Offsite Adoptions: Ten Point Checklist for Volunteers

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The girl communicates with a stray dog on the street. Pet the dog.

Offsite adoption events are widely used by many shelters and rescues to increase homeless pet adoptions. Many animal lovers don’t like to go to animal shelters. And, you can often reach many more people even though it does require more planning and effort on your part. Volunteers for these or any events may become donors and/or spread the word about your group to their friends. Make sure each volunteer feels his / her time was well spent making a worthy contribution for homeless pets. Here are ten ideas for working more effectively with volunteers at offsite adoption events.

Give everyone instructions on what they’re to do. This may sound obvious but often the event becomes rather chaotic when volunteers are arriving and no one takes time to give directions. You can do this by email prior to the event. For example, specify who will help adopters complete paperwork, who will get pets out of cages for potential adopters, etc. Don’t forget to make contact with new volunteers in your group so they feel they’re making an important contribution.

Give specific directions of where the event is and any special parking requirements, clothing needs, etc. This is even more important when volunteers drive a distance to another community and may not be familiar with the area. You may need help setting up and don’t want volunteers to be late as they search for your location and parking.

Instruct volunteers to arrange the crates/cages to maximize the number of people who will see each pet. For example, if space is limited, consider placing the puppies and kittens toward the back. Many people will look for them rather than the older pets, and younger pets are often the first to be adopted at an adoption event. I’ve seen pets on the “first row” of cages be quickly adopted as people don’t walk past the first row to see the other pets. When this happens, be ready to move some pets toward the front as cages empty out.

Experiment with the placement of the pets and traffic flow. Just as you see retailers place items for sale toward the back of the store, use that principle for placement of pets that are “less adoptable.” Be careful to keep animals together which have shared quarters in the shelter to minimize behavioral issues at the event.

If you have enough volunteers, don’t accept more volunteer offers. It’s frustrating to volunteer for an event and see that you are not needed.

Assign volunteers to keep cages clean and refresh water bowls. I’ve seen filthy cages as the day progresses with no one working to clean them. Clean pets are much more appealing to pick up and play with.

Take digital photos at the event, including “beginning” and “ending” shots to show your progress, and post these on your website. Arrange for a volunteer to do this ahead of time.

Write a thank-you email afterward to your volunteers and let them know how many pets were adopted and any specifics that may be of interest. For example, if only a few dogs were left, mention which ones. It’s possible a volunteer may have an idea for placing those pets.

Post on your website, your blog, Facebook page, your email newsletter, and anywhere you communicate your success story from the adoption event, including photos and how many pets found homes. Often shelters or rescues write about upcoming events but they don’t publish the results to the community. It’s always good to let animal lovers and donors what you are accomplishing. Many potential donors and volunteers may review your website to see what kind of events you plan, the money you’ve raised, the number of adoptions at your events, etc.

Maintain an email list of your volunteers and ask them to volunteer at future offsite adoption events or fundraising events.

Also, see the blog post Are Volunteers the Biggest Donors to Your Animal Shelter or Rescue?

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