Animal shelters need daily visitors to adopt animals and continue helping the community. Across the country, animal shelters are struggling to increase the adoption rates. At the same time, families that want adopt are finding it difficult to do so. Shelter volunteers are trained to match animals with the best forever homes and often times their scrutiny makes the adopting family feel not welcome or unwanted.

Create a Welcoming Environment

Stop scaring away potential adopting families with these seven steps.

  1. Do a walkthrough. Schedule a time to walk through your shelter and take note of how it appears to potential adopters. Look for items that may be unappealing to individuals that do not actively work with animals on a daily basis. Clutter, dirt, and things that broken make your shelter look like you don’t care. Adopters are more likely to adopt from an organization that puts effort into their appearance.
  1. “Hire” a mystery adopter. As the director or lead volunteer, it is difficult to gauge exactly how adopters are treated when they contact your shelter. Recruit a mystery adopter to visit your animal shelter and take notes on the overall adoption process. Ask them to specifically update you on how they are treated during the process, if the volunteers are friendly, is the process easy to understand, or is it overwhelming.
  1. Keep it clean. Create a daily, weekly, and monthly cleaning schedule for your volunteers to use. This maintains the overall cleanliness of the shelter while breaking cleaning down into manageable sections that all volunteers can assist with.
  1. Minimize odors. Find a way to minimize odors when guests first walk into the shelter. It is obvious to most visitors that your building will smell like animals, but urine shouldn’t be the first and only thing they smell when they enter.
  1. Use a greeter. Have a volunteer act as a visitor greeter during open hours. Greeters are responsible for acknowledging, welcoming and thanking visitors for stopping by. They can also guide them to the waiting areas or to another volunteer responsible for giving them a tour of the kennels or cat room.
  1. Respond to every message. A common problem in shelters is the lack of time for responding to phone calls, e-mails, and social media messages. Schedule a volunteer to review these messages on a daily basis. They are responsible for screening incoming messages and distributing them to right individual or responding to those they are able to. This helps eliminate the pile up on your desk and makes you shelter standout for response time.
  1. Train volunteers on customer service. Not every volunteer has an understanding of customer service. It is important that you educate and communicate with volunteers on how they are expected to interact with potential adopters. Include role playing time after you review the expectations. Help them create easy to implement scripts from these sessions that make it easy to respond in the moment.

Benefits

Investing the time in creating a welcoming environment for adopting families is beneficial to you, your volunteers, and the animals you care for.

  1. Increased adoptions. Visitors are more willing to adopt when they feel welcomed in your shelter. Adoption rates will increase with consistent implementation of these steps.
  2. Happier volunteers. Volunteers are happy when they know their hard work bettering the animals’ lives.
  3. Increased awareness. As adoptions increase and volunteers show excitement for their work, more members of the community will hear about your shelter and the services you offer. Increased adoptions and donations are a direct result of increased awareness.

Take the time today to review your animal shelter setup. How does it appear to visitors? Use these steps to make improvements and improve your adoption rates.

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.

 

Animal Shelters and rescues attend adoption events as exhibitors to help raise mission awareness and increase adoptions.  Events range from a small open house to a larger event with multiple animal shelters and rescues.  Deciding to attend an event comes with risks. Plan in advance to minimize these risks. Train your volunteer team on how their actions can help protect your animal shelter or rescue. Here are five things your animal shelter needs to know before attending a special event:

  1. Does the event align with your mission? Look at the mission or goal of the event.  Does their goal align with your mission? If the two do not align, the event is not in your best interest.  Attending an event that does not promote your mission, leaves you open to negative publicity or loss of a positive reputation.
  2. Read the contract. Most event organizers require you to comply with rules and an agreement to become an exhibitor. Make sure you read the contract or agreement to determine if you can meet these requirements. Common event guidelines include set-up and tear down times, proof of insurance, vaccine requirements for animals, and expectations for how you present yourself during the event. If you are unable to meet the requirements outlined in the agreement do not register as an exhibitor.  You risk a negative impact to your animal shelter or rescue if you attend and do not follow the guidelines.
  3. What can go wrong? Prior to attending an event, make a list of all the potential risks. Risks include animals getting loose, volunteers not showing, animals injuring attendees or volunteers.  Once you have a list of possibilities, create a proactive plan that identifies how you will minimize the potential for these.  For example, one significant risk is an animal jumping on an attendee and scratching that individual.  A plan to keep that from occurring includes making sure volunteers are assisting the attendees while talking to, petting and playing with the animals.
  4. Choose the right animals. Choosing the right animals to take is a key in minimizing the risk of injury to attendees. Your goal is to increase adoptions by attending the event.  Animals that have just recently entered your care may not be a good fit.  Choose animals that can handle social situations and interaction with strangers.  Animals that are skittish or easily scared have unpredictable behaviors and should remain at the shelter or in their foster home during events.
  5. Choose the right volunteer team. Volunteers who attend the event need to be knowledgeable of your animal shelter or rescue, your mission and how to present themselves during an event. If you choose to send new volunteers, make sure you pair them with an experienced volunteer that understands adoption event logistics and your expectations.

Adoption and special events are a powerful way to educate and involve your community with your shelter.  Follow these steps before attending an event to create a positive experience for all involved.

 

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.

 

Promoting Adoptions

May 13, 2016

With the warmer weather finally arriving, now is the perfect time to get focused on adoption events and promoting adoption of the animals in your animal rescue or shelter.  Animal adoption events are typically the best way to promote adoptions from your shelter or rescue. These types of events paired with a social media marketing campaign and presence are extremely powerful in reaching a broader base of individuals.
Organizing an Adoption Event
The first steps in any successful adoption event are to schedule a goal, date, time, and location.  With this information you can then recruit volunteers and develop committees to focus on the most important aspect of events, including schedule of events, care of the animals involved, marketing, and volunteer schedule.  Each committee and its members can the focus on their section/responsibility to make it the best it can be.
Setting Goals
What is your goal for your non-profit animal shelter or rescue? What is your long-term and short-term goal? Do you have an influx of animals that you need to have adopted out?  Do you need to raise funds for new equipment or a new building? Having this information set it the beginning, gives you a numerical goal to promote and track throughout the event planning and event day.
Date, Time, Location
It may seem like easy information to decide on but often times there is more to consider than what days or times are available on your personal calendar.  It is best to start with two possible dates and times.  Once you have this information, check with local community organizations to see if there are any other events happening that you may be in competition with to decide on a date that offers the best opportunity for participants.  If you have a physical building, you can host your event at home. If you do not have a building, check with local parks or businesses for an opportunity to set up your event in an easy to reach venue.
Committees
Committees help to keep any event running smoothly and are comprised of volunteers from animal shelter or rescue.  Committees allow volunteers to focus on one area of the event and keep the planning organized and efficient.
Promotion
There are multiple ways to advertise your event. You can contact a local radio station for some broadcasting, hang posters, or place an advertisement in the newspaper. The most cost-effective method is usually on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even Snapchat, depending on who your target audience is.  To promote via facebook, you would first start by creating an event on your shelter or rescue page.  From the event you can then invite those that follow your page and encourage them to share and invite their family and friends. Be sure to create a daily post plan to keep potential attendees engaged and excited about what you are offering and promoting at the event.

Promoting Adoptions with No Event
If your animal shelter or rescue is unable to organize or host an event, there is still a great opportunity for you to promote adoptions online.
1. Create a Facebook or Instagram Page. If you do not currently have a page, be sure to create one now.
2. Post pictures of Animals. You can post pictures of animals available for adoption in their current habitat.  Catch them playing, snoozing or cuddling with volunteers.  Be sure to include a summary of the animal’s background and best type of forever home when you post the pictures.
3. Post Videos.  Do you have certain animals that are just made for videos? You know the ones that are always playing around. Catch them live in these moments and share them with your followers who are sure to fall in love as they watch them.
Promoting and increasing adoptions can be accomplished through organized events as well as well as on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.  Once you have decided the path to take, be sure to follow these steps to help increase adoptions in your community.

While it is common knowledge that you need to exercise in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, most people overlook the fact that their pets need to stay fit as well. Pets that don’t get enough exercise can become obese and become susceptible to serious health conditions such as, cancer and diabetes. For this reason, it is important to make physical fitness a part of your pet’s everyday routine. Here is a list of health benefits that prove exercise helps your animals:

  • By engaging your pets in physical activity, their overall health will improve. It will reduce their chances of developing diseases and help them to live a longer, healthier life.
  • Hyperactive cats and dogs can benefit from exercise because it will alleviate extra energy and restlessness.
  • Regular physical activity is very helpful when it comes to improving your pet’s digestive health. A simple walk has proven to be extremely beneficial in relieving constipation in animals.
  • If your pet excessively chews, digs, or scratches, exercise can help reduce or eliminate this destructive behavior.
  • Your dog or cat will develop stronger muscles and increased flexibility. Their improved strength and nimbleness can reduce their risk  of being injured.
  • It is a no brainer that spending time with your pet is extremely important. Playing sports and games with your pet not only strengthen their body but your bond as well.

Forming a good animal connection is essential for health and happiness for both the animal owner and the animal.  So how do you do that?

The easiest way is to think about the way people connect with their babies and even with other people.

Bonding with an animal is natural for any animal lover.  Most people love cats or dogs or both.  Some ideas to help the animal connection develop deeper and faster are:

1 – Spend time.   There is no substitute for time in a relationship.  This goes for people but also for animals.  Animals are often nervous at first but over time, they warm up and bond with their new owner.  Dogs and cats tend to “grow” on people over time.

2 – Play with them.  Both people and animals love to play.  Play is enjoyment.  For a cat, chasing a laser pointer or a ball of yarn works great.  For dogs, nothing beats a good game of fetch.  For most people, one of the reasons they get the pet is for play.  Animals are cute when they play or as some people (who like puns) say “they are more fetching”.  Animals appreciate and bond to the person who they see as their play/fun mate.

3 – Groom them.  People bond with animals if they groom them.  This can be simple petting through to brushing them.  And who does not want a better groomed pet.  Animals and people both respond to touch.

4 – Walk them.  This mostly applies to dogs.  Dogs love to go for walks and hikes.  And it is healthy for them and their owners.  Pet owners live longer according to Dr. Oz.  Pet owners have less stress, lower cholesterol, and higher immunity.  Likely a good part of this is the added exercise pet owners get.

Animal connection is natural.  Follow your instincts and you will bond easily. After all, dogs and cats are people too.  OK – so they are not really but they will seem like it after there is a good bond formed.

As the hot sunny days of summer approach, it’s inevitable that we spend more time outdoors – pets included. Summer activities are a great source of enjoyment and exercise, but it’s important to ensure your animals stay cool in the heat of the summer. Here are a five tips from experts to keep your pets cool and happy. Animal Care Tip 1: Stay in the shade Have you ever noticed your dog or cat lying on a cool surface? They’re trying to cool themselves down. When you’re playing outside and your dog finds a shady spot, let him. Animals naturally gravitate to the shade when they’re hot. And remember, they don’t wear shoes – so imagine how hot the concrete or asphalt is when it’s been baking in the sun all afternoon. A walk in a shaded forest is a much better choice than a walk through the city. Animal Care Tip 2: Play outside at the right time Try to avoid taking your pets outdoors during the hottest time of day. The scorching mid afternoon sun can cause health issues very quickly. Try to plan your outdoor activities in the early morning or in the evening once the sun has gone down. Animal Care Tip 3: Hydrate frequently Pets can dehydrate quickly – especially on a hot day.

  • Make sure they have plenty of fresh water available. If you’re thirsty on a hot day, chances are your pets are too.
  • Ice cubes or frozen broth make a great hydrating treat for dogs.

Animal Care Tip 4: Visit the groomer You wouldn’t go outside on a summer day wearing your winter parka! Imagine how your dog feels. Depending on the breed, some dogs benefit from a summer haircut. Even frequent brushing can help eliminate loose fur and prevent your pet from overheating. Animal Care Tip 5: Be mindful of your pet’s health Animal health experts encourage all pet owners to be mindful of their pet’s health, especially in the summer. Some breeds with flat-shaped faces like pugs, bulldogs, and terriers can’t pant as well as other breeds. These dogs should be expect inside on extremely hot days. Pets that are overweight, elderly, or have other medical conditions should also be kept indoors.

Fundraising Techniques

June 4, 2015

The Need to Master Fundraising Techniques

Nonprofits such as animal welfare organizations need to have a constant stream of funds coming in to keep their operations running. There are numerous methods that can be used to secure said funding, with fundraising being the most useful out of the lot. As a result, animal welfare organizations determined to achieve their objectives must be diligent in mastering fundraising techniques.

Fundraising Techniques For Animal Welfare Organizations

Here are time-tested fundraising techniques that animal welfare organizations can put to good use:

  • A lot of nonprofits like to solicit small sums from a large number of interested individuals. In main, this is because the small sums make it that much easier to convince potential supporters, though it also means that more of them will have to be convinced to keep the nonprofits running. As a result, said nonprofits have to focus on getting their messages out to a bigger audience using traditional methods such as direct mail and newsletters as well as digital counterparts such as social media marketing.
  • In contrast, other nonprofits focus on soliciting much more sizable sums from interested individuals with the motive as well as the means. This calls for a significant investment of both time and other resources from the nonprofit in each relationship, since convincing even the most like-minded of potential supporters to part with such sums is a much more challenging prospect.
  • Long-established nonprofits also have the option of convincing potential supporters to leave something in their wills. Soliciting this kind of support need not be blatant since it can be as simple as printing a reminder of the option in a newsletter from time to time.
  • Bear in mind that incentives can provide a useful boost when it comes to convincing potential supporters. For soliciting small sums, said incentives need not be expensive, particularly when it is being used to convince someone to subscribe to a newsletter rather than provide material support. In contrast, the attempt to solicit more significant support might have to involve incentives ranging from galas and house parties to tours and trips.
  • With that said, information sessions that tell potential supporters about the causes that their contributions will promote can be as useful as a fundraiser, not least because nonprofits can use them to build trust in their operations.