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Open Arms Challenge 2024

This Challenge is funded by Adopt a PetCalifornia for All AnimalsLife of RileyMaddie’s Fund®Michelson Found Animals Foundation and Ryan Animal Rescue Foundation and in collaboration with American Pets Alive!ASPCAThe Association for Animal Welfare AdvancementBest Friends Animal SocietyBISSELL Pet FoundationThe Community Cats PodcastCompanions and Animals for Reform and Equity (CARE)CuddlyGreater Good CharitiesHeARTS SpeakHumane Society of the United StatesJVR Shelter StrategiesMaddie’s® Million Pet ChallengeNational Animal Care and Control AssociationPetco LovePetfinder FoundationPetSmart Charities and Shelter Animals Count.

Save the Date!

Mark your calendars for the all-inclusive 2024 Open Arms Challenge! This grant Challenge is like no other. For the entire month of April 2024, animal shelters, foster-based organizations and public charities are encouraged to create a new program or expand an existing one focused on keeping pets and people together.

It is all about opening our hearts and minds to more accessible and inclusive practices, helping to keep pets with their people through Return to Home and Foster programs and so much more. Not only do we all hope to see innovative ways to increase community engagement with adoptions, foster recruitment, volunteer interest and safety net programs – there are also grant prizes available! (Total prize amount to be revealed later this year.)

Beginning in 2023, there will only be one Challenge per year.

What is the Open Arms Challenge?

The Open Arms Challenge is an opportunity for organizations to pilot a new practice or expand upon a current program that has already been started.

The goal of this Challenge is to increase inclusivity and provide a welcoming environment for all staff (paid and unpaid) and community members; and keeping pets with people when possible. What that looks like is different for every organization. It can be as simple as returning voicemails in a timely manner, providing literature in multiple languages or completely rewriting or doing away with the adoption application, to undertaking bias training or choosing new neighborhoods for adoption events. The Open Arms Challenge can be applied to any of your organization’s programs and services.

How does it work?

Your organization applies to participate in the Open Arms Challenge once the application period is open. If accepted, your organization implements the new or expanded activity you’ve chosen for the Challenge month. You document what was done, what was learned and what resulted from this Challenge. You then submit a participation report to be considered to win a grant from the funding partners. There are additional prizes designated by some of the collaborating partners, as well.

Who can participate?

This Challenge will invite animal shelters, foster-based organizations, and public charities focused on keeping pets and people together to create or expand programs in any of the following areas:

  1. Processes are equitable and inclusive
  2. Customer success is ensured through customer service
  3. Marketing is inclusive of all areas of your community
  4. Organization embraces an open and welcoming culture
  5. Organization creates partnerships with other organizations
  6. Other – an open and welcoming practice you’re already doing that’s not listed above

Most importantly, the practice(s) each organization decides to undertake should reflect a desire to intentionally connect with all areas of the community and a willingness to listen to what their community wants and needs.

Challenge Details

The Challenge is open to animal shelters, foster-based organizations, and public charities focused on keeping pets and people together who want to increase inclusivity and provide a welcoming environment for all community members. Welcoming practices that will be considered are those that actively make your organization’s culture more open, equitable and inclusive for your community.

To be considered to PARTICIPATE in this Challenge, your organization must be:

  • A U.S.-based government agency or 501c3 public charity that focuses on dogs and/or cats
  • A shelter, foster-based organization or public charity that focuses on keeping pets and people together
  • Current on Maddie’s Fund grant reporting for any prior grants
  • A member of Shelter Animals Count

When and how do we register?

Registration link will be live on this page during the application window which will open February 26 – March 6, 2024.

Should we prepare?

Yes! Now is the time to start your planning. What new program would you like to pilot? How can you expand your existing programs to be more inclusive and community focused?

To start the ideas flowing for this Challenge, there are loads of resources available. There are recordings of speakers from previous years sharing how they implemented new and updated programs and policies at their own organizations. Additionally, there are materials, samples, applications and reports.

Additionally, the February Weekly Community Conversations are slated to be all about these practices. We will have more information later in the year.

Anything else we should know?

  • Bookmark this page and check back often for updated information.
  • Sign up to receive notifications on Maddie’s® Mailing List or Maddie’s® Pet Forum or with any of the Funding or Collaborating partners mailing lists.
  • Create or update your profile in the Maddie’s Fund grants portal.
  • Share news about the Open Arms Challenge with colleagues and your community; consider partnerships with others in your community

Important Dates:

  • Prep Period: February and March 2024 – Join the Weekly Community Conversations in February to learn more about open and welcoming practices and start your prep work of training staff, updating or creating materials during this time.
  • Registration Period: February 26 – March 6, 2024 (Apply through the Maddie’s Fund grants portal until 5pm PT on March 6, 2024.)
  • Challenge Period: April 1, 2024 – April 30, 2024. During this time, you will pilot your new practices.
  • Participation Reports Due: May 2024 (see a sample of that report)
  • Final Report (via Zoom Huddle) for Award Winners: September 2024