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  • 1.  Shelter Volunteer Orientations

    Posted 19 days ago

    Hi All:

    I'm looking for suggestions/guidance. We are a small non-profit shelter with limited resources, limited staff and a dedicated but small group of volunteers (most are fairly new since the pandemic). We are re-building our volunteer programs post-pandemic and right now we are tweaking our volunteer program/processes as we are getting in quite a few new applicants and it is getting harder to manage.

    Our General Shelter Orientation/Tour lasts approximately 1 hour; they receive a tour of the facility; information about our community programs; information about our facility and our goals for the future;  they are told they have to sign up for shifts and attend program specific training and will receive additional information regarding their chosen volunteer program. We typically hold 1- Orientation/month and occasionally 2.

    Our typical process is:
    New applicants send in application. They receive a "welcome/thank you for your interest" email with the next scheduled Volunteer Orientation Date time listed. They must confirm attendance and are added to our orientation schedule. If no one is scheduled, we cancel the date and reschedule. An email goes out stating the orientation is cancelled, so no one just shows up. Applicants who do not attend or respond to the welcome email are added to a list and sent upcoming orientation dates.

    Once they attend the General Shelter Orientation/Tour, they receive an email with their next steps which are dependent on whether they volunteer in Cattery or on K9 Crew. (K9 Crew is much more structured for safety and training consistency) 

    So... my questions are:

    • For those of you who hold scheduled Group General Shelter Orientation/Tours for new volunteer applicants, how many do you have per month?
    • Are they held on the weekend or during the week? Both?
    • Do you make exceptions for new applicants and hold one-off orientations for individuals? 
    • Last but not least, how do you handle a brand-new volunteer who is resistant to signing up online for shifts using Volgistics (she stated from the beginning she hates computers), began complaining about our policies and procedures, bad mouthing our shelter to her K9 Mentor and ignoring our dress code on her first day? (We do not allow tank tops and it is written (in red) in the volunteer handbook which she received). I had an uneasy feeling about her from the very beginning and now that she had her first mentored shift for our K9 Crew, honestly, my hope is she just doesn't return. 

    Note: The Shelter Orientation/Tour is led by one of our awesome volunteers so we are very limited on shift availability. Staff does not handle volunteer Orientations. 

    Any thoughts would be helpful!
    Thank you! 
    Ann


    #PeopleManagement(includingVolunteerIntegration)

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    ann traynor-plowman
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  • 2.  RE: Shelter Volunteer Orientations

    Posted 19 days ago
    Hey Ann!

    I'm thrilled to hear that a fellow shelter is looking to re-vamp their orientation/onboarding process and hope that I can be of some assistance.

    First, I would encourage you to look at the onboarding process as a "meet them where they're at" kind of program. Meaning, if you have only 1 or 2 orientations a month, and if they're only provided when the volunteer has time, you potentially could be limiting who can come in and help. For example, if your orientations are only on Saturdays, but you have someone who spends Saturdays at work, but they have weekday availability, they'll never get in the door since that's step 1 is orientation. 
    Post Covid, we converted our orientation to being a video link that's on our private youtube channel. So, once a volunteer is approved, they receive an email with 2 links, 1 to our orientation video and the other to our Google Docs survey to confirm they've viewed the video & to sign up for what roles they're interested in learning. This now takes that extra task off of a volunteer/staff member, and allows the incoming volunteers to onboard when works for them....be it 6pm after work on a Tuesday, or 5am after a morning run on a Sunday. Our video is approx. 15-20 minutes and it's nothing fancy, but I can add/edit parts of it as things change such as our mask policy, etc. The bulk of it in fact was filmed on my iphone.

    Second, in regards to the volunteer who is resistant to your structure. We also use Volgistics & it's a requirement that all volunteers, regardless of role, sign up for their shifts in advance. We follow the same structure with our volunteers that we do for staff. So, the first conversation is a verbal warning to follow our procedures and have them view that they did in fact sign their Code of Conduct & agree to our rules. The second time is a written warning and the third time is termination from our facility. Volunteers should be viewed as a workforce, not a workload, and unfortunately, not everyone will align with your facility's mission/vision/values, and that's okay! 

    I hope that helps, and I'm happy to support you in any way that I can! You're clearly doing an awesome job providing structure to your program and this will ultimately lead to a stronger, larger volunteer team! Good luck!

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    Sarah Sukhram
    Vol. & Foster Coordinator
    Pasco County Animal Services
    Land O' Lakes, FL
    https://www.pascocountyfl.net/408/Animal-Services
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  • 3.  RE: Shelter Volunteer Orientations

    Posted 18 days ago
    Hiya Sarah!

    Thank you so much for the reply!

    What all do you include in your online shelter orientation to make it a success? Do you include policies/procedures, dress codes ect...? Have you had any issues with new applicants really not reading or paying attention to the orientation video and just signing the survey then not following the rules? Once they have had the orientation do they receive specific program training? 

    We actually tried something similar  as we were slowly opening back up after closing down volunteers during the height  of the pandemic. (we sent an email with information)

    We do occasionally offer 1-offs if someone truly cannot come on the scheduled orientation dates.
    Example: So as not to burden our volunteer who typically leads the orientation, I'm holding a 1-off on Monday to someone who works at a plant and is not typically off when we have orientations, and a mother & son who plays baseball on the weekends.  

    Thank you again for your input!
    Ann

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    ann traynor-plowman
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  • 4.  RE: Shelter Volunteer Orientations

    Posted 17 days ago
    Here are the answers to your questions below for how our volunteer program runs...

    • For those of you who hold scheduled Group General Shelter Orientation/Tours for new volunteer applicants, how many do you have per month?
      Right now we are holding 2-3 a month. Normally it is 2 twice a month, but with the increased volume of community members wanting to get involved, we've added in an extra day. Two are via zoom each month and one is in person (this gives people choices for their comfort level). 
    • Are they held on the weekend or during the week? Both?
      We do both to make sure that we are being as inclusive to people and their schedules as possible. We schedule one Saturday a month and the other two are late afternoon midweek days. 
    • Do you make exceptions for new applicants and hold one-off orientations for individuals? 
      No, and I learned the hard way with this. People that really want to get involved (which will be most) will rearrange their schedules to make it. But if you are offering different days and times of the week, people should have more availability for attending your trainings. I also think it really adds an element of professionalism to have set dates and times for trainings. 
    • Last but not least, how do you handle a brand-new volunteer who is resistant to signing up online for shifts using Volgistics (she stated from the beginning she hates computers), began complaining about our policies and procedures, bad mouthing our shelter to her K9 Mentor and ignoring our dress code on her first day? (We do not allow tank tops and it is written (in red) in the volunteer handbook which she received). I had an uneasy feeling about her from the very beginning and now that she had her first mentored shift for our K9 Crew, honestly, my hope is she just doesn't return. 
      If I was in this situation with a volunteer like this, I would have a face-to-face or phone call conversation. I would see what the hesitations are to get a better understanding of how to hopefully make it work. However, I would also address the badmouthing and dress code (in case she forgot...give her the benefit the first time). That kind of negative attitude can really have an effect on others (staff and vols). At the end of the day, your shelter is set up a certain way, because it works. Explaining that process and the reasons behind your policies and procedures can help you both get on the same page. If they are still unwilling to get on board, I would let them go. I would let them know that because of XYZ, it is no longer working. That volunteering should be fun and feel good and that they seem very unhappy and that's not good for them or your org. I usually give recommendations of other orgs to try out to see if it's a better fit. Luckily, through conversation, I can almost always get volunteers onboard with our rules/regulations. 


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    Erin Ellis
    Community Engagement Director
    Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe

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    Foster Program & Volunteer Management Specialist
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  • 5.  RE: Shelter Volunteer Orientations

    Posted 16 days ago
    Good morning Erin!

    Thank you for the input! I hasn't even thought about offering a Zoom orientation. Great idea!

    l feel that applicants should have to make an effort to attend our scheduled orientation but understand that some people may have challenging work schedules so I do make exceptions for them and will work with them. Zoom is another option we may be able to use!

    Thanks for the tips regarding the new volunteer. I actually received addtional information from 2 other employees who were less than impressed with her behavior. An in-person conversation is definitely needed especially after additional information was provided. 

    Sheltering is hard enough right now without additional negative comments and someone who doesn't respect our shelter policies and procedures. 

    Thanks again for the ideas and enjoy the rest of your week!
    1. Ann



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    ann traynor-plowman
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  • 6.  RE: Shelter Volunteer Orientations

    Posted 17 days ago
    Hello!

    I'm a Volunteer Specialist at a fairly large shelter. We have a three person team, me, my manager, and another specialist. 
    • We host a group Welcome Tour every other Saturday at 2pm. I used to host 3 tours on Saturdays and Sundays (6 tours each weekend) and that got to be a lot, so I consolidated that. It was easier to deal with during covid because we didn't have to do anything public-facing. At this time, we do not have volunteers conducting the Welcome Tour as it is information heavy and also outlines important volunteer policies and responsibilities at the shelter. After the tour, we send them the Volunteer Handbook Acknowledgement Form, which has a link to the handbook. It is a Google Form Quiz - they do not have to pass the quiz, but the questions that are picked cover information that is important for volunteers to keep in mind (dress code, disciplinary policy, core values, etc.) Once they submit that, I send an email with their temporary login to Volgistics and other important shelter information (gate code, where to go on your first shift, etc.). They have two mandatory trainings if they are adults - Basic Daily Tasks > Animal Handling. All volunteers must complete the basic task training before being able to handle animals. 
    • If anyone cannot make it to the pre-scheduled tours, we do coordinate schedules individually and provide solo tours. Especially at this moment, we are hosting all-hands-on-deck style adoption events to prepare for July 4th and another one coming out of July 4th. They are both scheduled on the weekends I typically hold the tour. I cancelled with the newbies who signed up for those dates, told them the next available date (July 23) and included that they could schedule a solo tour through the week if our availabilities coincide. 
    • Most of our brand new volunteers are tech savvy - not being willing to sign up is a problem we see a lot with volunteers who started before my team came on. A good workaround would be to sign them up for a regular schedule and highlight the importance of knowing who will be coming in every single day. If our volunteers deviate from their regular schedule or regular hours, we have them email in if it's something that can't happen through Volgistics. Sometimes they also call/text us.
    • If you don't have a disciplinary process created, then adding one would be great! In our Volunteer Handbook it states that we can terminate a volunteer (1) immediately following an act of Gross Misconduct, (2) after 2 Written Warnings, (3) After 6 months of no communication, (4) without cause, with or without notice, at any time if participation is no longer mutually agreeable - identifying these is the last question of our handbook quiz.  You could also put them on a Personal Improvement Plan - it outlines the specific behavior that needs to change and gives them a timeframe for you to review if that change happened or not.


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    Ia Faye Sison
    Volunteer Program Specialist
    The Animal Foundation
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  • 7.  RE: Shelter Volunteer Orientations

    Posted 16 days ago
    Good morning Faye.

    Thank you for your responses! 

    I love your idea of adding a Google Form Quiz focusing on important policies and procedures. We use Google Form test for the online portion of our k9 training program and it works very well.

    Also adding written disciplinary policies is a great idea. We've rarely had an issue like this so we never thought about adding it but after this experience, we definitely will. 


    1. Thank you for sharing! These really help a lot!

      Enjoy your day
      Ann







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    ann traynor-plowman
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