Meet #STLSocialGood Speaker Ashley Riley @GatewayPets

On February 6th at #STLSocialGood, our half-day summit on non-profit social media marketing, our featured speaker, Ashley Riley (@GatewayPets) will speak on "5 Tactics to Build Social Momentum".

Ashley, a veteran of the St. Louis marketing scene, and advocate for local non-profit Gateway Pet Guardians, will share how she turned a Facebook group with 230 members into an effective and engaged Facebook page with 7,000+ fans over a three-year period with only one paid employee on staff through a mix of traditional public relations and social strategy. 

Thanks to the invention of crowdfunding and the lightening speed at which social word of mouth travels, we’re able to raise large amounts of money in a rather short time period
— Ashley Riley

1. What is your experience working for non-profits / community organizations? 

I've been involved with nonprofits and community organizations since college, and put together a marketing plan for the Alzheimer's Association's mid Missouri chapter as part of my capstone at the University of Missouri.  It wasn't until after I moved to St. Louis that I began taking on more in-depth volunteer roles.  I helped out here and there volunteering at fundraisers for a couple of organizations - Young Friends of St. Louis Children's Hospital, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri, to name a couple.  I was also part of their mentoring program for two and a half years. 

In November of 2009, I took on a volunteer position with Gateway Pet Guardians - at the time, a fledgling grassroots organization ran solely by a group of about twelve volunteers.  Seeing an opportunity to fill a need that they had, I soon took over management of their public relations and digital marketing including their website and social media outlets. I joined the board of directors in September 2010 and became the Vice President in 2012, watching the organization grow all the while. 

Photo from

Photo from

Our board is very different from that of most other nonprofits.  While many board members tend to removed from the day to day operations of the organization and focus on fundraising, our board is very involved and most of us oversee the strategic direction of various programs or teams of volunteers. Others, like myself, are exceptionally hands on. Essentially, I fill the role of Marketing and Communications Director.... but as a volunteer. 

2. How have you seen social media and the digital/mobile world affect efforts in fundraising or social good?

When Gateway first began, we referred to ourselves as a "virtual shelter" because we had no centralized location or office from which to operate out of - everything happened online.  Facebook became our meeting place as well as our platform for awareness.  We're still very much a grass roots organization and social media was and is still the key catalyst for our growth. Without it, we wouldn't be where we are today. 

Thanks to the invention of crowdfunding and the lightening speed at which social word of mouth travels, we're able to raise large amounts of money in a rather short time period - the same amount of money we might raise at a fundraiser that takes months of planning.  We went into emergency mode a few weeks ago when the sub zero temps hit the region.  

We have about 30-40 dogs on our daily feeding route - some owned, some stray - that were going to be left outside if we weren't able to act quickly. Thanks to a targeted social media campaign, we were able to raise nearly $10,000 in just a few days which allowed our outreach team to rescue 18 dogs and provide dog houses and straw for 50 more.

Our usage of Facebook groups as forums for volunteers also allowed us to pull together outreach teams for 5 days in a row without any advanced planning. 

3. What's your favorite Saint Louis - based "social good" organization?

Gateway Pet Guardians, of course :) In addition to Gateway, we work very closely with Bi-State Petfood Pantry, Belleville Humane Society, Monroe County Humane Society and a slew of other animal organizations to accomplish a much larger impact than we could if it were just us.

4. What's your favorite past-time/hobby?

Doing the things that I do for  Gateway has kind of become my hobby! I do spend a lot of hours on graphic design and web stuff for GPG, but I love doing it. In addition to that stuff, I'm an avid crafter and Pinterester and Goodwill hunter. I love a good upcycling project. I cook, bake, sew, make jewelry, refurbish furniture, etc.