Expand your volunteer network with special project volunteers

Sometimes it’s hard to consider our shelter or rescue through the eyes of our community. People often have misconceptions of what volunteering could look like. Have you ever heard “I would volunteer but it would just make me too sad” or “My schedule changes too frequently, I can’t commit to a set shift”? Just like how we strive to remove adoption barriers, we should also strive to remove volunteer barriers. Bringing more volunteers on board not only expands your team, but expands your reach to the network of the new volunteer.

In this article, why finding unique roles is important, how to identify tasks that could be accomplished with these roles, and how to fill them.

The importance of special projects

You may be wondering why you would want a role that only one person completes when you already spend so much time training volunteers in group onboarding sessions. Well, here it is:

  1. Attract a new sort of volunteers. There are a lot of reasons why people feel like they can’t volunteer with a shelter or rescue. So, instead of trying to convince them, meet them where they are at. Here are some examples of reasons people have to not volunteer and how to find a role that works for them:
    “It’s too sad to see the animals”. Create remote volunteer roles
    “My schedule is too unpredictable”. Create roles that require only a couple hours a week that can be done on a flexible basis
    “I don’t have any animal experience”. Create a training program
  2. Take tasks off the plate of staff. There are so many things to get done in a day by staff, consider transitioning some of the repetitive work to a volunteer. This could be something like creating marketing templates or analyzing monthly adoption data. This will free up your staff to work on more specialized projects.
  3. Their network becomes your network. When you bring on a volunteer, you aren’t just bringing on a single person, you are expanding your organization to their whole network. They will talk about it in conversation, maybe recommend you to their friends, or share your posts on social media. Each new volunteer could mean far more reach for your rescue or shelter.
  4. Involving more people in your mission, expands your message. It’s one thing to like animals, it’s a whole other thing to experience animals through a rescue or shelter. The more people you bring on, the more people will live your message and encourage others to save lives.

What tasks make good special project?

There are a few aspects of tasks that make good roles for a remote or less involved volunteer. Here they are:

  • The task can be completed independently – After a quick overview, there won’t need to be a lot of back and forth with other volunteers and staff. Of course, always allow access to staff for questions or thoughts.
  • The task doesn’t have a strict schedule – It’s okay to have a deadline, but the time spent actually completing the task should be flexible.
  • The task serves a purpose. Always remember to be working towards your larger goal as a department or organization.
What makes a good specialized task? 1. Can be completed independently 2. Flexible 3. Serves a purpose.

Picture of a cat

Here are some examples of tasks you may find beneficial to recruit volunteers for:

  • Photoshop – This is a tool you need to be skilled at to do well. Maybe you want to photoshop out the poop in the background or add a flower on a collar.
  • Social media templates – If you have someone savvy and creative, consider asking them to build templates that can be used to post animals or for fosters to use for marketing.
  • Enrichment activities – There are so many creative ways that we can provide enrichment for the animals in our care. Allow someone to come up with a weekly plan for enrichment, with different activities each day. This is an especially great task for someone with young kids – enrichment for the animals, a craft for the kids!
  • Community outreach – Task a volunteer with reaching out to one business a week to see if they would be willing to display available animals or put out a donation jar. When it comes from someone the business knows personally, it means more.

Filling these roles

There are a few ways that you can find people to fill these roles:

  1. Identify current or former volunteers. If you know of a volunteer who left the organization because they didn’t have time, reach out to them. If you know of a current volunteer who is excellent at photography, talk to them about photoshop.
  2. Reach out to adopters. Send a blast email asking for “special volunteers” for “unique roles”. You know they already believe in your mission and most of the time, adopters are excited for the opportunity to give back.
  3. Ask your volunteers to network. Maybe your current volunteer staff doesn’t include and social media experts, I bet they know someone who is. Encourage current volunteers to reach out to friends and family if they know anyone who might be a good fit.
  4. Ask the public. You likely have people who follow you social media accounts but haven’t gotten up the courage to engage. This could be their opportunity! Make social media posts asking for help for specific tasks.


While it may seem like a lot of work to recruit or these tasks, just to save a couple hours of work a week, it’s important to remember the network aspect. Engaging your community only helps to strengthen your mission.

Happy rescuing!

Is this article missing something? Have questions? Want help applying what you learned to your organization? Send us a message!

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