Creating an Online Orientation for Animal Foster Care Volunteers

Man cradling a tortoiseshell colored cat in his arms

Animal foster care programs engage the pet-loving community in helping to save homeless dogs, cats, puppies and kittens. People who become foster volunteers provide a home-between-homes for pets in shelters or with rescue groups. These lifesaving programs can benefit animals in a variety of situations — from newborn kittens to pets recovering from injuries or needing some extra socialization. Foster homes can also do wonders for pets who don’t thrive or show well in a shelter.

Online pet foster volunteer orientation

If your organization wants to increase its pet foster volunteer base, but you’re finding it difficult to recruit volunteers for that purpose, consider creating an online foster orientation. Hosting in-person orientations can take up a lot of staff time and may not be scheduled at times that are convenient for potential foster volunteers. One way to eliminate these barriers is to create an online version. Benefits may include:

  • Reduces the time that staff spend on planning and hosting animal foster orientations
  • Allows greater flexibility when recruiting potential pet foster volunteers
  • Allows you to gather insights on community members’ interests with regard to fostering
  • Makes it easier to identify people who are ready to foster dogs or cats (or puppies or kittens)
  • Provides a reusable resource that explains the foster program

For example, one of the initial hurdles people interested in fostering may face is inability to attend orientations offered during standard work hours. An online orientation removes this barrier and can also introduce your organization to many more people in the community who want to support your mission. It also saves staff time by removing the need for in-person orientations for people who may ultimately decide that fostering isn’t an ideal fit. If done properly, the online version captures volunteer information, explains the foster program and provides you with a list of ready-to-go animal foster homes.

Best Friends Animal Society in Los Angeles tailored its foster program to simplify the process, provide support and information, and work with people’s lifestyles to find the best matches possible.

Information gathered from potential animal foster volunteers

In the Best Friends online pet foster orientation, potential volunteers are asked to do the following:

  1. Provide contact information.
  2. Watch an animal foster orientation video (see the video below).
  3. Answer five short questions about pet fostering (5 minutes).
  4. Complete a brief survey on their foster care interests (2 minutes).
  5. Sign a foster agreement.

The entire process takes less than 30 minutes. Afterward, applicants receive sign-up instructions within 24-48 hours to begin fostering. The online orientation allows volunteers to be introduced to fostering more efficiently, which means they can start helping you save more animals sooner.

Saving more animals through online foster orientation

Try not to let the technical aspects of an online orientation hold you back from creating one. If you have a foster program in place, you most likely have already created and are using some of the necessary materials. An online orientation provides an opportunity to streamline your foster application process to save staff time and save more animals.

Tri-colored dog wearing a blue harness with man behind him with his arms around the dog

Including a video or PowerPoint presentation in the orientation

The Best Friends orientation video mixes slides with video clips of foster animals, but you don’t have to follow our example. You could choose to record an upcoming in-person orientation and use that as your video, or forgo a video altogether. Another approach is uploading a PowerPoint presentation from an in-person orientation for applicants to read. Remember, the orientation is a way for you to recruit and bring new foster volunteers on board quickly. It gives you more time to focus on the next steps with volunteers as they bring foster animals into their homes. More animals in loving foster homes means more room in your organization.

Collaborating with other organizations

Another way to recruit more foster volunteers is to work collaboratively with other local organizations. The Best Friends initiative NKLA has a foster survey that recruits foster volunteers for organizations in the NKLA Coalition. If you’re a member of a coalition, consider creating a collective online orientation to share the work and reach a broader audience. We all know that more can be achieved when we work together.

Check out our Animal Welfare Coalition-Building Action Kit