As social media use continues to rise, organizations, including animal welfare organizations, are relying on it to deliver their message, increase donations, and spread awareness. While the platforms are beneficial to your animal shelter, they also open the door to potential risks. If you or a volunteer posts the wrong thing, what was innocent can quickly damage your reputation.

Many animal welfare organizations choose to institute a social media policy and guidelines that volunteers agree to in order to volunteer for the organization. Before creating your own social media policy, it is best to outline what is and what is not acceptable behavior for volunteers. To help you get started, we’ve compiled a list of popular points to consider below.

The first policy you need to create should address volunteers posting on your organization’s behalf. Questions to answer include:

  • Who will curate content?
  • Who will publish it?
  • What channels do volunteers need to go through for approval?
  • Who will monitor and respond to comments and conversations on the business page?

It is a good idea to not add every volunteer as an editor or administrator on your account. Defining these roles up front limits any confusion. Once this is defined, you can create a strategy that:

  • Supports your mission and vision
  • Creates guidelines for what is acceptable or not acceptable
  • Illustrates your values as an organization

There is some debate on the legality of limiting or controlling volunteers’ personal activities on social media. It is especially important to outline what is acceptable and what is not because they often list organizations they volunteer at on their profile or promote your organization. If a volunteer posts something inappropriate, others may think your animal welfare organization condones their actions and choose to no longer support your mission. Here are several items to address in this section:

  • Define your core principles.
  • If they have doubts, skip posting.
  • If something is controversial, include a disclaimer stating their opinions are solely their own.
  • Never post pictures of someone harming animals.
  • Never post pictures that negate the quality of care your organization provides to animals.
  • Don’t post anything illegal.
  • Never share sensitive information about donors or adopting families.

Creating a social media policy helps to guide volunteers to make better decisions when they share information publicly. When implemented properly and volunteers are held accountable for their actions, the reputation of your animal welfare organization remains positive.

The ASPCA estimates that nearly 6.5 million companion animals enter animal shelters and rescues each year, but only 3.2 million find their forever home.  The rest of the animals either remain in the care of animal welfare organizations or end up being euthanized. The ongoing goal of every animal shelter and rescue is to find a way to increase animal adoptions. The animals in your care deserve to find a home where they will be loved and cared for long-term.

If your shelter or rescue is struggling to increase adoptions, we’ve put together the list below to inspire new ideas, strategies, and techniques.

  1. Focus more on the experience

Too often, individuals looking for pets skip the shelter experience because the idea of seeing so many unwanted animals is heartbreaking. While it is heartbreaking, entering your shelter doesn’t have to leave visitors feeling like that. Make it an energetic and happy environment by adding color, bright lighting, and minimizing clutter.

  1. Paint a pleasant picture

What does your online presence say about your animal shelter or rescue? Are there pictures of animals posted online? Do the animals look like they are living in a happy and well-kept environment? Or, do they paint a different picture? Your website should be inviting and engaging for users and focus on getting them to call or visit your location.

  1. Use social media

If you haven’t created a social media page yet, you are behind in the times. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat are a gift to animal welfare organizations. The best part is they are free! You can post pictures and videos of available animals, and, with the right approach, thousands of potential adopting families can see them and fall in love.

  1. Dress for success

Just like you would dress for success if you were meeting with a significant donor, your animals also need to dress for success. Make sure they are well groomed at all times so it is more difficult for adopters to say no.

  1. Spend time in your community

Don’t hide the animals ready for adoption from the community. Take them out for walks in local parks and to pet-friendly events. By giving community members a chance to meet and see the animals, you spark conversations and build relationships with potential adopters.

  1. Limit the number available for adoption

Sometimes too many choices are overwhelming for those looking to adopt. Depending on the number of animals you take in daily, it may be beneficial to limit the number available for adoption. By limiting the choices, you make the decision easier for adopting families that may have left because the decision was too hard.

  1. Partner with the community

Partnering with the community on awareness projects like this one in Concord, North Carolina, may be what you need to fully educate your local community. Students in Concord created a movement with the help of their teacher to increase adoptions. When children get behind a movement, adults listen.

Through your animal shelter’s or rescue’s services, there are numerous opportunities for volunteers to donate their time and help animals in need. Whether it is managing paperwork, taking dogs for a walk, or making sure the kittens and cats are well cared for, there is also a chance for volunteer injury. When injuries occur, you risk losing valuable volunteers, being responsible for medical expenses, or coming face to face with a lawsuit.

All animal shelters and rescues need volunteers, but, unfortunately, not all of them have policies, procedures, or the right insurance in place to protect their mission. You can change that today by taking the following steps to minimize accidents and protect your volunteers.

Steps to minimize volunteer accidents:

  1. Identify areas of concern.

Review past volunteer injuries to identify problem areas that need to be addressed. Once you have those listed, observe any areas or activities that cause injury. Look for ways to prevent injuries and create a list of ideas to implement.

Alternatively, you can also observe all activities happening in your animal shelter or rescue to look for other potential areas of concern. Create a list of ideas that can help streamline and eliminate volunteer injuries.

  1. Document expectations.

Take your list of ideas and create documented procedures and policies that clearly explain your expectations. These can include the proper ways to care for animals, lift heavy objects, transport animals, and how often volunteers should take breaks throughout the day.

  1. Train volunteers.

Schedule mandatory training sessions for volunteers to attend. Explain the areas of concern, steps you took to review the processes, and new policies and procedures. Give volunteers time to review the procedures and ask questions so they gain a clear idea of your new expectations. Be open to hearing additional ideas or concerns since they are on the front line in these scenarios every day.

  1. Eliminate hazards.

After you have your volunteer team on board, work together to remove hazards like excessive boxes or wiring to prevent falls.

What happens if a volunteer is injured?

Even with a documented approach, volunteer injuries can still happen. bites, scratches, falls, and lifting injuries are extremely common in animal shelters and rescues. The best way to protect your shelter or rescue is to make sure you have volunteer accident insurance.

Volunteer accident insurance is similar to worker’s compensation insurance for employees. It pays costs associated with an injury that occurs while a volunteer is working for your animal shelter or rescue. The main difference is it pays costs that their health insurance doesn’t cover like deductible expenses.

Where can you find volunteer accident insurance?

Insurance agents that specialize in nonprofit or animal shelter insurance can provide you with a quote for volunteer accidents.

Investing in volunteer accident insurance shows volunteers that you care about their safety and well-being. By showing you care, you are more likely to retain valuable volunteers and recruit new volunteers after an injury occurs.

Cyber crime is on the rise with more than 1,000 companies reporting breaches in 2016, a 40% increase from the prior year. As hackers successfully target big-named companies, they are also starting to look at small businesses and nonprofits. Why? These smaller organizations typically have little security in place, making it easy for them to “step in,” take what they want, and move on without being noticed. Nonprofit animal shelters and rescues are not safe from these criminals.

As a nonprofit animal shelter or rescue, you need funds and resources to carry out your mission. The best source of revenue you have is receiving donations from supporters. Sometimes that money is hand-delivered, but in most cases, donors provide you with credit card information to make a donation. Electronic financial transactions make you an ideal target for cyber criminals. There are steps you can take to protect your donor’s information and your animal shelter or rescue.

Steps to Keep Donor Information Safe

  1. Use encryption.

Securing donor information starts with how you receive it. Whether you use third-party software on your website or take the information by phone, you need to secure it. Encryption scrambles the information while it’s being processed so an outsider cannot intercept it. Check with your software to make sure encryption is enabled.

  1. Create a password policy.

Many nonprofit animal shelters and rescues store their donor’s information on site. A hacker can break into your server, e-mail, or computers with little effort. You can create a password policy that establishes a set number and type of characters needed. Fourteen characters are recommended by the experts.

  1. Install data security features.

Firewalls and antivirus software help prevent hackers from accessing sensitive donor information. In addition to installing these features, you also need to update them regularly. Put a volunteer with a strong IT background in charge of this task so it doesn’t get overlooked.

  1. Backup data.

Backup your data daily if possible. While this doesn’t prevent hackers from accessing it, it does help you if there is a breach. Some hackers hold information for ransom or block you from being able to access your data. By having a current backup file, you have a complete list of the individuals who need to be notified their information was compromised.

  1. Educate volunteers.

Today’s hackers stop at nothing to gain access to data – often disguising themselves as popup ads or vendors you use. Educating volunteers on phishing schemes, malware, and other unsafe internet activities keeps your information safe from unwanted downloads.

Cyber Liability Insurance

Each of the steps will help keep your donor information safe but doesn’t guarantee a cyber breach won’t occur. Cyber liability insurance protects nonprofit animal shelters and rescues in the event of a cyber attack or data breach by paying costs associated with the crime. Costs include the following:

  • Notifying compromised individuals.
  • Investigation.
  • Legal counsel.
  • Business interruption.
  • Public relations.
  • Defense.
  • Settlement.
  • Bank costs for reissuing credit cards.
  • Regulatory fines and penalties.

Cyber crime isn’t going to disappear overnight, so it’s critical your animal shelter or rescue takes steps to minimize potential breaches and keep your financial resources safe in the event of a breach.

Like many nonprofits, your animal shelter or rescue may rely on volunteers using their personal vehicles to run errands or transport animals in your care. In the insurance community, these vehicles are referred to as non-owned autos. Even though non-owned autos are not the property of your animal shelter or rescue, you can still be held accountable when a volunteer is involved in a car accident. In some cases, animal shelters and rescues are sued for the damage caused in an accident.

The good news is you can protect your nonprofit animal shelter or rescue by purchasing non-owned auto liability insurance.

What is non-owned auto liability insurance?

Non-owned auto liability insurance provides coverage in excess of the volunteer’s personal auto insurance. It pays for liability claims that your animal shelter or rescue is found liable for and the volunteer’s personal auto insurance doesn’t cover.

Since the coverage is in excess of the personal auto insurance carried by the volunteer, most insurance companies require volunteers to carry a minimum of $100,000/300,000 in limits.

What does it exclude?

There is no coverage on the non-owned auto liability insurance for damage to the vehicle, injury to the volunteer, or lawsuits filed against the individual driver (volunteer).

What types of scenarios does it cover?

Any time a volunteer drives their personal vehicle on behalf of your animal shelter or rescue opens the door to potential risks and claims. Do your volunteers use their vehicles in any of the following scenarios?

  • Running errands: Post office, bank, pick up supplies at Wal-Mart or other stores?
  • Transport animals to events, foster homes, or the vet?
  • Take supplies to an adoption event?

Accidents are unpredictable and can occur during any drive.

What you need to know about minimizing your risks

Investing in non-owned auto liability insurance is the best way to protect your animal shelter or rescue in the event of an accident or lawsuit. There are steps you can take now to help minimize potential risks.

  • Create a cell-phone use policy.

Twenty-six percent (more than 1.1 million) of crashes reported are due to cell phone use, according to the National Safety Council. Having a cell-phone use policy sets the expectation that it is not acceptable for volunteers to use their cellphones  while driving on behalf of your animal shelter or rescue.

  • Request proof of insurance.

Ask volunteers for proof of auto insurance before they drive on behalf of your animal shelter or rescue. If they don’t have the minimums mandated by the insurance company, don’t let them drive on your behalf. Why? If there is an accident, your non-owned auto liability insurance policy won’t pay any costs associated with it.

  • Ask volunteers to sign waivers.

Waivers are one way to help prevent your volunteer from filing a lawsuit after a car accident. While they aren’t always iron-clad, they do minimize the number of claims filed and can help protect you if the volunteer was not abiding by the law.

  • Define the right way to transport animals.

Do you have a clear procedure for transporting animals? Or do your volunteers decide how to transport animals on their own? Animals can be a significant distraction to a driver if they are not properly placed in a moving vehicle. Make sure your volunteers understand the process and review their first few times to be sure they get it right.

  • Request motor vehicle records (MVRs).

Motor vehicle records show you an individual’s driving history so you can see if they are a high-risk driver. If a volunteer has a long list of vehicle incidents including crashes and speeding tickets, it might be better to find a lower-risk volunteer.

Most animal shelters and rescues think they don’t need to worry about insurance for volunteer vehicles. But the truth is, buying non-owned auto liability insurance and implementing these steps are the best ways to protect your animal shelter or rescue.

Animal sanctuaries and animal shelters are often considered the same in the eyes of the general public. While they both have a common theme in their mission – to look out for the well-being of animals in their care – they also have some considerable differences. As an animal sanctuary, animals rely on you to provide a permanent home and care. Since your services are unique, you face unique risks each day. It is important to create a customized risk management or best practices plan to minimize those risks and continue to care for your animals.

Risk Management for Animal Sanctuaries

Risk management or best practices are guidelines animal sanctuaries can create to minimize potential dangers during their daily activities. These risks include, but are not limited to, animal bites, scratches, animal sickness, volunteer injury, volunteer death, slip and falls, and animal escapes.

  1. Volunteers

Volunteers are arguably your greatest asset – donating their time and hearts to maintain your sanctuary’s mission. They are also one of the biggest risks. Establishing a volunteer vetting process and handbook is critical to your continued success.

As valuable as volunteers are, it is important to recruit the right individuals for the job. Interview potential volunteers, conduct background checks, and request references before accepting a new applicant. Look for red flags (volunteering at numerous organizations in a short time) and address them upfront.

A handbook sets expectations for volunteers right away. Include attendance policies, job descriptions, safety information, and animal handling procedures. Reinforce the handbook with structured training and education that gives volunteers the ability to show they understand these policies and procedures.

  1. Animal Injury/Sickness

Every animal that comes into your care has a back story. It’s important to have an animal intake policy that digs into their needs, personality traits, and health. Use this information to understand if you can properly care for their needs or not. If you can, identify what special needs each animal has. If they are aggressive towards other animals, create a space where they can roam on their own and plan to socialize them over time.

  1. Animal Bites/Scratches

Animal bites and scratches can occur between animals or between animals and volunteers. The key to minimizing these incidents is educating volunteers on how to handle animals properly. Volunteers should have a clear understanding of the animal’s personality before they work with them. And they should know what steps to take when an animal bites or scratches them.

  1. Animal Escapes

From time to time, we see scenarios on the news where animals escape from sanctuaries. Create a procedure that mandates volunteers work in at least pairs when entering the animal area and describes how to latch gates and contain animals properly.

If an animal escape does occur, it is also valuable to have a set procedure on how you will notify the public, recapture the animal, and keep the community and volunteers safe.

  1. Visitors

Some animal sanctuaries allow visitors on their property. Make sure you have signs labeling what areas are okay and not okay for them to navigate. Make sure all visitors are escorted by a trained volunteer at all times. And keep visitors away from potentially dangerous animals.

  1. Emergency Preparedness

Depending on where you live, there is a chance for natural disasters to occur. During Hurricane Katrina, many animal-related organizations learned first-hand the importance of an emergency-preparedness plan. Identify now how you will transport animals, where you will transport them, and what volunteers are capable of traveling with the animals to a safe location.

Creating a risk management is important for your continued success as a nonprofit animal sanctuary and helps minimize injuries, claims, and stress.

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.

 

Social media can literally save lives at your animal shelter, especially if your shelter is a kill shelter. Using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest can help:

  • Reunite lost pets with owners
  • Save pets scheduled to be euthanized
  • Bring in much needed supplies when they are most needed
  • Raise money for needed health care for specific animals
  • Help raise money and get volunteers during natural disasters
  • Bring in funds to help save more animals

The best thing about these social media websites is that they are free to join and free to use. Your shelter can purchase ads to help promote adoption events or spay-neuter clinics, but these are not entirely necessary to effectively use social media.
Take Good Pictures
Social media is a visual medium. Just sending out a tweet that a Beagle has been found wandering down Main Street isn’t enough to grab Twitter users’ attentions and heartstrings. You need to take one or more photos of this lost beagle and post them on Instagram and Facebook, which support pictures. You can then link Twitter to these posts.
You do not need fancy camera equipment to take good pictures. It’s best to take a photo of a pet with a background that contrasts to the pet’s color. For example, black pets stand out best against pale colors. Digital cameras and smartphones take excellent pictures. You may need to get an animal’s attention with a squeaky toy or food in order to get the pet to stay still for a good shot.

Update Regularly
Social media is not a one-time only thing. You need to update your sites regularly in order to reach the maximum amount of eyeballs reading your important messages. You do not need to post every day, but once a week is the minimum you should do. Make sure you spend time not only posting requests or pictures of animals for adoption, but also answer questions sent to you from others.
If emergencies happen and no one at your shelter can post on any social media sites for at least a week, please note that on your social media sites. Apologize when you can for not doing the weekly or regular update as soon as you can. By following these netiquette tips, you will keep your followers from disliking you or stop following your shelter.

Nonprofit animal shelters need donations to survive. Without funds you have no means to educate or help animals in your community. Every year, new animal rescue organizations pop-up competing for donors’ time and recognition. These new organizations make it difficult to retain your existing donors. Since your donors don’t have bottomless pockets, it may be time to put your traditional fundraising efforts aside and try something new.

 

Here are four new ways to raise more money in 2017.

 

  1. Go Mobile.

More than 90% of US adults own a Smartphone today. The majority of people take them everywhere they go. It’s no surprise that mobile is a trend to follow in 2017. Text to give is a way for donors to send a text to a unique number to start the donation process. The initial text triggers a return message that links to a secure form to finalize payment information. Since it’s something they can do anywhere, more donors will use this path.

 

  1. Invest in remarketing ads.

Remarketing is a paid advertising technique you can use to follow website visitors around the Internet. Your ad pops up on websites they visit. It acts as a subtle reminder that they were interested in you and drives them back to your website.

 

  1. E-mail flash fundraising drives.

One third of all online donations come from e-mail marketing. One day flash email fundraising drives are a great way to generate revenue for special needs like an injured animal intake.

 

Send out a series of e-mails to your contact list. Highlight the animal’s history, includes pictures, and explains what they need and how much it will cost. Divide your overall goal by half of your donor list and suggest this as a donation amount to increase the chances of meeting your goal.

 

  1. Sign up for Amazon Smile.

A simple way to raise more money is register online with Amazon Smile. Amazon donates a portion of sales linked to your nonprofit organization. It’s an easy way to generate passive income to support your mission.

 

Try a few of these options to generate more revenue for your nonprofit animal shelter this year.

Animal shelters and rescues are important to the communities they serve. Animals come to you for care and shelter until they find a forever home. Some come from other shelters, caregivers abandon some, and others show up with little or no history of their life to date. Every animal is a priority in your daily activities. But, sometimes caring for animals is risky. In those moments, what type of insurance you purchased is critical to you shelter or rescue’s well-being.

Insurance

Few people that enjoy shopping for insurance. It can be a long and tedious task if you don’t have an agent that fully understands what you do every day. Finding the right insurance is the first step to being able to properly care for animals in need. Most animal shelters or rescues know they need general liability insurance and directors and officers insurance. There are other insurance coverages that help protect you too. Animal care custody and control liability is often overlooked and excluded from most policies.

What is animal care custody and control liability insurance?

Animal care custody and control liability protects your animal shelter or rescue if somebody sues you for an injury or death to an animal. It is a critical coverage that you can add on through an endorsement to your liability insurance policy.

Why do I need animal care custody and control?

Some animal shelters and rescues think they don’t need this coverage because they don’t knowingly take in someone’s animal. But, animal shelters and rescues have been the victim of lawsuits and needed animal care custody and control to protect them. Here are two common scenarios where this coverage can help.

Owners change their minds.

We’ve all seen it happen. Previous owners abandon their four-legged family member and make the right decision by leaving him/her in your care. A few days pass by before they return wanting to reclaim their pet. What happens if the cat, dog, or horse get sick or run away in that short period of time. Who is responsible? If the family sues your organization, are you protected?

It depends on who the court declares as the rightful owner. In some cases, signed releases are not recognized as valid in a court of law.

Lost pets.

What happens when somebody finds a roaming animal and brings it to you? It’s not theirs and they are looking for a place they know will care for the animal until the owners can be contacted. Plenty of shelters and rescues accept these animals into their care and hope to reunite them with their family.

 

What happens if they run away or passes away in your care before the family comes to pick the animal up and return home? The family may decide to file a lawsuit and say the death or disappearance of their animal is your fault.

In both cases, general liability insurance won’t cover defense or settlement expenses unless you purchased animal care custody and control coverage. Contact your insurance agent today to add this valuable coverage to your policy. If they don’t offer it, contact an insurance agent that specializes in animal shelter and rescue insurance.