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Effective Volunteer Programs

Many rescue groups are, for the most part, comprised 100% of volunteers. Simply stated, rescue groups couldn’t exist without a consistent base. Creating a structured volunteer program, making it fun and keeping your volunteers invested will help your organization continuously recruit and retain volunteers. Check out our Volunteer Management resources as well as the following articles to get your volunteer program rolling.

Creating Your Volunteer Program

Keeping Your Volunteers Happy

Getting Your Volunteers Invested

One of the most valuable resources for retaining volunteers is through building relationships. When volunteers feel connected to the cause and the people, the rescue group finds itself with enthusiastic and loyal volunteers. With less volunteer turnover, your rescue group can focus its energies on other projects and worry less about building its base. Use the following tips as ideas for creating strong bonds for your volunteers:

  • Throw a volunteer appreciation party.
  • Get to know your volunteers – who they are, what they do, what skills they bring to the table.
  • Try to match up partners who will work well together – volunteering is much more fun with a friend.
  • Send weekly updates to the volunteers letting them know which animals are going to their forever or foster home as well as which ones are coming in.
  • Create an online photo album of the animals in your rescue group.
  • Always be accessible to the volunteers and approach any issues in a non-judgmental manner.


Four-part series on managing volunteers from Hilary Hager of The HSUS National Volunteer Center in conjunction with PetSmart Charities:

  • Part 1: Build it and they will come.
  • Part 2: Recruiting and screening: Find the right people to help in the right ways.
  • Part 3: Teach them well: Training programs for volunteers and the staff who oversee them.
  • Part 4: Caring and Feeding: Keeping your program growing and thriving over the long term.

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