The official definition of a limiting factor is “the environmental factor that is of predominant importance in restricting the size of a population”. In terms of a shelter or rescue, it is the one thing that prevents you from your goal before anything else. Shelters and rescues often struggle to fill multiple areas like fundraising and adoption rate, however the limiting factor is the first one to run out. Maybe your space runs out before your money. Maybe your volunteer count isn’t enough to support your animals.
We have identified the top 3 most common limiting factors for any given rescue or shelter and in this series, we are going to give you the tools to solve them.
But first, let’s talk about how to identify your limiting factor.
Identifying your limiting factor
Our mission is always to save lives. If you are a controlled intake organization, look at your intake denial rate, otherwise, look at your healthy animal euthanasia rate. If you don’t keep record of the specific reason for why you had to deny intake for any particular animal, let’s take a look at some data points around the time of denial to determine your limiting factor:
How many animals were in your care at the time? If that number is at or above your maximum capacity (this can include capacity at a physical shelter and / or foster home capacity), then your limiting factor is Space.
If you had space, what were your finances like? Did you have the money in your budget to take on another animal? Did the animal require care that you couldn’t afford? If so, your limiting factor was Finances.
If you had the space and the finances, what was your staff / volunteer team like? Did you have a lower number of people needed to care for another animal? Did the animal require experience or expertise that your team didn’t have (ex reactive, blind, diabetic, etc)? If so, your limiting factor was Staff.
If you are keeping track of this data already and know why any particular animal was denied or euthanized and how many that was, that’s fantastic. If not, starting to keep track can really help with finding patterns in your intake denial / euthanasia rate and get you started on the track to finding solutions. Here is a link to a sample spreadsheet to begin tracking this data. Please copy and paste into your own new spreadsheet. If you need help with this, contact us.
Through this series, we recommend that you look at 1 year’s worth of data. If you do not have that much, that’s okay! You can start with any time period, even a week.
The goal of this series is to help solve your current limiting factor, which would then present a new limiting factor. So, it is created for you to be able to come back and reference as your organization grows and develops. There will always be multiple factors impacting decisions at your organization and this series is not meant to take away from the fact that rescue is complicated but to provide a starting point to start making small improvements that can have a big impact. There will always be exceptions and cases we don’t cover. If there is something specific you would like to discuss, always feel free to contact us.
Without further adieu, head over to the article on your current limiting factor, to learn ways to improve!