Implementing a Volunteer Program in Your
Animal Shelter

Do you feel like your organization is in a catch 22
when it comes to volunteers?

Most animal shelters see the need for and understand the importance of volunteers in completing the work and mission of the organization, however, if you are like many animal shelters, you don’t have the time to create a training program and train them.

DON’T GET CAUGHT IN THE DOGHOUSE

Failing to establish a volunteer program including policies and procedures can often backfire on the organization and can result in more time being spent on fixing situations resulting from the untrained volunteer, frustrated volunteers resulting from not knowing the proper procedures or expectations of the organization or how to achieve these can often result in short term volunteers and sometimes a bad rap for the organization. Another side effect of untrained volunteers is that the staff doesn’t know what to expect from these volunteers, may not trust that they know what they are doing and may not support them.

WHAT TO DO?!?

Establishing a volunteer Program does not have to be complicated or time consuming, it simply requires a few extra steps initially including documentation. Once the Volunteer Program is completed, the time invested is minimal for management and staff of the organization to implement and update. To help get started, you can obtain a sample Volunteer Policy and Application on the AWOIP website.

TAKING THE FIRST STEP.

The first step in setting up a volunteer program is to determine what activities within the organization you can utilize volunteers. Do not short change yourself, as you can recruit volunteers with specific skill sets including financially savvy volunteers, volunteers with legal backgrounds, dog trainers, veterinary technicians, etc. as well as people that may not have particular skill sets, but have a heart and passion for what your organization does and its mission.

THE NEXT STEP

Now, create a procedure for each item on the Volunteer Work List. This can be completed by an existing volunteer already familiar with the task. If this is being completed by a volunteer, simply review once completed and input any necessary changes. The great thing is these procedures can be a work in progress and can be updated and changed as necessary.
Each volunteer procedure requires certain skills, some more limited than others and each person possesses different skills and skill levels, therefore, you need to evaluate the procedure for the skills necessary. Make certain to evaluate not only mental skills, but physical skills needed for the procedure as well. In the example above, you will see that limited skills may be required for a volunteer to do dog walking.

While in a position of a volunteer bookkeeper, additional knowledge and mental skills may be necessary as in the example above.

VOLUNTEER SKILLS SCREENING

Volunteers need to be screened primarily in 4 areas. You may find more areas for screening, but the basic 4 areas for screening volunteers are in knowledge, Mental Skills, emotional skills and physical ability or skills.

KNOWLEDGE

By knowledge, all volunteers need to understand and be on board with the mission and purpose of the organization. In addition, they must be capable of completing day to day tasks including answer questions regarding the organization and be knowledgeable of what the organization does and who to refer people with additional questions. They also must have knowledge of the task they are to complete when volunteering at the organization. This can be done through a volunteer orientation and/or volunteer handbook.

MENTAL SKILLS

Mental skills can vary depending on the activity. Reading, writing, accounting, communication, customer service and the ability to problem solve are just a few of the mental skills that may be required for some activities.

EMOTIONAL SKILLS

Volunteers need to be prepared to deal with the emotions they will face in dealing with homeless, abused animals and frustrated citizens and sometimes staff. Volunteering with animals is highly emotionally charging and volunteers must be prepared and capable of handling and managing not only their own but others emotions.

PHYSICAL SKILLS OR ABILITY

Each activity or task has a different set of physical requirements. Some more strenuous then others. Make certain that the volunteer is willing and capable of meeting the physical requirements of the task or activity.

SKILLS SCREENING

A sample skill screening can be obtained from AWOIP. This can be utilized to evaluate the skills of new volunteers to assure they are placed in a position that can best benefit the organization and minimize their and the animal shelters exposures.

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