How can you be a great animal shelter volunteer?  Follow these five steps and you will become one.

1) You must be dedicated to the health and welfare of the animals you take care of in the shelter by giving them your love and kindness, showing them you care by taking care of them when they are sick and feeling left out, being their friend when they have lost their friend.

2) Make sure that they are fed and watered as per the instruction for the animal.  If an animal requires a special diet make sure that they only get the food that is recommended for that animal.

3) Take the time to play and walk with the animals.  Some animals require more vigorous work outs to keep them happy, others only require some petting and attention.  Take the time to know the animals you work with.

4) Once you know the animals read what other volunteers have said about the animals in their write-ups.  Keep track of what you notice about the animals and add your own information about each and every one.  Some of the items you can keep track of are:

  • How well they respond to voice command while playing
  • How well they walk around people and other animals
  • How well they play with other animals
  • Weather or not they adapt to having animals of other species around them (cat and dogs)
  • Weather or not they are approachable by other people

5) You must always be there at your appointed time because the animals depend upon you to be there.  An exceptional volunteer will also make time in their holidays to make sure that the animals are well taken care of.

So if you are thinking of becoming an animal shelter volunteer then the five items above will give you a clear idea of what is needed.  This is really what any animal needs weather or not it is at a shelter, in the home, or a stray.  They all need love and attention.

 

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.

Volunteer Tips

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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

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.

Impacts
Volunteer and employee stress negatively impacts their well-being and your animal shelter or rescue in a number of ways.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Identify
Avoid these negative impacts by knowing what warning signs to look for and actively helping your volunteers and employees.

  1. They withdraw or stop communicating.
  2. Positive attitudes turn negative.
  3. Low productivity.
  4. Increased absence due illness or headaches.
  5. Increased turnover.

Help them

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Volunteers are a valuable asset for animal shelters and rescues. Without them, shelters and rescues would be unable to achieve their mission. In 2013, the IRS released a report stating that 85% of nonprofit organizations are run by volunteers and have no paid staff.  Volunteers are responsible for organizing adoption events, raising funds, and caring for the animals in their animal shelters or rescues. Last week we reviewed the importance of creating and maintaining a volunteer program. One of the prime aspects of that program is to implement a volunteer handbook.

Volunteers differ from paid employees. However, managing volunteers requires a similar skill set.  Employee handbooks are common in both small and large businesses.  Nonprofit animal shelters and rescues need to implement a similar handbook for volunteers.  Here are the two main benefits of a volunteer handbook:

  1. Sets Expectations. A handbook is a tool that defines what is expected of the volunteer during their time at the shelter. It also identifies what the volunteer should expect from the organization in return for their donated time.
  2. Protects the Animal Shelter or Rescue. Creating and identifying clear policies and procedures for your volunteer team minimizes liability. The handbook provides guidelines and rules for how negative circumstances will be handled and offers a no-surprise resolution for both parties.

A hurdle many directors face is how to create a concise and informative volunteer handbook. Here are 7 essential sections to include in your handbook:

  1. What is the story behind your animal shelter or rescue? Tell the story of how you formed. Include your goals, mission, and vision for volunteers to gain a better perspective of who they are serving.
  2. Set expectations for acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Behavior expectations include how volunteers treat one another, the animals, and the public.  Define work expectations in this section as well. Work expectations include the number of volunteer hours, responsibilities, and the appropriate way to take a day of absence.
  3. Policies and procedures for responsibilities are a tremendous help in minimizing potential dangers or disasters. Explain these procedures in detail in the handbook. This assures you each volunteer has the information prior to volunteering.  This is the section you address volunteer training requirements including times and methods of training.
  4. One of the biggest responsibilities of a shelter or rescue is to take in dogs, cats, and other animals that need care. This section reviews the policies for incoming animals and addresses the intake process including standards your shelter or rescue follows.
  5. Rescues or shelters that foster animals need a section on foster home policies and procedures. Often times, foster parents are overlooked as volunteers because they are not at the physical shelter.  They are a vital part of your volunteer team.  The risks and requirements of foster homes differ from other policies and procedures.
  6. Animal adoption is a major part of your operation.  This section identifies the standards and timeframes your animal shelter or rescue follows prior to placing an animal with their forever home.  This section also addresses the requirements of adopting families.  It is important that all volunteers are aware of the expectations so they can help properly place animals.
  7. It is common for volunteer handbooks to include a receipt that the volunteers sign. The signature verifies they read the handbook and are aware of the expectations outlined.

Create a strong volunteer program starts by implementing a volunteer handbook.  Work with your legal counsel to create a handbook that best suits your animal shelter or rescue needs.

 

Animal shelters and rescues have the weight of the helpless animal population on their shoulders.  They find ways and methods to accomplish their significant missions and visions with minimal funding and resources. Animal shelters and rescues rely heavily on the support of donors who provide needed items as well as financial donations.  The last thing they need to add to their daily worries is the risk of a cyber attack that compromises their donor’s confidential information. According to a recent study released by The Global State of Information Security, security incidents increased by 38% and theft of “hard” information rose by 56% in 2015 when compared to 2014.  With the threat of cyber attacks on the rise, it is a real concern for many nonprofit animal shelters and rescues. Implement a cyber security program to protect your donors and your animal shelter or rescue.

Here are eight items to include in your program:

  1. Backup your data. Create a backup of information stored on your computers and server daily. Hackers have the power to compromise your electronic information, making it inaccessible. A backup provides you with an up to date list of your donors and their contact information, simplifying the notification process (a little at least).
  2. Secure physical data. Store physical donor files and confidential information in a locked, fireproof filing cabinet. Allow access to this information on an as-needed basis.  The fewer hands that physically touch the files, the smaller chance they can be misplaced.
  3. Limit the information you collect. A great rule of thumb to implement immediately is “if you don’t need it, don’t ask for it.” The less data you collect from donors, the less information a hacker gains during a breach.
  4. Purge unneeded information. If you have years of donor information stored in a back room at your animal shelter or on discs, it may be time to purge it. Keep only information you need. Often times, older files are stored and forgotten about. Holding onto donor files and information increases your chance of suffering from a breach.
  5. Update computers and software. Update computers and software programs on a consistent basis. Companies release updates and patches to help protect their customers from data breaches.  If updates are left unattended, your risk for a breach increases.  If you are not technology savvy, hire a local IT company to help keep your system up to date and secure.
  6. Use encryption. Use a data or donor collection service that encrypts the information your donors enter. Encryption encodes the information making it only accessible by those authorized to view it.
  7. Train your volunteer staff. Volunteers are a significant help to animal shelters and rescues. They can also be a great risk.  If your volunteer team is not internet or computer intelligent, they may unknowingly download malware or spyware.  Educate them on what is an acceptable use of the organization’s computers and emails.  Make it mandatory that downloads are not acceptable and should be approved by the director.  Phishing schemes are a common hacker specialty. Train your team on these to protect your shelter or rescue.
  8. Purchase cyber liability insurance. Cyber liability insurance is beneficial if it is purchased prior to a cyber breach or theft.  Cyber liability insurance protects your nonprofit animal shelter at the time of the breach by paying defense and settlement costs. The best cyber insurance policies take care of the state required notifications, which can be a long and treacherous task.

Cyber breaches are a serious threat to nonprofits like animal shelters and rescues.  The unfortunate news is hackers are becoming more creative in their schemes, making it difficult for companies to keep information secure.  Implement a cyber security program outlined here to protect your nonprofit animal shelter or rescue.

 

Volunteers are one of the cornerstones to running your animal shelter or rescue successfully.  You rely on them to help with day to day needs, care for the animals, organize events, spread the word about your mission, and be passionate about the great work they are doing. Did you know they are one of your biggest risks?  Volunteers are human and unpredictable in their actions.  To successfully manage their actions and minimize risk, implement an official volunteer program.  Here are the categories your program requires:

Volunteer Handbook

Volunteer handbooks contain valuable information about the animal shelter or rescue.  They provide new volunteers with:

  1. Background information
  2. Mission and Vision
  3. Application process
  4. Training expectations
  5. Behavior expectations
  6. Volunteer waiver
  7. Organization policies

Require new volunteers to review the handbook prior to completing a volunteer application.  This information sets the precedence for expectations during their time volunteering for your organization.

Volunteer Waivers

Volunteer waivers are typically included as part of the handbook.  They are vital for animal shelters and rescues to have in place.  A strong waiver includes:

  1. Release of liability for injury and bites
  2. Acceptance that injuries are not covered under a worker’s compensation policy
  3. Acceptance of policies and procedures
  4. Emergency contact information
  5. Release to contact to provide medical help or attention if needed

Volunteer waivers are a safety precaution. Volunteers may still choose to file a lawsuit if they believe the animal shelter or rescue is responsible for an injury.  Waivers are part of your defense in court but should not be your only defense.  Work with your legal counsel to draft a waiver that best suits your animal shelter or rescue needs.

The Right Insurance

The best way to be proactive in protecting your animal shelter or rescue from financial loss as a result of a lawsuit is to purchase insurance.  There are many types of insurance you can purchase for your organization including:

  1. General Liability Insurance
  2. Professional Liability Insurance
  3. Accident & Health Insurance
  4. Director’s & Officer’s Insurance

Liability insurance protects your financial assets by paying defense and settlement costs of a covered lawsuit.   Take the time to research animal shelter insurance options today.  Purchasing insurance after a lawsuit is filed will not protect you.

Volunteer Training

Volunteer training is vital for new and existing volunteers.  Create a strong volunteer training program by answering these questions:

  1. What do you want the training to accomplish?
  2. What do your volunteers need to know?
  3. What do your volunteers already know?
  4. How do they learn best?

These answers will help you to create a valuable training program that is beneficial to both the volunteer and the organization.  Once training is completed, have your volunteers tell you what they learned and how they can implement this in their tasks.  Training is never complete and should be offered on a routine basis to volunteers.  The knowledge and education help make them valuable to your team.

 

Searching for good quality volunteers is usually a tough task that has to be taken on to keep non profit animal shelters operating.  When interviewing and recruiting new volunteers, make sure you are identifying volunteers that match your desired culture.  There are many skills to look for in new volunteers but these five will help you identify the top volunteers who may benefit your animal shelter:

1.    Energetic. Top volunteers exude energy and you can feel it just by talking to them. They are the volunteers that are excited about new projects and tasks and can inject energy into other volunteers.
2.    Passion. Top volunteers are passionate about the cause you serve. Finding volunteers that are passionate about animal welfare, adoption, and well-being is key to recruiting volunteers that will best suit your animal shelter.
3.    Take Direction. Volunteers that excel and do the best for your mission, will be able to take direction when needed from management and experienced volunteers.
4.    Leaders. Excellent volunteers will have the ability to lead others to help your overall mission.  This may be leading other volunteers in training or members of your community to help in donating, adopting, or sheltering for your animal shelter.
5.    They Do What They Say They Will. There is no better volunteer than one that commits and sticks to that commitment. They are the volunteers that show their loyalty and commitment to the cause through their actions and do not bail with last minute excuses.

If you can recruit volunteers with these five qualities, your volunteer team will increase its abilities to educate the community and work to fulfill your animal shelter’s mission and vision. Retention of solid and top volunteers will increase at the same time because their success is reconfirmed with how well the shelter is performing and the number of animals being helped in the community.

As a nonprofit animal shelter or rescue, you often times rely on volunteers to utilize their personal vehicles for transporting animals or running errands.  What many organizations do not realize is that they can still be named in a lawsuit if that volunteer is involved in a vehicle incident while doing volunteer work for the animal shelter or rescue. Since this is the case, it is important for the shelter or rescue to have proper procedures and protocols in place for volunteers using their personal vehicles.

What is The Volunteer’s Driving Record?

To understand and paint a picture of the type of driver your volunteer is, it is best get a motor vehicle record (mvr) on the driver. MVR’s will show you if they have had any past wrecks or speeding tickets and will help you identify high risk drivers.

Policy & Procedures

Proper policies and procedures will identify the do’s and don’ts of driving for the animal shelter or rescue as well include a place for the volunteer to sign that they agree to these policies and procedures.

Do’s of Driving for the Animal Shelter

1.    Always wear a seatbelt.
2.    Always follow traffic laws.
3.    Obey all traffic signs and lights.

Don’ts of Driving for the Animal Shelter

1.    Never drive recklessly.
2.    Never use a cell phone while operating the vehicle.
3.    Never transport individuals not associated with the shelter at the same time.

Is There Insurance for That?

It is true that organizations can still be named in a lawsuit if the volunteer is an accident while running shelter errands. Why? If the volunteers is transporting an animal and hits another vehicle, causing injury to the other parties, they can come back and find the organization to be at fault for those injuries. The good news is that you can add non-owned and hired auto liability insurance to your policies.  This coverage provides protection in excess of the volunteer’s personal coverage and helps protect the finances and assets of the organization.

Do you want to impact the lives of pets in your community? Local animal shelters are always in need of dedicated volunteers. There are a variety of ways individuals can get involved with an animal shelter. From hands-on experience, to behind-the-scenes administrative work, there is a spot for all types of volunteers. Whether you are interested in getting involved, or looking to bring more volunteers onto your team, these are five signs you should look for in a good animal shelter volunteer:
1. Love of animals: Volunteers for animal shelters need to be excited to be working with different types of furry friends. While working in a shelter, it is important to have volunteers who are passionate about helping each animal find a new home. Hands-on volunteers will experience long hours spent cleaning, feeding and playing with these animals. Administrative volunteers will also be working in close quarters with these animals.

2. Qualified: Qualifications of a certain role depend on the volunteer position. It is important to evaluate the physical, emotional and mental skills each potential volunteer has. AWOIP has a sample skill screening to help properly place volunteers in order to best benefit the individual and the organization.

3. Patient and kind personality: Many animals that come to shelters have had a difficult past. It is important volunteers are both patient and kind when handling the animals. Working with these types of animals can be a very emotional experience and it is important volunteers are able to be understanding and compassionate.

4. Energetic: Working in an animal shelter requires an upbeat and energetic personality. Volunteers should be excited to be doing something they love: working with animals. Some hands-on tasks can be very physical and some administrative tasks can be very time-consuming, so it is important each volunteer is full of energy.

5. Committed: Shelters are looking for volunteers that are dedicated to the organization and that can commit to spending time at the shelter. Shelters rely heavily on volunteers so it is important they are reliable.
Volunteering at an animal shelter can be a very rewarding experience. If you are looking for volunteer opportunities, contact AWOIP to find opportunities in your area. If you are a shelter looking to implement a Volunteer Program, make sure to also check out these tips from AWOIP.

Finding volunteers and foster parents for kitten and puppy season can help take pressure off shelters having to handle all the litters of cuteness on their own. If you are wondering, what ways you can help find volunteers and foster parents for the season the five tips below will help you get a head start.
1. Post Flyers
Before kitten and puppy season even starts up, post flyers about the season around your local area and request help. Make sure the flyers have contact numbers so when volunteers or possible foster parents want to provide help during this season, they can reach you.
2. Place Ads in Papers
Placing Ads in newspapers requesting volunteers and foster parents for your local shelter is another way to receive the extra help you need when kitten and puppy season approaches. Ads in the newspaper should include contact information such as phone numbers and your shelters local address so possible helpers can contact you with ease.
3. Hold an Open House
One of the best ways your shelter can help find volunteers and foster parents for kitten and puppies is by holding an open house and speaking about what the season is and why extra help is necessary. Make sure you serve refreshments and show your appreciate to those who come to the open house.
4. Have a Bake Sale Fundraiser
Holding a bake sale fundraiser to help raise money for kitten and puppy season weeks before it occurs is another great way to help get the word out that volunteers and foster parents are needed. You can place little labels or notes on the baked goods that even say, “Volunteers and Foster Parents are needed for Kitten and Puppy Season Call This Number.”
5. Send Out a Newsletter
Sending out newsletters to all the people in your local community is an outstanding way to bring in volunteers and foster parents to help take care of litters of kitten and puppies during the busy season. The newsletters should explain what kitten and puppy season is and the ways people can help during it to make it easier for your shelter to handle.
End Notes
These are only a handful of ways that can help you find volunteers and foster parents for kitten and puppy season. Other ways is just to speak about it as you do task in your local community or post posters.