Pandemic Playbook: How to Recruit, Support & Engage Volunteers Virtually

During the Fall Virtual Conference earlier this month, Arizona Humane Society’s Sara Cruz-Mora outlined why technology is a necessity for successful volunteer onboarding. She also shared some great remote roles for volunteers. Read on for her top tips and resources.

Adapting to the Times

As we cannot conduct in-person orientations and training right now, Cruz-Mora stresses the most important thing you can do to retain and grow your base of volunteers: Virtual onboarding and support

And the best way to do this? “Use Learning Management Systems to train volunteers online,” says Cruz-Mora. An LMS is simply a software program that helps you create, manage and deliver e-learning courses. They’re affordable, easy to set up, and allow volunteers to complete their training at their convenience—and they can log on to do so anytime 24/7. What’s more, an LMS will save your staff valuable time. Research shows that the amount of time employees spend training volunteers using an LMS is 40-60% less than with traditional education. Pre-COVID-19, reports Cruz-Mora, AHS used an LMS to train nearly 6,000 people online over 18 months.

Virtual Roles for Volunteers

While AHS has been able to bring back many on-site volunteers, the number is not near pre-COVID level, as shelters all across the country are experiencing. Some volunteers will not feel comfortable engaging in-person, while for others it is simply not an option for health reasons. Cruz-Mora passed on some great ideas for tasks that volunteers can help out with remotely. She also asked session attendees to share what they’re doing at their agencies. Here’s a round-up of virtual roles for volunteers:

  • foster caretaker
  • animal transport
  • remote admin work, such as voicemail transcription and adoption follow-up calls
  • short-term foster/doggie day trips
  • pet detectives to help return lost pets to their owners
  • social media content creation
  • prep of enrichment items and toys (can make at home and drop off at the shelter)
  • bio writing for resident pets

Software Suggestions

Ready to get started or expand your current training? Here are Cruz-Mora’s software platform recommendations, based on the ones that she uses at AHS:

Learn More

Arizona Humane’s volunteer program
Blog: 4 Ways to Engage Volunteers During COVID-19
Blog: 5 New Virtual Roles for Volunteers

Zoë is an extern for The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement. A student at Carleton College in Northfield, MN, she plans to major in Sociology-Anthropology. Her passion for veganism and animal rights inspires her interest in the animal welfare sector.

The Association is the only international society of leaders actively leading and managing community animal shelters/animal control agencies.

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