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Volunteer Management: Avoiding the Bait and Switch

Make sure your promises to prospective volunteers match reality

Culture can be communitywide or nationwide, and within the world of animal shelters, individual organizations have their own cultures, their own atmospheres, ways of doing things, and sets of shared values and goals. Organizational culture is often heavily influenced by the organizational mission, but equally influenced by the people who work there.

It’s common practice for volunteer managers to clarify the mission, vision, and values of their organization as they help prospective volunteers decide whether to become a part of it. Less emphasis is placed on the common culture of the people already working in the organization—and the two cultures of employees and volunteers are often worlds apart.

Shelters are organized to help animals, but it’s the human animal that can often have the greatest effect on the working environment. Each organization has a rich undercurrent of individual personalities, experiences, and interpersonal skills and styles that can affect a volunteer’s experience. Every animal organization engaging volunteers should aim to create a vision for successfully incorporating them into the organization’s work. Will volunteers be seen as vitally important partners who add value? Will the organization commit to developing a professional volunteer program—one managed by dedicated staff? Will the organization’s appreciation of volunteers be incorporated into communication at every level?

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