Now more than ever, there is a desperate need for foster homes. With adoption rates down, shelters are bursting at the seams.
Let’s talk about ways to recruit fosters to your program.
1. Use your network
As a rescue or a shelter, you have a larger network than you may realize. Working from your community in this order can help you reach people that already believe in your mission.
(Originally discussed in Quick Guide to Creating a Foster Program)
Existing staff and volunteers – You already know them and they know you. This can also be a good “soft launch” of your foster program so you can gain some honest feedback and advice.
Former adopters – They have already gone through an approval process and are often very grateful to you for saving their beloved furbaby. Consider having a modified foster approval process for former adopters. Make sure to only reach out to adopters that have had their animals for at least 6 months to give them time to decompress.
General community – Last but not least is the general public that may or may not have worked with you before. When recruiting this group of people, it’s important to generate excitement, help people picture their lives with a foster animal. A great way to accomplish this is by posting on social media.
2. Targeted Marketing
Even if people want to foster, sometimes they have a hard time picturing how it would look with their life. Some targeted marketing can help bridge that gap and provide potential fosters with a way to visualize a foster animal in their home. Some groups of people to consider:
- Remote workers
“Work from home? Foster a furry coworker!”
- People who travel
“Ever wish you could adopt a companion animal but your traveling schedule would make it difficult? Save a life by fostering while you’re home!
- People with kids / stay at home parents
3. Provide incentives
Get people hooked on fostering by providing incentives to get them started:
- Free training resources – Providing training to your fosters not only benefits them but also the animals in their care. To learn how to build an experienced team, head over to our article on Building an Elite Foster Team
- Raffles – Encourage repeat fosters by entering each foster into a raffle every time they foster an animal. Prizes can include baskets of locally donated items, companion animal products, naming a kennel, etc.
- Referral rewards – Encourage your fosters to bring friends into the program by providing referral awards. These can can be similar to the raffle program or even simply featuring them on your page!
4. Customer service
Fostering is hard. Most of the time it completely changes what the day-to-day looks like for a family and it can be unpredictable. As rescuers, we have committed to whatever it takes to helping animals, but we also need people who are willing to commit “just enough”.
If a foster reaches out for help, try to avoid being critical and provide resources and support. A lot of the time, they are just looking for validation and encouragement. It’s worth the extra time to keep a foster happy and excited about the program.
5. Meet people where they’re at
While you may be recruiting for seasoned fosters with years of dog experience, it’s important to accept any qualified foster into the program. Maybe they only want to foster kittens or puppies to start – so give them some kittens or puppies! Create relationships with people and work with them to build their skills and interest in working with other kinds of animals.