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.


Insurance can be one of the most expensive aspects of business from animal welfare organizations. Many go without the coverage they need because they are facing budget cuts or need the funding they do have for other needs, such as animal shelters for all their critters. The team members at AWOIP, LLC (Animal Welfare Organization Insurance Program, LLC), are the go-to folks when it comes to securing insurance for animal shelters. Some types of insurance policies that they can offer are:

  • General Liability Insurance
  • Volunteer Accident & Health Insurance
  • Professional Liability Insurance
  • Worker’s Compensation Insurance
  • Commercial Property Insurance
  • Special Event/ Fundraiser Insurance

But to have insurance for the shelters your organization uses, you need to be able to afford those shelters. When funding and donations do not cover these expenses, there is another way you can get the money you need. Grants for animal shelters are abundant, if you know where to look and how to go about getting them.

Many big name environmental organizations and animal welfare groups offer grants and funding help for other smaller groups who are struggling to do the same work. You could look at any local groups that are doing a similar work and see if you could form a partnership with them. They can provide the help you need and offer a unique perspective and they might also be able to recommend places you can look for grants for animal shelters and people you can talk to get some more funding.

State and federal organizations offer grants for any number of things. Chances are you can find grants for animal shelters simply by looking online. You might also want to search based on the type of facility you are. Some grants for animal shelters are base don the type of animals you work with so you could possibly find a grant that fits you perfectly and not have a lot of other competition for the money.

Another option you have is to reach out to people whom you know support the work you are doing. Many well known actors, celebrities, and iconic individuals support animal welfare. It does not hurt to reach out to these individuals and see if they might be willing to help you with the funding you need. Grants for animal shelters can be found, it just takes a unique approach and new way of looking at it.

The best place to find members for your new Board of Directors is among your founders.  Anyone who helped you find a location, secure funding, or helped with marketing campaigns deserves first consideration for the Board .  These high-level volunteer best understand your animal welfare non-profit and how it runs.  They are the obvious first choices for the Board.

However, after being involved with funding and the initial set-up, many may feel burned out prefer to continue their work on lower-level volunteer duties or only as-needed.  This is understandable as a Board of Directors position is often very involved.

Consider recruiting your Board among the most dedicated volunteers who performed the grunt work—making calls, cleaning cages, etc.  They will likely be surprised and flattered that you thought them qualified.  Also, as they were not as involved in the founding activities of your organization, they may also see the opportunity as a promotion as opposed to an endless series of demands.

Many people who are qualified for the Board of Directors may not realize their own qualities.  If someone appears to be a good match for the Board, ask and explain what you believe they bring to the table.  Feeling flattered, he or she may just say yes!

It is good to have your Board be a mix of higher level and workhorse level volunteers.  This will make for a rounded membership which enhances the growth of your organization.

Animal rescue insurance is simply essential for any shelter or agency. While these centers save hundreds of dogs and cats per day, they are not exempt from legal ramifications or lawsuits. This is especially true if a person gets bitten or injured by one of these animals within their premises. Most rescue centers also double up as adoption agencies. This is a great way to find lost, abused, and discarded animals new homes. These animal welfare organizations also provide animals for other charitable and philanthropic endeavors. This includes dogs and cats that provide company for elderly and bed ridden patients.

While animal rescue insurance agencies provide a great service to the public, they must have some type of insurance. This includes property insurance, which protects their structures from fires, vandalism, and other structural mishaps. Theft insurance protects animal shelters from robberies and break-ins. Insurance is also available for all directors, managers, employees, and volunteers. This can be medical, along with dental and other benefits. Securing the right insurance, however, depends on the needs of the animal shelter or agency in question. Sadly, many organizations feel they do not need insurance because they are too small. Others believe they are exempt from lawsuits since they are providing a valuable service to the public.

If you work in or manage one of these organizations, animal rescue insurance is simply vital. Whether it’s property or accident insurance, you need coverage that will effectively protect your employees and patrons. Sadly, there are many people out there that love to sue small or big companies. Most of these people, however, are simply looking to milk your business or insurance company out of thousands of dollars. With the right insurance, however, your business will fully protected against faulty or fake claims. Insurance also covers any accidents or mishaps that occur on your property. This includes animal bites, along with fenders benders in the parking lot.

Getting Insurance for your Animal Rescue

Animal rescue organizations have a number of special concerns when it comes to ensuring the health and welfare of the animals that they care for.  Foremost among these are the costs of addressing injuries and illnesses, not to mention the need for preventative care and bite protection.  These things are all vital for the safety and well-being of small puppies that have been displaced or are otherwise in need of good homes.  Fortunately, you can secure animal insurance for your rescue organization that is offered by a knowledgeable and experienced provider.  A good insurer will have a comprehensive understanding of the unique challenges that exist in these environments, including those that lie beyond mere financial considerations.

Why You Should Get Liability Insurance

Purchasing animal insurance is vital for a number of reasons.  This coverage makes essential forms of care more accessible.  Rescued pets have a much greater chance of surviving severe injuries and illnesses, given the dramatic rise in innovative medical procedures and treatments.  Whether the goal is to promote increased survival rates or to ensure that animals are desirable candidates for adoption, access to care is nothing short of essential.

In terms of hosting fundraising events for your animal shelter, animal insurance is legally necessary.  Dog bite insurance is vital for avoiding a lot of expensive legal liability issues and for preserving the reputation of your organization.  The best companies will give you a rapid turnaround on insurance certificates and will even make sure that you have bound a plan that features the required limits and which affords you and your canine friends with optimal protection.

Searching For The Right Provider

When it comes to owning and operating an animal rescue shelter, the primary insurance concerns revolve around how to buy the right type of cover.  Those insurance companies that specialize in the provision of coverage for private parties rarely possess an in-depth understanding of the specific needs of animal welfare groups.  Coverage for these entities is guaranteed to be quite different from that of breeders or private homes with pets.  With little experience in shopping for this coverage, it is necessary for these groups to work with companies that will carefully explain the available coverage terms and features while ensuring that all bases are effectively covered.

Directors and officers who work for an animal shelter must have a unique skill set. There are many shelters that have suffered from the effects of poor leadership simply because the director had insufficient experience with animals. This not only results in poor leadership, but also gives the shelter a poor public image.

One of the most important qualities to look for in a shelter director is proven experience with animals. The ideal candidate should currently own or have owned animals in the past. Having a pet of your own provides experience that simple secondhand experience does not. When a job candidate has worked in a veterinary, kennel or shelter position in the past, this increases their level of credibility.

In addition to proven experience working with animals, a good director will also have excellent management skills. A college background in management or experience running a business will provide many of the needed skills for this sort of position. Former non-profit group directors and employees will make the easiest transition into this sort of job.

Directors and officers who work for a shelter will also need to posses certain skills that are essential for good public relations. A person in this position will have to interact with the public, as well as field questions from local reporters. It’s necessary for shelter staff to be able to patiently address any questions that members of the public may have.

Fundraising experience is an important part of managing an animal shelter. Because non-profit shelters depend on private donations and grants, it is essential to know how to keep a reasonable cash flow coming in. Job candidates who have a sense of creativity will do very well in this line of work.

Being comfortable with using the Internet, particularly social media, is another important skill to look for. A shelter director will need to perform many clerical tasks as part of their job. However, maintaining an updated website and interacting with the public and other shelters via social media is a vital part of running a successful shelter that many people overlook.

There are a lot of questions that you probably have when shopping for insurance.  What type of insurance do I need?  Why do I need insurance?  Will I need it if I am extra careful?  Even more specific, each policy can have their own questions.  Below are the most commonly asked questions regarding Directors and Officers (D&O)  insurance with answers.

  1. Why does my organization need D&O coverage?  Organization are composed of board members.  These members are at risk if a lawsuit arises against the organization.  If there is a misappropriation of funds, the board member will be protected from losing their personal assets.
  2. What does D&O cover? It covers the directors and officers of the organization against lawsuits that may arise. 
  3. Isn’t it expensive? No, it is quite affordable.  Depending on the details of your organization it can be as low as $500.
  4. How do I obtain D&O insurance?  Just give us a call, or submit a quote request through the website.

Non-Profit animal shelters and rescues are at risk for lawsuits.  It is critical for your organization to be properly protected and insured in the event a lawsuit occurs.  One way to do that is to audit your insurance policies what do they really cover?  Yesterday we reviewed 2 types of coverage your shelter or rescue should have in place. Below you will find another list of important coverages:

Workers Compensation:  Most companies (nonprofit organizations included) are required to carry workers compensation insurance to protect their employees.  This insurance pays for medical bills, disability pay, and for third-party liability in case someone has been affected by the employee’s loss. Volunteers can usually be covered by simply extending your policy.

Business Auto Liability: Does your animal shelter use vehicles to transport rescue animals? If you do then your organization is at risk and should consider business auto liability insurance. Liability for non-owned vehicles is important if your employees or volunteers use their cars to do work for your organization. If you have a small business, a personal auto policy may be best for you because it offers additional coverage to existing personal insurance to cover limited business needs. Personal vehicles can be covered by hired and non-owned coverage if the volunteers and staff use their own vehicle for business work.

Directors and Officers: (D&O) insurance covers the accidental actions of board members that can result in liability. These disputes are usually between the executive director and the board of directors, so it is important that small business is covered by D&O insurance as well. Allegations of improper financial oversight, harassment, or discrimination are also covered by D&O as long as the organization actions are legal.

Umbrella liability:  insurance expands the liability limits of your general liability, workers compensation, commercial auto policy, and directors and officers. The additional coverage is usually purchased in $1 million layers, and this additional coverage is often a great value. By adding just a small amount to your premium you can double or coverage, or more.