Foster parents are a vital part of your volunteer organization. They provide a safe haven and care for animals in need. Most animal shelters or animal rescues utilize volunteer handbooks. These handbooks identify how the volunteer program works and typically include a section dedicated to foster parent volunteers.
Foster parents have a unique set of responsibilities. Address these responsibilities in a manual created specifically for your foster parents. Make sure you include these 5 key components.

  1. Welcome Letter. Include a letter welcoming the new foster home to your animal rescue group. Include statistics illustrating how many animals you help, the number of foster homes in your network, and why they are important.
  2. Frequently Asked Questions. Address FAQ’s in the front of the manual. These address common concerns for foster parents immediately. Where do the foster animals come from? Can I foster a dog with a full-time job or with no fence? How long does each animal need care? How do I adopt my foster dog? These are just a few samples – include the questions you hear most often.
  3. Requirements. Address requirements up front. What steps do fosters need to take to “dog proof” their home? What supplies do they need to purchase? What activities are not acceptable for the animals?
  4. Expectations. What activities do you expect the foster to perform daily, weekly, and monthly? Walking/exercises, training, socializing, grooming expectations, and adoption family appointments need to be outlined in this section.
  5. Policies and Procedures. Animals are unpredictable. Address what steps fosters need to take in certain situations. Who do they contact if the animal bites them, bites somebody else, shows signs of aggression, or gets sick or injured? Outline when veterinary services need contacted and how the foster parent can help at home.

Creating a strong network of foster homes is the key to successful adoptions. Manage expectations and requirements upfront with a foster manual.

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.

Nonprofit animal shelters and rescues rely on donations to “keep their doors open” and the majority of these donations stem from fundraisers and special events.  Each season brings its own benefits for fundraising options and spring time is one of the strongest times to conduct fundraisers because the summer humidity has not quite arrived and the lull in donations after overspending on the Holidays is gone.  It can be difficult to pinpoint the best fundraising ideas for your animal shelter or rescue.  The key is to make sure you are thinking outside of the box, you are delivering value in what you are offering while at the same time you are still achieving your mission.
Here are the top 8 spring time fundraising ideas we brainstormed:
1. Organize a yard sale.  One persons junk is another person’s treasure and yard sales are a great way to offer something of value to your community.  There are two ways to organize a yard sale: If you have a parking lot, you can rent spaces to vendors to set up and sell their goods or you can ask community members to drop off unwanted items to sell.  The money raised from the sales in the latter would go directly to your shelter or rescue.  (Any unsold items can then be donated to your local Good Will or Community Aid store.)
2. Organize a Community Fair or Open House. This is perfect for those animal welfare organizations that own/rent a building or property.  Invite the community in to see what services you provide to the animals you rescue by providing tours and meet and greets with the animals available for adoption. Having food vendors and games for the children is a nice touch to promote community involvement and raise funds.
3. Organize a Car Wash.  Set up at your shelter or in a local store’s parking lot and wash cars for a donation.  You can set the donation amount or ask that customers donate what they are able.
4. Host a Flower Sale. Partner with a local plant farm or greenery to sell flowers to your community.  Many greeneries offer a discount for bulk purchases and you can sell them at market price to raise money for your animal shelter or rescue.
5. Host a 5K Walk/Run.  5k runs are a great way to raise funds and promote healthy living in your community.  Most 5k registration fees range from $25 to $50 and can be arranged on scenic routes in your town.  Contact your Local Township or borough to see what paperwork or permits are necessary.
6. Homemade Wreathes or Garden Rocks. Do you have crafty volunteers?  Making homemade crafts like wreathes and garden rocks are typically inexpensive to buy supplies for and easy to sell. In early spring, you are likely to find community members looking for outside decorations to beautify their houses and flower beds.
7. Sell Easter egg Hunts.  It may sound like an off the wall idea but too often baby chicks and bunnies are purchased as Easter gifts and then animal shelters and rescues tend to see an increase in these animals shortly after the Holiday is over.  Promote animal welfare awareness by offering your community a different option.  To sell Easter egg hunts, you will need some volunteers who are free Easter Eve or early Easter morning and can hide 20 filled eggs at cost (set or donation) at houses in your community.
8. Organize A Garden Tour.  Do you have a local community that loves to garden? Garden tours are becoming more popular and require minimal work.  You can start by contacting those in your community that have beautiful gardens and see if they would be willing to allow visitors on a certain day and time frame.  Once you have gardens set, you can start to advertise to the community and charge a registration fee.  This type of fundraiser is best if the gardens are within walking distance of one another.
Spring time fundraising gives your animal shelter or rescue an opportunity to work closely with your local community.  Think outside of the box this year and organize fundraisers that give you an opportunity to reach more members of your community and educate them on the importance of your animal shelter or rescue.

The spring season brings us green grass, blooming flowers, chirping birds and warmer weather.  In our homes, we usually get obsessed with “spring cleaning” by opening windows to release all the dust and dirt that built up, ridding out closets and drawers, and washing everything in its entirety.  This is perfect time to organize a group of volunteers to spring clean your animal shelter as well.  When planning a spring cleaning day, be sure to educate volunteers on the do’s and don’ts of cleaning as well as provide them with safe to use cleaners.
Dos and Don’ts of Spring Cleaning
1. Don’t do it all in one day.  Trying to conquer all of the cleaning in one day will lead to stress and aggravation among volunteers and with any animals in your care. Instead create a 4 week plan that identifies the goals of the cleaning project. (i.e. shred unneeded paperwork, clean kennels, wash bedding, dust vents)
2. Always finish what you start.  There is nothing worse than stopping a project in the middle of its completion.  If you do not initially complete the project, you are less likely to return to it later. Make sure you schedule more time than you think it will take and always see it through until the end.
3. Remember the little things. Often times small projects or areas are overlooked but can carry the most dirt and dust.  Be sure to remember things like vents and base boards when creating your cleaning plan.
4. Clean from top to bottom.  If your project includes washing a room in its entirety, start with the ceiling corners, then the walls, countertops, baseboards and floor.  This assures that you do not missing any areas and is the most efficient method of cleaning.
5. Don’t expose animals to harsh chemicals.  If you need to clean the areas where the animals spend their time, be sure to use animal friendly products. Look for all natural cleaners when shopping at the store. Some household products you can use in your cleaning include alcohol, baking soda, borax, and white vinegar.
6. Don’t clean windows on a sunny day. We tend to think that cleaning windows on sunny days is best but that is not the case. The sun speeds up the drying process of the cleaner and causes streaks.
7. Don’t overuse cleaning products! Using too much cleaner on a surface can cause a sticky residue to be left behind. Make sure you use the called for amount on the back of the bottle to avoid having to redo your work later.
8. Do get rid of clutter.  If there are boxes and piles of unused items sitting in the corners of your animal shelter, now is the best time to go through them and get rid of what is not needed.  Cluttered spaces tend to be less appealing to potential adopters, visitors and volunteers.
9. Remember your computer.  It is not just the physical building that needs cleaned out.  Be sure to schedule a time to clean your computer as well by getting rid of unneeded files and documents on your desktop.  Reorganize so items are easy to find and navigate to.
10. Don’t forget the shred.  You collect a great deal of confidential data throughout the year.  If you keep paper files currently, sit down and decide how long you want to keep those files.  Set a time frame and then shred everything that does not fit within that time.  This helps to prevent identity theft as well as security breaches in your animal shelter.

Cleaning is a necessary part of running an animal shelter and spring cleaning gives you and your volunteers the opportunity to do a deep cleaning of the shelter.  Be sure to create a plan and recruit volunteers to tackle the tasks at hand.  Your animal shelter will look more organized and clean and you will feel lighter with less mess to be stressed about.

Holiday Fundraising Ideas

November 20, 2015

  1. Jingle Bell Walk/Run: Organize a Jingle Bell Walk/Run where pets and pet owners don the jingling bells for the duration of the race. Funds can be raised through registration fees and sponsorships.
  2. Holiday Craft Bazaar: Sell table spaces for local artisans to sell handmade holiday décor and gifts.
  3. Hand-Painted Pet Bowls: This option offers multiple opportunities for an organization to raise funds. You can organize an event to paint-your-own doggie dish raising funds through registration fees. You can also have local volunteers create beautiful bowls and sell them for the proceeds.
  4. Pet Photos with Santa: Offer an opportunity for pet owners to bring in their pup or kitty to get a picture with Santa for a small fee or donation.
  5. Doggie Treat Bake Sale: Gather volunteers with baking skills and create some pet friendly goodies to sell for the proceeds.
  6. Furry Friend Holiday Card Sale: Capture the beauty of all of the animals from your rescue or shelter by having a local photographer donate their talents and turning them into adorable holiday cards to sell.
  7. Animal Calendar: Everyone will be needing a new calendar soon! Offer a compilation of your furry friends in calendar form for people to buy for themselves or as a gift.
  8. Christmas Ornament Design/Sale: Creating a special edition Christmas ornament to promote your organization allows you to revisit this fundraising idea yearly
  9. Gift Wrapping: Gather your craftiest volunteers and set-up a gift wrapping station outside of major stores. Offer some cute animal design papers and bows for a small fee or donation.
  10. New Year’s Eve Pet Party: Ring in the New Year by hosting a New Year’s Eve bash for pets and owners. All proceeds from the ticket sales will help boost your year-end donations.

During the fall, pumpkins, apple picking, fallen leaves, hiking, festivals and the football season are fun for people, and can be the inspiration for great fall activities for animals in shelters, rescue centers and foster homes.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Tasty Treats to Spice up Training

Many dogs love the taste of pumpkin, and pumpkins have lots of health benefits for dogs and cats, including:

• Improved digestion.
• Improved urinary health.
• A good source of vitamin A.
• Even weight loss.

During training sessions, dog treats made with pumpkin are an excellent high value reward.

If you’re fostering a dog, take him pumpkin or apple picking with you. Pumpkin patches and orchards are great places for you and your dog to explore. Many allow dogs if they are leashed.

Leaf-Pile Fun

Put out piles of leaves in the dogs’ runs for them to run through, jump into and toss around with you.

As dogs love tracking, you can hide toys among the leaves to add to the fun.

Cats also love playing in them and chasing leaves about.

Make sure there isn’t anything, like a branch, hidden in the leaves that could hurt animals.

Football Madness

Nothing says fall like football, and most dogs will love running around playing ball. You can be the quarterback and throw a ball for your dog to retrieve. Use a soft foam ball that’s easy to catch and won’t hurt his mouth.

For the kitty version of football, have a ball on a string that she can chase after or bat around.

Alternatively, crumple paper into a ball – cats love toys that make a crinkly sound – for your cat to chase and catch. Make sure she doesn’t chew or swallow any paper.

Getting Social at Festivals

The many different sights and sounds at a fall festival make it a great opportunity for socializing your foster dog. Check the festival is pet friendly.

Take a Hike

Hiking with your dog is easier during the cooler fall days. Start with short hikes and build up to longer ones. Things to take with you include:

• Water
• A Leash
• Poop Scoop
• Snacks

Always check dogs are allowed on the trail.

Try out these activities and have lots of fall fun with the animals in your care.

How to Form an Animal Rescue

September 2, 2015

Each day, tens of thousands of dogs, cats and other animals are abandoned on the streets of America’s towns and cities. You can help by forming an animal rescue shelter in a few easy steps to help out your community and give like-minded community members the opportunity to join in.

Steps to forming an animal rescue shelter

1. Do your research. What animals or animal breeds are most in need of rescue in your community?

2. Gain valuable shelter experience. Before you start, work in a local shelter to learns the ins and outs of animal care.

3. Scout locations. Find a space that allows for a front office, housing and play areas for the animals, and if needed, a medical room.

4. Get a lawyer. Choose a name for the rescue, file for your nonprofit business license, get insurance, and importantly, form a board of directors, and get legal advice.

5. Advertise. Brochures and a website for your rescue, and introduce yourself to shelters in the area.

How your animal rescue shelter benefits the community

An animal rescue benefits the community in ways that are both tangible and intangible. Rescued animals are a benefit to the community because they are taken off streets and given shelter and care, contributing to the tangible benefit of animal welfare in the community.

Animal rescues also provide intangible benefits for the community by highlighting the need for responsible pet ownership through spaying and neutering animals in addition to animal protection.

Further, caring for animals provides the intangible benefit to all of humanity in supporting because of the moral benefit of care. All life should be cared for and protected.

Can others help?

An animal rescue can become a second home for community members who share in the ideals of animal rescue and who want to be a part of the solution. Volunteers are crucial since they not only care for the animals, but they will share in the mission and carry its values into the broader community.

People of all ages can help you with administration, direct care of animals, fundraising and other events, and as ambassadors to the community.

Animal rescue shelters rely upon the expertise of community members in the formation, management and expansion of the animal rescue shelter. Together, you can make your rescue an important part of your community.

Like employees, animal shelter volunteers are valuable team members, and it’s important to keep them safe. However, even with strict safety protocols and comprehensive volunteer training programs in place, volunteers can become injured. If a volunteer is hurt at your animal shelter, follow these simple yet important steps.

Animal welfare employees should:

1. Remain calm.

Take a deep breath. Show the injured volunteer and nearby staff members that you have control of the situation.

2. Call for help.

Notify a supervisor or manager on duty.

3. Identify and remove any hazards between yourself and the injured volunteer.

This may include securing loose animals and checking the floor for slippery areas. Know that if you hurt yourself while trying to help the volunteer, two injured people will need assistance instead of one.

4. Perform first aid, and seek medical attention if needed.

If the injuries are serious, call the volunteer’s emergency contact once help arrives and someone with more first aid experience takes over.

5. If animals were involved in the incident, examine and document their behavior and injuries.

Contact a veterinarian if necessary.

6. Interview any witnesses, and gather their contact information.

7. Document the incident in an accident report.

8. Submit a claim to your animal welfare organization insurance provider as soon as possible.

9. Assess the incident.

Ask yourself and fellow employees:

  • How could this injury have been avoided?
  • What have we learned from this incident?
  • Do we have sufficient volunteer training protocol in place?

10. Make changes to avoid a similar occurrence.

Learn how to implement an accident investigation plan.

11. Follow up with the volunteer to ensure he or she is healing well.

If you’ve identified any improvements to make your workplace safer, share these improvements with the volunteer.

After experiencing an injury, animal shelter volunteers should:

1. Call for help.

2. Receive first aid and/or medical attention if necessary.

3. Document the incident as soon as possible.

4. Assess your situation.

If you need time to heal physically and mentally, take a break from volunteering. Ask yourself, am I ready to volunteer tomorrow? Next week? In a month? Be honest.

5. Follow up with the animal shelter.

Tell a manager how you’re healing and ask any questions you have about how the incident was handled.

Unfortunately, accidents happen. Keep your team safe and supported by implementing, practicing and improving your injury prevention and response protocols.