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The College of Animal Welfare

Animal care volunteers
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Animal care volunteers
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6 Ways to Inspire and Develop Your Animal Care Volunteers

Whether it be helping to care for the animals, or providing assistance with fundraising, administration and marketing; many animal welfare charities and organisations seek volunteers to support their work and mission.

Nurturing a reliable, loyal animal care volunteer force can be challenging, but is worth the time and effort it takes. If you’re working in an animal shelter or animal charity; take a look at our top tips for keeping volunteer commitment alive:

1. Know what your animal care volunteers want

People volunteer in animal care for all different reasons – to give something back to the community, to meet new people, to gain new skills and experience, to work with animals or simply for enjoyment and personal satisfaction. Make sure you know what they are looking to get out of volunteering, so that you can shape their experience with this in mind.

2. Provide challenges and opportunities for development

Volunteers aren’t there to just do the menial tasks your paid staff don’t want to do. Most volunteers will want to maximize the contribution they can make to your organisation and be given the opportunity to develop skills and gain new experiences.

It’s important for you to recognise when volunteers can take on new responsibilities, or create opportunities for them to take on leadership roles if they wish. You can also encourage and support your volunteers in undertaking animal care courses to help them build more confidence and skills, such as an animal care diploma.

You could even consider taking on your most loyal and promising volunteers as apprentices, if the budget is available. Apprenticeships can be a cost effective way of expanding your numbers of paid staff, so it is worth exploring what animal care apprenticeships are all about and discover the benefits they could bring to your organisation.

3. Create a welcoming workplace

Keep in mind that many people volunteer because of the opportunities for social interaction, and all volunteers want to feel welcome. Make sure you create opportunities for volunteers to interact and get to know paid staff, visitors and other volunteers. This way, you will ensure volunteers feel connected to your organisation and part of something bigger!

4. Prioritise communication

When it comes to animal care volunteer coordination and development, good communication counts. Make sure you have an open door policy for any questions or concerns your volunteers may have. You should also be easily contactable in the event of an emergency. It might also be useful to have one-to-one catch ups with your volunteers, to ensure they are happy in their role and that they understand what they need to do and the opportunities of progression that are open to them will also be useful. You can also improve your communication skills as a manager by undertaking a formal leadership and management qualification.

5. Recognise and celebrate achievement

Praise and recognition plays a huge part in keeping animal care volunteers feeling motivated. Don’t underestimate how much a small little gesture of gratitude, such as sending a thank you card, can make someone feel valued.

6. Be accommodating

Ultimately, your animal care volunteers are giving up their free time in order to help you. Many will have busy lives outside of their volunteer work, so it pays to be as flexible where possible. For example, being understanding when they need to take time off or are unable to work their usual routine. 

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