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How to Engage Your Volunteers in the Busy Summer Season

Schools out, which means volunteers are in! Whether or not your program allows juniors under 18, summertime is the busiest for volunteering with college students, adults on seasonal schedules and more ready and willing to help out. So, how do you engage the influx of volunteers, and efficiently direct them into roles that best suit your animals and staff? Here are some fun and relevant ideas to multiply your hands!

  1. Admin Duties – Volunteers don’t need to be Excel experts or Word whizzes to be able to help with admin projects! Utilize a staff member or volunteer coordinator to spend a bit of extra time to train select volunteers on basic admin projects or data entry needs to alleviate some of that pressure from staff in the long run. Volunteers who can write adoptable bios, or even just enter them into your software, can make a huge difference!
  2. Transport – Need animals taken to events, surgery appointments or otherwise? Utilize volunteers who are comfortable with driving one of your vehicles, or their own, with the animals! Just make sure they are added to your insurance, have a clean driving record and a flexible schedule.
  3. Crafts/DIY Needs – Animals need blankets, toys, heating pads and many other items that can actually be handmade! Throw a DIY party for volunteers where you ask for donations (or provide if possible) of supplies and create fleece blankets, toys and more! Helpful, inexpensive resources include pipe cleaners, toilet paper/paper towel rolls, fleece, old T-shirts and feathers. Ask volunteers who can sew to complete even more intricate projects!
  4. Sorting/Organizing – We all know there’s more to animal care than direct animal interaction, and volunteers can understand this as well. With busy schedules and overwhelming staff needs, we tend to let work spaces and storage rooms get over cluttered and overflowing with extra stuff. Create a list of organizing needs, and send out a call out for volunteers who’d like to get their “Marie Kondo” on! This task brings peace to more volunteers than you might think!
  5. Donation Collection – Mobilize your volunteers to go out in their communities and collect resources that are in need! For example, cardboard boxes for litter pans, rags, blankets, toys, pillows, old T-shirts, food bowls and more! Create a “wish list” of needs, and offer volunteer hours for those who can collect items in your own time, which offers more flexibility and open-ended options than volunteering within the shelter!
  6. Use the Great Outdoors – Depending on your location, summertime should be in full bloom, and a great time for dogs (and volunteers) to get out on longer walks, hikes or just take the scenic route! Encourage your volunteers to find unique spots that are dog-friendly, and offer additional exercise or excitement for the dogs, and their handler.

Every shelter or rescue has different needs, but the goal is to identify the areas where volunteers can support, so staff can then focus more on the tasks they are uniquely qualified for! Volunteering can and should be fun, so breaking up the normal routine with outside opportunities will hopefully encourage your crew to stick around and seek out even more roles within the organization!

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