Event Coordinator
Posted April 19, 2019 at 03:12 PM Under "Organizational Management"
Volunteer Program


We at the Nevada SPCA are looking for some help on volunteer programs. We've had the same system in place for a while now, which isn't really a system, it's kind of a volunteer free for all and we would like to implement a structured program, policies, and guidelines set for our volunteers as well as possibly switching our software. If you have any suggestions or handouts for application, manuals, guidelines etc. I could really use some help.

- What do you allow volunteers to do? ( Walk dogs, Clean Kennels, Feed animals, playgroups etc. )

- Do you allow volunteers to gets dogs from kennels alone or with a buddy system?

- Do you require a volunteer training and if so how is it implemented?

- Do you have set times for volunteers to come?

etc...any advise is greatly appreciated.

Thank You!

  • May 24, 2019 at 06:40 AM

    The Fairfax County Animal Shelter has one of the best volunteer programs I've seen in my travels. Volunteers can do basically everything- laundry, walking dogs, checking fosters in and out for field trips, answering phones, etc. Volunteers are mentored by other experienced volunteers, who have a checklist of things to go through with them. This makes it so much easier on the volunteer coordinator (she's now moved into management, but she's still there). They have so many volunteers that dogs get walked 3-5 times a day and they often close applications and only take apps that are personal references from other volunteers. I'm happy to introduce you if you'd like- send me an email or IM!

  • May 21, 2019 at 10:14 AM

    1. Our volunteers can: walk/rotate dogs, clean/feed, help in playgroups, socialize cats, welcome adopters, counsel for potential adoptions, surgery prep/wake up, surgical packs, transport animals to various partners, assist with enrichment prep and delivery, laundry, dishes, and recently even photography.

    2. Volunteers receive an emailed powerpoint that covers the 'basics' of what to expect and what positions we need filled. Then they schedule an actual one-on-one with our volunteer coordinator. At that time, they receive a tour and go over specifically what their potential 'tasks' may entail.

    3. Volunteers can retrieve (no pun intended) approved dogs for playgroups and/or walks after their trainer has 'released' them.

    4. Volunteers can come to the shelter after completion of their training as long as staff are still present in the building. M-F they can come anytime between 7am-6pm then Sat/Sun they can come 7am-4pm.

  • May 20, 2019 at 01:29 PM

    This sounds A LOT like the program I inherited a year ago :) The biggest thing to remember is to be steadfast in your changes! People don't like change, but that doesn't mean it isn't good for them - you're doing the best you can for the organization, don't forget that :)

    - What do you allow volunteers to do? ( Walk dogs, Clean Kennels, Feed animals, playgroups etc. ): We really offer anything to them! While we are still working on adding some structure to the volunteer side, if a volunteer is interested in working in our Parvo room, we train them and let them work in there. If they just want to help with laundry, we train them and put them there. If they want to help with marketing, etc., etc... I think the biggest mistake an organization can do is limit the roles of their volunteers. EVERYONE (including staff) was new at one point - just focus on training and communication!

    - Do you allow volunteers to gets dogs from kennels alone or with a buddy system? Alone. Once they have completed our Basic Dog Handling class, they are paired with a mentor for their first walk, and once that is completed they are free to walk on their own.

    - Do you require a volunteer training and if so how is it implemented? Yes. Half our Orientation is online (www.kcpetproject.org/volunteer), and then they complete a Shelter Tour. Once the Shelter Tour is complete, they work with a mentor for their very first shift (essentially, an intro to the shelter - and they are shown how to do basic, non-animal handling tasks like enrichment, watering, sanitation, organizing, etc). Once they complete our Cat 101, or Basic Dog Handling class, they are able to handle the animals.

    - Do you have set times for volunteers to come? For certain programs we do. For example, our playgroup volunteers are only needed in the AM when we do play groups, so we have them sign up. Otherwise, if it's kind of an open-program, we just ask that they put themselves on the schedule when they are going to come in so we know that help is on the way ;)

    Good luck - and feel free to reach out if you'd like to chat more :) Alyssa.Willett@kcmo.org

  • April 30, 2019 at 10:05 AM


    At Austin Pets Alive! we utilize volunteers in basically every job function. Our general process is:

    -online orientation video

    -in-person tour

    - 2 "jump start" activities (such as laundry, bowl washing; general tasks that help the overall shelter but require minimal training)

    - team specific training: this is where the training gets specialized for each program. For example, the neonatal nursery program has their own orientation, and requires volunteers to do 2 shadow shifts with a volunteer trainer, who then has to "check off" on all the skills required to be learned.

    scheduling - we are trying to push all teams to utilize the scheduling feature in Better Impact (our volunteer management software). Some teams require it (such as parvo and neonatal), and other teams are in transition (dog walking).

    all volunteers have to go through at least some training, depending on the tasks they're doing. For example, prepping kongs requires much less training than walking dogs or running dogs to playgroup.

    I hope that helps! feel free to reach out if you'd like more information!

  • April 24, 2019 at 01:37 PM

    As a volunteer myself, I like having a set time. I've volunteered at "free for all" organizations and sometimes there are just too many volunteers and I wonder why I am there. Best Friends uses Digital Cheetah and you can see on a calendar where help is needed. I have a somewhat flexible schedule, so it's nice to see where they need help the most.

    FWIW, of the shelters I have volunteered at in the NYC area, I've never needed a buddy to get a dog from its kennel.

    HSSV has job descriptions for their volunteers and accepts new volunteers on an as-needed basis. (You can read more about that in a blog post we wrote).

  • April 22, 2019 at 12:23 PM

    All of the resources for the Maddie's Volunteer Engagement Apprenticeship at PAWS Chicago are publicly available at Maddie's University https://www.maddiesuniversity.org/. There are tons of Volunteer training resources available to download there. In the catalog, go to Maddie's Apprenticeships/Maddie's Apprenticeship Resources, and look for the Maddie's Optimizing Volunteer Engagement Apprenticeship.

    There are also many training materials specific to particular volunteer areas in other apprenticeships. (Cat and dog fosters, for example.)

    • April 23, 2019 at 07:48 AM

      Those resources appear to be locked unless you have been accepted into a mentorship program and have a code. Is that the case? Thanks!

      • April 30, 2019 at 09:11 AM

        Hi, Lori: No, we have cohort classes for onsite apprenticeship students that require a code, but the resources for the apprenticeships are publicly available. In the catalog, go to Maddie's Apprenticeships, and click on Maddie's Apprenticeship Resources. There you'll see two categories, one for resources for the apprenticeships in Austin, and one for all other locations. If you have any difficulty accessing them, shoot an email to maddiesuniversity@maddiesfund.org.

  • April 20, 2019 at 07:20 AM

    We allow volunteers to do what their interested in doing, depending on their age, but require a 50/50 approach. We ask that volunteers spend 50% of their time supporting the staff with daily tasks like laundry, dishes, scooping, cleaning, etc. Then we say the other 50% of the time can be spent interacting with the animals whether it's socializing, walking, training, etc.

    We absolutely require training on all volunteering whether it be with day to day tasks or animal interaction. For safety purposes, everyone should know what they are doing via your SOPs and for the safety of the animals. After our volunteer orientations, we have trainings either with staff or mentor volunteers to train the new volunteers on everything. If they can't make a specific training, we work with them to find a time that will work for them and for the trainer. We don't want anyone to not be able to do what they are interested in, but we also do not let any volunteers do any tasks or animal work without the proper training.

    Our dog program is particularly detailed. We have safety videos in our first training, then move to how to enter and exit kennels while looking for others that are in the areas they are with dogs, we have equipment orientation such as how to properly harness and leash dogs, and they work with a K9 Coach (staff or trained volunteer) on socializing, walking and training BEFORE they are on their own. This way we know all volunteers working with the dogs are properly trained.

    We allow volunteers to both set themselves a consistent schedule or show up when it's convenient for them because not everyone has the same availability, but we give them the training necessary so they are prepared to come in and work on their own as well, when they come in they are to help with the tasks or animal interaction that is available in that time frame. For instance, we don't have any volunteers come in to socialize in the mornings because that is when cleaning needs to be done. We don't have dog walkers in the middle of the day because of our Caribbean climate, etc.

    By this summer we will have fully implemented the scheduling system in Volgistics so the volunteers can either schedule themselves digitally or when they show up they can look on the digital calendar, see who is here doing what and able to choose a task that no one else is doing. This empowers them to feel utilized and does not take away the staff from what they are doing to have to find something for the volunteers to do. It's a win win for both.

    Hope this helps!

    • April 22, 2019 at 09:47 AM

      Tiffany, Would you be willing to email the links to the safety videos and other resources to me. The link that you provided doesnlt work for me. Thank you. pethealth@spcabc.org

    • April 21, 2019 at 07:34 AM

      It sounds like you have a wonderful volunteer program and are training them well. I volunteer at a shelter that is just now starting a volunteer program. We are not organized as of yet but hopefully, we will be soon. Would you be able to share the links of the videos that you share with your volunteers? I would love to watch them to give us ideas on how to help the volunteers at our shelter in Texas.

      • April 21, 2019 at 09:56 AM

        Hi Debra! The only videos we do are the ones for dog safety. Everything else we train on is hands on with a staff member or mentor volunteer. However I have attached our adult volunteer orientation power point to see if that helps you as well as our Dog Safety orientation power point which has all the links to the videos that we use for dog safety! Let me know if you have any questions!

        • April 22, 2019 at 09:47 AM

          Wow Tiffany. Looks awesome.