The amount of time, energy and resources required to run an animal shelter is not small. Animals need to be cleaned up after, daily. They need to be walked, fed, socialized, trained, and taken to meet with potential adopters. Dogs are behavior assessed and partnered up with other dogs, while others go out on daily visits or to adoption centers.
At a time of budget cuts, lower donation dollars and more expensive treatments – it is impossible for a shelter to have enough staff on hand to do everything. Volunteers need to be utilized to help with day-to-day care, enrichment programs, daily exercise and a host of other activities.
Staff is Key
The key to a Successful Volunteer Program is strong management. Many shelters have implemented volunteer programs only to have them fail or be taken over by eager but uninformed volunteers. This is often due to weak management on the part of the shelter. A well organized and managed program allows people to play within the rules, while a poorly-managed program invites people to do their own thing and assume the rules aren’t meant for them.
A strong coordinator is a must! The Volunteer Coordinator must be a people-person, she or he needs to be able to interact with the community on a daily basis. They must be able to patiently explain the same policy’s and reasons over and over. And they need to be creative in order to find ways to build the number of volunteers. Individuals in these rolls are a direct representation of the organization itself.
Shelters that restrict volunteers to walking dogs or playing with cats are missing out on a big opportunity. Volunteers can be crucial in retraining, enrichment, and many other areas not necessarily specialized by the staff of an animal shelter. Volunteers can run events, raise funds, write grants, run programs, work the front desk and perform many other crucial functions needed in a sheltering situation.