If you run an animal shelter or rescue, you probably have volunteers. But are you aware of all the things those volunteers do for you?
I did some poking around to find out just what volunteers do, and I was pretty surprised. I also spoke with Petful’s managing editor, Kristine Lacoste, to find out what she liked best — and least — about her time volunteering at her local animal shelter.
Let’s take a look at some of the things volunteers do.
The most important commitment that a volunteer makes is with his or her time.
We’re all busy with families, jobs and responsibilities. When shelter volunteers offer their time, it’s a sign of true dedication because they’re telling you, “I’m making your organization a priority.” These people are committed to helping both the animals in need and your organization, usually for nothing in return.
Not Just the Fun Stuff
If you run a shelter or rescue, you’re probably aware that there are many more aspects to the job than just playing with the animals.
Animal care is a priority, but volunteers and employees also handle tasks like cleaning kennels, marketing, social media, community awareness, clerical work and much more. Your volunteers are your multitasking heroes.
Take Kristine, for example. “I loved volunteering at the animal shelter,” she says. “Whether it was cuddling lonely dogs or socializing kittens, I looked forward to it every weekend. I donated items they needed and helped them set up a wish list to increase donations. I spent my own money and solicited donations from friends and family all the time.”
When you have volunteers to take on so many tasks, not only are you gaining dedicated people for your organization, but also you’re able to save money and put it toward more rescue and care.
Volunteers aren’t just in it for the joy of a wagging tail — they’re also prepared to face heartbreak. It’s difficult to see pets arrive in terrible condition and watch them get euthanized because no claimed them.
None of that stops your volunteers from helping to save and rehabilitate animals, and maybe even find them their forever homes.
Although it’s not as dangerous as some other jobs, shelter volunteering isn’t always guaranteed to be an injury-free experience.
Abused animals are often fearful or confused, and sometimes aggressive. This may cause the animals to lash out — catching a volunteer off guard. The volunteers are there because their desire to help animals far outweighs the possibility of harm.
Understand the risks your volunteers take every day. They know that, in many cases, if they are injured they will have to pay medical care out of their own pocket.
This lucky volunteer gets to spend quality time playing with cats:
How to Say “Thank You”
There are many things you can do to thank your volunteers, even if your organization is low on funds:
- Say thanks often.
- Take a “Volunteer of the Month” picture and hang it in a high-traffic area.
- Recognize volunteers on social media.
- Acknowledge volunteers when they go above and beyond.
- Credit volunteers with their ideas that your organization puts into practice.
If your shelter or rescue uses volunteers, you’re lucky — they sure do a lot. Saying “thank you” goes a long way, and you’ll have volunteers who will always be willing to go the extra mile.
Kristine was a volunteer dynamo, but she eventually grew disheartened. “Not once did I receive any appreciation or recognition for the time, effort, money or creativity that I brought to the organization,” she says. “It was an easy decision to redirect my efforts elsewhere.”
So to anyone who runs a rescue or an animal shelter, remember: Thank your volunteers. They’re worth it.