4 Ways to Engage Volunteers During COVID-19

COVID-19 has impacted all aspects of sheltering as we know it—including volunteer programs. While many of you have recruited a new army of fosters, you’ve also had to restrict many volunteers, particularly those in a higher-risk category, from much of the hands-on, in-person roles for the time being. Here are some ideas, courtesy of your colleagues in the field, to keep your volunteers active, engaged and moving forward.

Keep them updated

Just like your staff now working from home, your volunteers miss the day-to-day life at the shelter. Here’s how Evanston Animal Shelter (EAS) and the Humane Society of North Central Florida (HSCNF) are keeping them in the loop:

– Share animal updates on your internal Facebook page
– Hold regular Zoom calls with your volunteers
– Invite them to watch live videos from your shelter. “Our volunteers enjoyed seeing the staff there and so few animals who are not in foster yet,” shared HSNCF.

Keep them learning

All those live and recorded webinars your staff are participating in? Some of them may be perfect for your volunteers. To set them up for success for when they’re able to come back, the Denver Animal Shelter is encouraging their volunteers to take the free Fear Free shelter training

LifeLine Animal Project reports: “We have a virtual Foster University, especially for those who are temporarily fostering during the pandemic. It’s a private group on Facebook. Once a week, we post a challenge to teach their foster dog a new command. We provide an instructional article or video in the post, and ask fosters to send in a photo or video of their dog doing that week’s trick for us.”

Show your appreciation 

Now that many of you are able to take a breath and are sinking in to planning mode, it’s a great time to remind your volunteers how thankful you are for them. HSNCF staff created a volunteer appreciation video (“They LOVED it and felt so appreciated!”) as well as conducted on online Yappy Hour for volunteers to introduce their personal pets to each other.

Find new ways for them to help 

Got tech-savvy volunteers? Now’s a good time to have them help you research and set up virtual events, trainings, and adoptions, as well as train staff who may need assistance with the switch to remote working and learning. EAS invited volunteers to be a part of their food pantry. “A donation of $5 or more would buy half a bag of food. It allowed people to participate without spending a lot of money, and we got a huge response.” 

At Animal Care Centers of NYC, they’ve asked kids to draw pictures of animals available for adoption, which they then add to the animals’ profiles. “Some adults wanted to participate, too,” they report, so artistic volunteers were able to get in on the fun.

What are you doing to engage your volunteers, both virtually and, when possible, in-person? Leave a comment and let us know!

All the great ideas in this post were shared in chat during the recent webinar with Matt Lehrman, Crisis Engagement: 12 Tasks to Sustain Donors in Turbulent Times, a session about maintaining internal and external relationships during crisis.

Matt will be presenting a webinar tomorrow, Tuesday, May 19, and we’d love to see you there! Register now for How to Ask for $ in Tough Times.

Learn More

10 Essential Online Learning Opportunities
How To Take Your Volunteer & Foster Training Online
Webinar, Tuesday, May 19: How to Ask for $ in Tough Times




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