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8 Ways You Can Help as a Cat Shelter Volunteer

There's a lot more to do than just fostering.

 |  Feb 28th 2013  |   4 Contributions


As the former president of a local no-kill animal shelter, I recognize the importance of having reliable volunteers with varied expertise and backgrounds. Volunteers are the life-blood of any rescue organization. Without volunteers, the rescue organization wouldn’t survive or thrive.

While some areas such as fostering cats and participating on the organization’s board of directors are obvious ways that you can participate, there are many other ways to volunteer that you may not have considered. Here are eight of them.

1. Socialization

Tuxedo cat in a shelter by Shutterstock.

Socializing is very rewarding and extremely important. Socializing provides kittens and cats with the opportunity to interact with people on a one-to-one basis. If kittens and cats aren’t socialized sufficiently with people, they may not fit in as well at their new homes. Socializing cats involves petting them, playing with them, brushing them, cleaning their living areas, and just spending quality time with them. It’s a great way for children to get used to being around cats while at the same time spending time with their parents and supporting the animals.

2. Adoptions

Shelter cat by Shutterstock.

Finding the right forever home is the goal for any cat being adopted from a rescue organization. Volunteers are needed to talk with potential adopting families. Transportation members are needed to securely load and drive the animals to the adoption locations. Also, a lot of organizations require a home visit before the cat is adopted.

3. Fundraising

Without a steady stream of financial donations, a rescue organization can’t operate successfully. I know from experience that it takes a lot of money to run a rescue organization. Creative and organized volunteers are always needed to coordinate fundraising events. The events can be as simple as a matching gifts program to an annual ball featuring a silent auction, dinner, and dancing. Those with a strong skillset in sales, management, and project planning would be ideal for fundraising.

4. Website maintenance

Repair icons by Shutterstock.

A rescue organization always needs an up-to-date website so that people can view information about adoptable cats, adoption events, and donation needs. Volunteers with skills in website development, computer support, marketing, and creative design are ideal for this area.

5. Community outreach

Gaining the local community’s support is vital to a rescue organization. Some of the best volunteers come from local schools, businesses, and other non-profit organizations. Someone with public speaking skills would be ideal for this volunteer opportunity.

6. Grant writing

Signing a Grant Contract from Shutterstock.com

Grants specifically for animal-related causes are offered by many different sources including corporations, other non-profit groups, family trusts, and all levels of the government. Thorough research is needed to determine application deadlines and the qualifications necessary to receive these types of funds. Some of the grant applications are very basic while others require detailed financials, videos, and essays to be submitted. Grants can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. Someone who’s very organized, enjoys research, is experienced in accounting, and has superb writing skills would be ideal for the area of grant writing.

7. Legislative monitoring

Volunteers who participate in this area keep appraised of legislative issues that pertain to animals at the county, state, and national levels. These include initiatives and laws being proposed to ban the use of gas chambers when euthanizing animals at county shelters, anti-dog fighting laws, anti-tethering laws, homeless pets initiatives, spay/neuter initiatives, as well as trap, neuter, return initiatives. Attending local and state-level meetings to monitor and speak on behalf of the animals is essential if we are to enact better laws to protect animals of all types. Someone with a legal or law enforcement background and public speaking and networking abilities would be best suited in this area.

8. Writing publications

Typewriter and phone by Shutterstock.

Those who enjoy writing articles and compiling information for brochures, membership drive letters, fliers, monthly newsletters, and press releases for local print and online outlets are always needed. Someone with experience in public relations and creative writing would be great for this opportunity.

These eight areas comprise just a small fraction of ways that you can get involved and support your local animal rescue organization. When I was trying to choose which of the local rescue organizations to volunteer with, I was given the following advice: “Volunteer with an organization that’s close to your home and choose an area that matches your skills and interests. That increases the chances of you making the time to volunteer a few hours a week or month.”

I will add to that to have fun, don’t commit to something that you can’t follow through with, and always keep in mind that what you’re doing is making a difference for our furry friends.

Read more by Tim Link:

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