join the list and post it yourself.
Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Meetup, and Nextdoor can be great places to post your workshops and create a sense of community among attendees.
Take out a classified ad. Most communities have more than one newspaper or publication with classified ads. These ads tend to be short and charge per letter or word. They’re relatively inexpensive and can help you reach a different audience. Make your ad clear and to the point, and direct people to a place where they can get more information like a website, email, or phone number. [Example headline: “Feeding outdoor cats? We can help.”]
Some community newspapers may offer free or reduced rates for public service events. If your organization is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, a newspaper may be able to provide you with free or heavily discounted advertising rates.
Create a Flyer. A local café, library, or grocery store may have community bulletin boards. Post a flyer to let people know about the workshops. Offer stacks of flyers to local pet shops, veterinary offices, and groomers for their clients to take.
Props Needed for Workshops Presentations
Create a demonstration kit to use at every workshop, with equipment for trapping and a sampling of humane deterrent options. Some things you can include are:
- Trap cover
- Can of cat food or tuna to show baiting the trap and paper plate to place food on
- Humane deterrent options
- An orange
- Carpet runner
- Chicken wire
- Coffee grounds
- Catstop, scarecrow, and Catscat
Knowing and Engaging your Audience
Every person who comes to a workshop is a possible future advocate or caregiver. When attendees show up, ask them to sign in. Your sign-in form should include space for attendees to write their name, basic contact information, and why they decided to come to the workshop. A glance at the sign-in sheet will help you get an idea of who is in the room and what information they are expecting.
Some people may be hesitant to give you their name and contact information. Assure them that you will keep their information confidential. Tell them that it will help you connect them with other people in their area who want to protect cats.
Wrapping Up a Workshop
Always end a workshop by asking for volunteers and explaining how attendees can sign up. Mention a few tasks you need help with (i.e., trapping, returning, fostering, office help), but be broad so attendees understand that they can help in other ways too.
Once the workshop is over, be sure to collect the sign-in form. Enter the attendee names and contact information into a spreadsheet or other contact management system. When you’re coordinating caregiving or TNR efforts, seeing where attendees live may also help. Try mapping software, or website to input the individuals’ zip codes or cross streets. Be sure the information is always kept private and never made available to the public to honor the privacy of workshop attendees.
After the workshop, be sure to follow up with your attendees. This may be as simple as sending an email to thank them for coming, or by sharing links to additional resources. An attendee may not be able to immediately get involved helping cats, but knowing they have an open line of communication with you can make it easy to connect in the future.
Thank you for being a part of growing the movement to help protect and improve the lives of cats!