January 27, 2017
Organizing and maintaining your animal shelter is vital to your continued success as a nonprofit organization. An organized and clean organization attracts more volunteers, donors, and adopting families. Each of these adds your continued success by increasing your mission awareness in the community you serve.
Directors and volunteers at animal shelters have a long list of responsibilities to actively carry out the day to day operations. Properly organizing and cleaning often get pushed to the backburner to tackle other high-priority tasks like recruiting volunteers, adopting families, and spreading the word about your work. Creating structure for organization and cleaning helps minimize the stress and makes the process more manageable for your volunteer team.
Here are six best practices to implement and guide you to reestablish order in your animal shelter.
- Observe your area. The first step to getting clutter and disorganization under control is to look at your shelter. Find a clipboard and pen and conduct a thorough walkthrough of your entire shelter both inside and outside. Are there areas filled with boxes and forgotten about items? What does the entrance way look like? How does your office look to visitors? Take notes about every room to create a central to-do list.
- Request third-party help. As an active volunteer in the shelter, things may appear normal to you that are out of place to visitors. Find a third-party to visit and conduct a walkthrough of the shelter too. Ask them to take detailed notes as they move through the building and find unappealing areas. In addition, ask them to make suggestions what will make your shelter more attractive to outsiders.
- Create an organization committee. Recruit members of your volunteer team to be part of an organization committee. The committee is crucial to making sure the responsibilities are planned and carried out by all volunteers. Review the information from both walkthroughs and actively brainstorm ways to make improvements. In addition the brainstorming, these individuals are responsible for researching costs or techniques, leading, implementing the new tasks and protocols. Assign each committee member a designated area of the shelter to oversee during the transition.
- Establish a schedule. Create a cleaning schedule that breaks down tasks into detailed time slots. Start by making a list of everything that needs to be accomplished to maintain cleanliness. Break these tasks into groups of how often they need to be completed. Establish groups for daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly. Dedicate one Saturday per month to monthly tasks, and one Saturday per month to yearly and quarterly tasks. This type of structure eliminates the guess work for your volunteer team.
- Host spring cleaning days. Schedule two “Spring-cleaning” days per year. One is the spring and one in the fall. Dedicate the day to de-cluttering and getting rid of items you no longer need to carry out the mission of your organization. A good rule to follow is if you haven’t used in the past twelve months, toss or recycle it.
- Review yearly. In the beginning, it is important to review every quarter until you have a grasp on the amount of volunteer time required to make consistent organization and cleanliness possible. After that, make sure you review your continued progress every year with walkthroughs from a third-party. Actively review the feedback and implement changes that will help improve your overall operations.
Maintaining an organized and clean appearance makes help your animal shelter look more appealing to outside visitors and guests. Use these steps to establish structure and make implementation a breeze for your volunteers.
January 20, 2017
Winter is quickly approaching. It’s a time of the year that creates stress for both humans and animals. Animal shelter and rescue directors know and understand how vulnerable the animals in their care are during the cold weather months. They need to make sure all of their volunteers understand the harsh realities of winter and how it impacts the animals.
Winter safety tips
Implement these six tips to improve winter safety for your animals and shelter.
- Education. Schedule a volunteer training that covers winter safety tips for your shelter and animals. Educated volunteers increase the quality of care your volunteers receive. Make the training mandatory for all volunteers to attend. This gives your long-term volunteers an opportunity to increase and share their past experiences with other volunteers.
- Limit outside time. Fur on animals doesn’t mean they are protected from the cold temperatures. Take them outside for their daily walks and breaks, but bring them back inside to stay warm the remainder of their day.
- Create an emergency plan. Depending on your location, an emergency winter weather plan is valuable. Meet with your volunteer team to review what measures you need to take in the event of severe winter weather. If there is a foot of snow, how will the animal get walked, fed, and taken care of? Who is responsible for making the trip in the snow to check on them? Does it make sense to have stand-by foster parents that can care for them during a storm? Planning this in advance alleviates a great deal of stress later.
- Purchase a generator. A generator is extremely valuable. It keeps the building heated and the animals warm during unexpected power outages. Prepare before a winter storm arrives by purchasing one now.
- Prepare for storms. Winter weather is normally predicted days in advance. Make plans when snow is predicted; especially if it can delay daily commutes. Make sure the animals have plenty of food and water along with a comfy place to keep warm.
- Pay attention to the animals. Check animals’ paws for signs of frostbite. Monitor them after outside time for signs of hypothermia- whining, shivering, or weakness. Consistent monitoring is the key to keeping animals healthy during the cold-weather season.
Educate your volunteers to give them a better understanding of winter expectations and the animals care needs. Making your shelter a safe place during the cold months improves the well-being of the animals in your care.
January 13, 2017
Volunteers are the backbone of an organization and are responsible for carrying out daily activities that maintain its mission and vision. A number of organizations struggle to recruit and retain quality volunteers and suffer from the constant turnover. In addition to these struggles, equine rescues and sanctuaries face unique requirements and considerations when searching for the right volunteers.
Equine Rescue and Sanctuaries
As an equine rescue or sanctuary, you are focused on providing a safe haven for horses, ponies, and donkeys in need. These animals have unique care needs and require volunteers that have a background in equine care or knowledge to properly take care of those needs. The number of volunteers with this type of knowledge is scarce. Don’t give up hope, there are some tips you can use to recruit better long-term volunteers for your equine rescue or sanctuary.
Putting an ad in the local newspaper or posting to your Facebook page your need won’t attract the right type of volunteers. More than likely, you’ll end up with individuals that think working with horses’ sounds like fun. Use these tips to recruit better quality volunteers that plan to stick around.
- Define the responsibilities. You cannot market your organization as a place for volunteering if you don’t know what responsibilities or roles need to be filled. Take the time to analyze your existing volunteer base and schedule to identify holes that need to be filled. Make a list of all the necessary activities you need help with and keep it hand for when volunteers start to apply.
- Be specific. Review specific details of the volunteer responsibilities with every applicant. Some applicants will only want to groom the animals, but there are usually other responsibilities on the list as well. The more they know up front about what they are required to commit to on a daily or weekly basis helps them make a well-informed decision. It is better for you if they choose to move on to another organization before they begin orientation.
- Use volunteer matching websites. There are a number of volunteer matching websites you can register your equine rescue or sanctuary on. Websites like Volunteer Match, Idealist, and Points of Light match organizations in need with willing volunteers in the area. These websites offer numerous free resources to guide you in your recruiting efforts.
- Be honest. Don’t make the available volunteering opportunities sound glamorous if they are not. Promising a potential volunteer daily time with the horses without telling them the time is spent cleaning the stalls, is misleading. Be honest with them and focus on the rewarding benefits they will experience by spending time at your equine rescue or sanctuary.
- Contact local veterinarians. Reach out to your local equine veterinarian to request their help in finding quality volunteers. They have personal connections with equine owners in the area and are able to actively listen for potential volunteers.
- Contact other equine organizations. Look for equine organizations in your community or surrounding areas. Ask these organizations if you can visit or hold a volunteer recruitment event at their location. This is a great way to meet equine knowledgeable individuals that can add value to your existing services.
Recruit better quality volunteers to help your equine rescue or sanctuary with these tips. Require every new volunteer to attend an in-depth volunteer orientation and training with other quality volunteers. Training and orientation help improve volunteer retention and provide better care to the equines in need.
December 9, 2016
Animal shelters and rescues cannot operate efficiently without volunteers and employees. Their dedication and time drive donations, adoptions, and increase the organization’s overall reach to the community. Often times, volunteers and employees get involved in making the animal welfare organization successful; they forget to take time for themselves. Directors, managers, and leaders need to know how to identify and understand the overall impact of stress or burnout.
Volunteer and employee stress negatively impacts their well-being and your animal shelter or rescue in a number of ways.
- Volunteers with no passion. The best animal shelters and rescues have passionate volunteers and employees who believe in the mission and vision of the organization. Highly stressed volunteers and employees lose their spark and passion which leaves them with little desire to be present.
- Lack of engagement. Stressed individuals stop offering to help or participating in team brainstorming sessions. Their mind is too full to be actively engaged in helping others or your organization.
- Animals feel it. Animals can feel stress. Over time, that stress impacts their personality and behavior patterns. Some animals stop eating or act aggressively to other animals and human beings as a result.
- Supporters see it. Potential adopting families visit your shelter or rescue full of excitement to find their new family member. Their excitement can quickly dwindle if they interact with a stressed volunteer or employee that makes them feel uncomfortable.
Avoid these negative impacts by knowing what warning signs to look for and actively helping your volunteers and employees.
- They withdraw or stop communicating.
- Positive attitudes turn negative.
- Low productivity.
- Increased absence due illness or headaches.
- Increased turnover.
- Continuous training. Offer consistent training and education to help them understand new techniques and responsibilities. Your effort to keep them knowledgeable shows you are invested in their overall success.
- Start a conversation. If an individual appears to be acting different, talk to them. Ask them if something is bothering them or if they are unhappy with their responsibilities. Sometimes volunteers or employees are stressed due to things outside of your control – but sometimes it has to do with their work. Listen and create a plan that helps reduce their stress and takes them back to the positive personality they were before.
- Show appreciation. Show gratitude for their efforts on a consistent basis. Volunteers and employees feel stress when they don’t think they are doing a great job or their efforts aren’t appreciated.
- Change their workload. If they are feeling overwhelmed by their workload, offer to change it either temporarily or permanently. Life changes every day and some volunteers may not be able to commit to the same number of hours as they once were.
- Offer a leave of absence. If the volunteer or employee’s stress stems from an outside source, they might need some time off to handle and manage the situation. Be understanding and give them the time they need. They are more likely to come back fully charged when they know you care.
Pay attention to your volunteer and employee actions and take action when they change. Volunteers and employees are vital to your long-term success. Show them you care about their well-being and help them manage their stress. Your animal shelter or rescue will experience positive results when you do.
November 25, 2016
Working with animals on a daily basis requires special individuals with big hearts and a strong will. Animal shelters and rescues rely on these individuals to run smoothly and make decisions in the best interest of the animals in need. Animal rescue organizations vary in type and size. Some have a physical location and others are 100% foster-based. Some participate actively in adoption events while others rely on social media to promote adoptions. No matter the operational differences – they all require specialized liability insurance.
Animal rescues that are foster-based rely on volunteer foster parents to house and care for their animals. One of the most common questions we hear is,
“Does my animal rescue really need liability insurance if we don’t have a physical location?”
The answer is simple: “Absolutely!”
Many assume general liability insurance only protects organizations from slip and fall accidents at their location. While this is true – there are other protections included in liability insurance policies for nonprofit animal rescues. Here are 5 main reasons your foster-based animal rescue needs liability insurance:
- Animal Bites.
Liability insurance protects against damage or injury to individuals not associated with your rescue (volunteers or employees). One of the biggest risks you face is a member of the public getting bit by a dog, cat, or horse in your care. These individuals may file a lawsuit claiming your organization was negligent which led to the bite. Lawsuits involving minors can be extremely costly to an organization. Liability insurance pays to defend you and settlement costs when necessary.
- Adoption Events.
Many foster-based rescues rely on adoption events to introduce animals to the public and increase chances of adoption. If you attend adoption events, your organization faces many risks because you can’t control everything all the time. Animals can jump and knock individuals over, scratch, and attendees might fall and injure themselves at your booth/table. Liability Insurance pays to defend your organization and any settlement costs resulting from the lawsuit. The best liability insurance policies extend to include coverage at these events while others may charge an additional fee for each event you attend.
- Foster Home Visits.
Foster parents open their hearts and homes to animals in need of care. The actions of the animals are not covered under their personal homeowner’s insurance policy. To protect your organization from incidents occurring in a foster home, you need to purchase liability insurance. Liability insurance protects you in the event a potential adopter visits the home, injures themselves and files a lawsuit for damages.
- Medical Expense.
Each of the incidents above shares a common factor- the chance for an individual not related to your organization to become injured. Whether they choose to file a lawsuit or not – there are still medical bills that need to be paid. Liability insurance pays medical expense in these instances.
- Adoptions Gone Wrong.
You go to great efforts to place animals with amazing forever homes. Aggression testing, socialization, and adoption applications are necessary parts of this process. Even with these steps, adoptions sometimes go wrong. A dog may bite or show aggression in their new home causing a lawsuit to be filed against your animal rescue. The right liability insurance covers instances like these and pays to defend you and any settlement costs incurred.
These coverages are unique to animal rescues and shelters and require an insurance policy tailored to your specific needs. Contact your insurance agent today to confirm these necessary coverages are present on your policy. If you have additional questions or need more information, contact the team at Animal Welfare Organization Insurance program at 800-673-2558.