Finding and Maintaining Great Volunteers – Part 1

I gave a talk to the members of All Breed Rescue Network this past weekend. I was excited and honored to have been invited, as ABRN is a wonderful organization that assists rescues operating in Colorado to save the most lives possible. Rather than try to paraphrase, let me just give you their mission:

The mission of All Breed Rescue Network, Inc., is to provide a vehicle for the fostering and rehoming of abandoned purebred dogs, to assist in increasing the adoption of shelter dogs by promoting awareness and working with shelters, and to educate the community regarding responsible dog ownership including the spay/neuter of companion animals.

This past weekend was their annual luncheon with about 50 attendees from various rescues, including St. Bernard rescue, Beagle rescue, Westie rescue, and many more. I was allowed the freedom to choose which topic to speak on, and I decided volunteerism, since encouraging people to get involved is a passion of mine. Ironically, the ABRN president had the same idea, and the meeting that followed my talk focused on volunteering, too. It all worked out great.

Basically, the premise of the talk was that people who serve as rescue board members and founders have an amazing opportunity to not only change the lives of dogs, but also to change the lives of people, which will create positive change in society as a whole. A few key points included

  1. Saying “Thank-you,” no matter by what means (email, phone, mail, etc.), is only truly meaningful if you do it with no strings attached.
  2. The best way to keep volunteers is to provide adequate training and prompt assistance when necessary and to ensure they feel included, appreciated, and that their work is meaningful.
  3. People who wish to volunteer with your organization abound, but they can’t possibly do so if they don’t know that opportunities exist. Making clearly defined information about volunteering with your organization readily available to the public is fundamental in growing your volunteer base.

Throughout the week I’ll give you more specifics, but for now, I’d like to leave you with a poem from Julia Butterfly Hill, the woman who protected a section of our Redwood Forest by living in a tree for more than two years. This is a poem she wrote to herself about letting go, which I believe is key in running a volunteer-based organization. Enjoy!

As I started to picture the trees in the storm,
the answer began to dawn on me. The trees in the
storm don’t try to stand up straight and tall and
erect. They allow themselves to bend and be blown
with the wind. They understand the power of
letting go. Those trees and those branches that
try too hard to stand up strong and straight are
the ones that break. Now is not the time for you
to be strong, or you, too, will break.

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2 Responses to Finding and Maintaining Great Volunteers – Part 1

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