Best Practices: Volunteers

Today’s post about volunteers is by Pat Fish of Golden Retriever Rescue and Adoption of Needy Dogs (GRRAND). It covers many topics, including

  • Board members
  • Foster families
  • Transport
  • Event coordinators
  • Misc. volunteer positions

We look forward to your comments on volunteer positions and management.

Pat’s Take:

Without volunteers, most rescue groups would cease to exist.  It takes planning and time to build a good volunteer base.    As a young rescue, you may feel that any warm body is better than none.    But, gradually, as the rescue develops, it becomes apparent of what kind of volunteers you need.  We are still refining our procedures; but we strive to match up volunteers to jobs based on their talents and time commitments.

Our biggest source of volunteers comes from other volunteers!   With a membership of over 3000 families, we have about 200 active volunteers.   If people feel they are valued and respected within an organization, they will pass that on to friends and family.

We also promote volunteerism when home visits are performed, at meet & greet’s, events, fundraisers.  Basically, any time we are among a group of people, we will promote volunteerism.  For this purpose, we had printed brochures promoting the different activities we do and what the volunteer needs are.

Another method of recruiting is to contact corporations in your area.  Many provide benefits to their employees for service to a non profit.   This is usually a short term time commitment by the employee

Ads can be taken out in the newspaper, or flyers printed and posted to put in vet offices, pet supply stores, etc.   There are many avenues to attract volunteers.  What may work in one area may not work in another.

Potential volunteers are then encouraged to complete an application, which basically gives their contact information and field of interest.  We provide our application on our website along with the volunteer needs we have.   We give a detail job description plus the time commitment needed.   The applications are then forwarded to the appropriate team leader to follow up.

At this point, the team leader will mentor and introduce the new volunteer to the position.  All volunteers are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement and/or liability waiver.  Communication is vital if the volunteers are to be successful.  Any problem need to be addressed as soon as possible.  If it becomes obvious that the volunteer is not a good fit for the organization, then the only option is to terminate the volunteer.

Board of Directors.  Our ten member board of directors consist of  all volunteers who meet monthly.  Our focus is on fundraising, and short and long term planning.  Each board member is responsible for a function or program of our rescue.   When recruiting for members of the board, we included it into our monthly email blast asking for specific talents

Adoption Coordinator:  This volunteer matches approved applications with the available dogs.  Her team consists of:

Applicant Screener: The volunteer will do the initial screening of the application; check references, verify vet care and other information on the application.

Home Visit:  The volunteer meets with the applicants and their families at their homes; verifies the safety of the fence (if required), checks where the dog will be kept during the day and night. .

Foster Families.  There is always a plea for foster families.  They go through the same reference and vet checks as people applying for adopting.  Home visits are also done. Foster families are the core of our rescue group.  Besides providing a home environment for the dogs awaiting adoption, they are providing much needed services such as evaluation of the dog’s behavior, and training basic obedience skills.

Foster Home Follow-up:  The volunteers make regular phone calls to the foster families for updates.  Hopefully any issues that arise can be addressed as soon as possible..

Intake Coordinator: This volunteer is responsible for the intake of dogs offered through shelters, and owner turn in’s.   She maintains the flow of dogs to avoid overwhelming our kennels and foster families.

Vet Coordinator This position is responsible for the dogs from the initial vet visit through the subsequent vet care if needed

Vet Foster Coordinator is responsible for the mailing of heartworm preventative and front line to the foster families for their dogs.

Transport: We cover a 3 state area and rely on transports almost daily to bring dogs in; to take dogs to vet offices   The transport coordinator keeps a updated list to call and is very carefull not to overwhelm the transport volunteer.with too many assignments in a short period of time.

Telephone Assistance:  We have a team that monitors the voice mail box.  They need to have a working knowledge of our organization works to notify the proper person

Events;  A promotional event coordinator oversees the meet & greet’s, and small fundraising events.  She relies on a team of volunteers who can fill in and help with the booth.

Kennel Manager is the volunteer who takes responsibility for the dogs once they arrive at the kennel.  She coordinates vet visits, grooming, evaluations, and checks the dogs everyday for any health or behavior issues.

Dog walkers:  Currently we house our dogs at a kennel when they first come in the system.  They get vet care; temperament evaluation and grooming.   They are then allowed to go to a foster home, or to be adopted.

Evaluators: A team of 2 volunteers evaluate the dog’s temperament to help decide what if there any issues with the dog such as resource guarding, shyness.  They make recommendations on what kind of household the dog would be best suited for or if further training is necessary to become available for adoption..

We also have volunteers preparing grants, publishing the quarterly newsletter, maintaining the website and data basis.  Other volunteers are at “Meet n Greets” spreading the word of our rescue.   Fundraising is another avenue for volunteers.   Many of our volunteers do more than one job and we all pitch in to help at any time.

In the end, it is all about the “dogs”.

 

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One Response to Best Practices: Volunteers

  1. LBR has a similar structure, but given our size, and the fact that we’re 100% foster care facility with no shelter/kennel, we’ve had to become a little more flexible with who does what here. This is a rough breakdown. But if I can say one thing loudly, it would be EMPOWER YOUR VOLUNTEERS!!!

    Management Committee: Consists of 6 core volunteers, each MC member chairs a committee as well. Handles all day to day decisions for the rescue (basically we put out fires all day). LBR does not have a formal “Board”.

    Foster Committee: Currently 3 members. Works closely with the shelter committee to place boxers in need (BINs) into foster care. Tries to match up the best dog for the foster home given the limited information we generally have on shelter dogs (though we do evaluate every dog).

    Shelter Committee: Currently 6 members. Tracks and records all BIN’s as they come across our radar. Sends emails to our volunteer team for personal evaluation of each BIN. Maintains contact with the shelters (or owner) about the BINs until foster care is found or the dog is safe via other avenues (reclaimed, adopted from shelter, etc). Works closely with the foster committee to be sure they’re aware of which dogs are most urgent and communicates the outcome of the BINs personal eval to foster committee for best placement of that animal.

    Applications Committee: Currently 5 members. Responsible for the application process with all applicants. Vet checks, rent checks, correspondence with applicants during the process. Also sends home visit requests to the volunteers for all applicants that make it to that point. Assigns Adoption Counselors to approved applicants.

    Web Committee: Currently 5 volunteers. Maintains the website and LBR’s online presence. Maintains the volunteer portal. One of the members of this committee also does the 6 month and annual follow ups on the adopted boxers.

    Adoption Counselors: All volunteers. Any volunteer that has been with LBR “long enough to have a good grasp on the process” can become an AC. AC’s act in concert with the foster moms and dads to set up meet and greets with potential matches for their families. ***Foster parents are given total power to place their fosters with approved applicants. They know their dogs best, and they can best place that animal into a home that will fit their needs. Management only gets involved if there is an issue or concern.***

    Evaluations: We have a document on our portal that defines how to properly eval a boxer for our program. After a volunteer has been active with LBR for a minimum of 2 months, they are eligible to do shelter evaluations if needed. You will learn quickly who not to send again. LOL! Some people just cannot handle the reality of shelters.

    Vet Committee: Currently 3 members (all Management). Handles all vet care needs for our boxers including keeping medical supplies on hand for fosters.

    Welcome Committee: Currently 4 members. Responsible for getting new volunteers on our Yahoo group site and their initial introduction to the volunteer portal. They also email them information regarding the committees and other volunteer opportunities.

    Thank You Committee: Currently 3 members. Responsible for sending thank you cards to all adopters and supporters (donations).

    Fundraising and PR Committee: Currently 15 members. Responsible for the day to day organization of fundraisers and events. Recruits volunteers to work events.

    Our voicemail is set up to email the appropriate committee based on which option they choose. IE: Option 2 is for Surrendering a Boxer, that email goes directly to the shelter committee. Option 5 is for Adoption questions and those messages go directly to the applications committee. This has been a huge help to LBR, and we use http://www.rescuegroups.org for our voicemail needs.

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