It is well known that volunteers make the shelter world go around. Fueled by their deep-rooted love of animals, volunteers vastly range in age, race, socio-economic and education backgrounds. However, it is animals that provide the tie that binds, and their passion moves them to not only sign up to become a volunteer, but to keep showing up and giving regularly, with satisfaction and nourishment of the soul as their compensation.
For a shelter to run as a well-oiled machine, not only do the full-time employees need to be motivated, inspired, and act as a cohesive group, but the volunteers must also operate in the same fashion. In order to determine the right volunteer fit for your organization, there must be a thorough interview process which includes full transparency about the position, its details and requirements. To help guide you through your volunteer selection process, check out these tips:
1 Be transparent
You want your volunteers to be a part of your organization for a long time, so let them know exactly what they are signing up for. There can be a preconceived misconception that volunteering at a shelter simply consists of playing with puppies all day. Let them know the true ins and outs of the daily responsibilities of an animal shelter volunteer.
2 Pick from where you grow!
Your shelter enthusiasts are a great pool to pull volunteers from. Leverage your mail database, your adopters, donors, visitors as they are your captive audience and already your cheerleaders who believe in your mission. Many may not even know you are in need of volunteers, so plant the seed!
3 Manage Growth Expectations
Some volunteers may join your organization with the idea that it is a fast track to a full-time paid position. This may or may not be the case but be sure to provide them a transparent look into what the trajectory from volunteer to full-time paid employee really looks like. You wouldn’t want a great volunteer to leave out of disappointment.
4 Define the Job
When talking about the job description, be as clear and informative as possible. Let the volunteers know in advance exactly what tasks and duties they will be responsible for. Have them sign a job description just as you would in a paid position.
5 Ask for Referrals
Incentivize your current volunteers to refer their like-minded friends and family to your organization. Since all shelters operate on a tight budget, your incentive can be as simple as shelter swag and wearables, everyone loves a good hoodie!
There is a long-standing misconception in the volunteer community that all you have to do is show up and you’ll be considered a volunteer. Make joining your organization a professional, pain-free process. When your volunteers need to put forth an effort to be a part of your organization they’ll value the position that much more.
7 Don’t settle!
If during the course of your interview your socks aren’t knocked off and you can’t see the candidate contributing on stressful transition days, on bath day or if you couldn’t see them connecting with other volunteers during a 36 hours transport ride, then they’re probably not a fit for your shelter.
8 Have the position match the skill set
If you have a complete extrovert come in for an interview, then they are likely best suited for a volunteer position which keeps them engaged with people during their shift. Matching the responsibilities to the personality will create a satisfied volunteer who will stay with the organization longer than if they were mis-matched.
9 Get Feedback
You have an amazing information vault at your fingertips, your current volunteers want to make your organization the very best it can be. Leverage the existing relationship you have with current volunteers to gain feedback on the program, where it works, and where it can improve.
10 Use Your Website and Social Media
Though it seems obvious, sometimes we all forget to ask for help. Be sure to have a Volunteer section on your website. Include job descriptions and be sure to post on your social media accounts a regular monthly announcement about the volunteer positions you have available. Check out our blog for some tips on how to attract your tribe on social media.
It is also so important that the volunteers feel as much as part of the organization as the paid employees. They are giving of their time, are held to high standards, and are committed to the cause of animal welfare. Host some volunteer appreciation days throughout the year. An ice cream social, taco truck or even simply a shout out on social media goes a long way in saying thank you.
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Pictures taken from SPCA of Northern Nevada website, check their volunteer program here.