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Volunteer Management: Take Time for Training

Successful volunteer programs rely on well-prepared people matched to the right roles

  • Successful volunteer programs rely on well-prepared people matched to the right roles. istockphoto.com/Eva Madrazo

Over and over again, we see it: Animal welfare agencies caught in a catch-22. They know they need volunteers to help complete the tremendous amount of work that needs to be done, but they often feel they don’t have time to train them. But failing to train volunteers always backfires and leads agencies to lose more time fixing the problems untrained volunteers can create.

Staff members often fear that volunteers will cause more trouble than they’re worth, be disruptive, make high-stakes mistakes, give out incorrect information, or somehow set up the animals for failure. Nearly all of these issues can be prevented with the right training for the right individuals in the right jobs.

It’s critical to figure out what type of program you need and want to have. If you need people who are experts from the get-go, you can recruit only dog trainers and cat whisperers and cut down on your need to train on basic animal handling and training skills. Keep in mind, though, that even if people are experts in a general sense, they will have little understanding of how their knowledge applies in your organization. They will still need orientation to the ground rules and lay of the land.

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