Keeping successful foster caregivers happy, motivated and appreciated is one of the top ways to increase your foster retention.
Thank you to all foster-caregivers. Pets are our lives❤️❤️❤️
We usually post a public thank you on our fb page. We like to buy little doggy type tokens on special occasions when money allows.
With my foster program, I make sure to always send a personal thank you card that all the staff sign. I know it is an extra effort to have staff take time out of their busy day to do this, but I feel it has been very appreciated by the fosters! And as we know, we couldn't do it without them! We also throw a foster/volunteer appreciation party. We do a raffle with cool dog and cat items, or our "swag." Food and drinks are provided. This is a really big hit among our fosters and a lot of them show up!
We send out Thank you Cards and we are the BEST Huggers in the world! (😎).Fosters are our heroes. (Fearless Kitty Rescue)
I have received cards, and all are appreciated but not as much as getting updates on how the cats and kittens are doing. Even the sad news of illness and deaths. However rare that sad news happens it is more than out weighed by hearing how well the fosters are doing. It can be a update posted generally for any of the rescues or a text with a personal message regarding my specific fosters. And that for me is the best show of appreciation that my volunteer efforts have meaning going forward that does not end after delivery of the kittens to the new home.
I don't think this is necessarily the intent of the question, but as an occasional foster I will say the best way to thank me is to keep your promises (not intended to sound snarky! :-)) Life happens to all of us, especially in rescue, but I have never fostered and had the agreement upheld. Invariably, I have the animal longer than planned or promised supplies & reimbursements are never provided or my calls, texts, emails are not returned in a timely, professional manner. While the supplies, expenses or extra time are not usually a problem for me, there seems to be consistent feedback that most fosters experience this. As such, I would think people are hesitant to continue fostering which means organizations spend more time recruiting new ones. And, of course, you do want to recruit new fosters and grow your network but not for the wrong reasons.
There's a rule in business...it costs an average of five times more to win a new customer than it does to retain an existing customer...or in this case foster provider. I don't think people who offer to foster expect anything extra. As mentioned, cards with updates on "their" fosters are certainly appreciated and a favorite. One of my former fosters has his own instagram account which makes for a fun & easy way to keep in touch. I think also promoting what is being accomplished by your foster programs as a whole helps reinforce the idea that people are part of a successful program and are truly contributing and making a difference. <3
Communication in a timely manner would be nice and a realistic length of stay for the foster. Those are two of my frustrations with fostering. If the fosters were honestly told about the dog/cat needs and time in your care, we would be able to plan. Fosters have lives too.
As a fosterer and a foster coordinator, my dream would be to have someone willing to be a respite fosterer for cats who have have overstayed their welcome with a fosterer. We honestly don't always know how long an animal will need to be in foster (and I feel that we DO tell people that as best we can but we also need to be clear with people that the stay MIGHT be shorter than they are expecting... and I think those 2 can get muddled in people's mind). I absolutely understand that sometimes people need a break from fostering.
Here's my example: Today I said goodbye to a foster that came to me when I was only a fosterer. She was with me for 800+ days. She was supposed to be coming for a 'break' from the adoption center but every time she went back she reverted to the same behavior. (which was aggressive and which scared volunteers.... and we like to keep those volunteers coming back.) The adoption center manager simply did not know that that's what would happen. Fortunately she was an easy cat in a home setting and I always knew that if I truly needed her out of my house my director would work with me to make that happen.
Maybe what we need to do is to give the more predictable fosters to those who absolutely need to know the timeline and save the less predictable ones for people with more flexibility? As a foster coordinator, I know we don't give people dates for when their cat will be out of foster because we just don't know when there will be space in our adoption center. However, it DOES become obvious when a cat is going to be long stay (I've had 3 with me for over 300 days) and I think it's important for there to be an honest dialogue between fosterer and foster coordinator or director about how to proceed.
The other issue that comes up is behavior/medical concerns/etc. Sometimes what looks like a minor issue becomes chronic and extends time in foster. That's another situation where I think there needs to be very open and honest communication about what a foster can and can't do.
So much of this is about communication. I think we all really need to be heard.
We always do a post on our Organization Facebook page and within our Foster group Facebook page when animals are adopted.
We also recently hosted a potluck at someone's house to celebrate our fosters. We bought burgers (vegan and beef) and "the fixings" for those, and everyone helped with sides/dessert. We had raffle items and everyone got to take something home (put everyone's name in a hat and first draw gets first pick on all items, second draw goes next, etc, etc). The leadership team (myself and 3 others) met up earlier in the week and wrote out thank you cards for each foster that we gave out at the event. We mailed cards for the fosters who did not attend. It went over really well, was very affordable, and we're planning to make the "Foster Appreciation Potluck" a regular thing!