Finding Volunteers for Your Animal Shelter

Be aggressive and creative in asking for low-cost and/or volunteer professional services. Following are some places you may find helpful:

Local colleges

If you’ve ever taken a class in media arts, such as photography or graphic arts, or in web design, you know that multiple projects are assigned throughout the semester. Why not partner with teachers of these courses to take on your shelter for projects that have real meaning?

Check the next semester’s catalog and locate teachers for credit and continuing education courses. Ask for ongoing help each semester, help for just this semester, or at a minimum, 30-minute brainstorming sessions. If you’re turned down by one teacher, move on to someone else.

  • Photography. Digital photography teachers could assign a project in which students photograph the homeless pets at your shelter. Even better if they can add clever captions for each animal.
  • Graphic arts. Get help with designing newsletters, newspaper ads, etc.
  • Marketing. A marketing class could develop fundraising ideas for your shelter. What kinds of events? How to advertise? How to execute? How to measure the results? Local residents should be helpful in generating ideas suitable for your area. Also, ask for ideas to make your website more effective for fundraising, volunteer requests, etc. Get marketing ideas BEFORE you have a website designed/updated.
  • Even a thirty-minute brainstorming session would be valuable if you can’t get ongoing help. For example, ask a teacher for thirty minutes of ideas for fundraising events for your shelter.
    The next semester asks her for thirty minutes of brainstorming about ways to attract more volunteers, etc.
  • Website development and maintenance. Have a design based on a template that a staff member can easily update as animals come and go. Have a list in hand of ideas you want to include in the fundraising, donation, volunteer, event sections BEFORE you speak with web designers. Check the page on website tips for more information.

Post “volunteers wanted” signs on bulletin boards at relevant departments in community colleges.

If you can’t get ongoing help from a teacher, ask about posting signs. Emphasize that even a few hours will help. Include a photo of a homeless pet in your sign with wording such as:

“Take my photo! Digital photographers needed to showcase the winning smiles of adorable homeless pets. We need to find homes before our time runs out. Contact ABC shelter if you can spare a few hours.”

“Hey website designers: My website at ABC shelter needs work. You’ll be in my heart forever if you donate just a few hours. Call me at xxx or email me at xxx.”

“Hey marketing gurus: We need more food at XYZ shelter! Give us your best ideas on setting up a pet food bank. Call me at xxx or email me at xxx.”

Ask local companies specializing in the help you need for pro bono work or at least discounted services.

For example, check with a web designer, a graphic design firm, photographers, etc. Some small companies can’t afford to give away the cost of a project but might consider a discount. Ask for it! You should always mention any companies who’ve offered free or discounted services in your newsletter, on your website, or in any communication you have. Animal lovers notice this and may give them business.

Many newspapers have a “volunteers needed” section at least one day a week.

Include your volunteer needs in this section in both the print and online versions of the paper.

Put “help wanted” notices throughout your community

Other places you can ask for help include church bulletins, library bulletin boards, and newsletters from professional organizations that offer the services you need, such as photography clubs, writers groups, etc.

Develop an email list for volunteers

Develop a systematic way to collect names from your website, events your facility participates in, etc. Take advantage of any opportunity to grab the email address of a potential volunteer and/or donor.

List your volunteer needs on your website. Be specific: work at the front desk, walk dogs, interview potential adopters, etc.

Build this list and offer the opportunity to unsubscribe. Send emails to the volunteers with as much notice as possible to let them know of future volunteer needs you have. Many people would be willing to give a few hours occasionally if they only knew what you need.

You can choose from a variety of online services to manage the email addresses and provide templates for a professional newsletter for volunteers.

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