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How to Recruit Foster Parents

Here are some free and inexpensive ways to promote your foster program and recruit pet foster parents.


Overview
According to the 2000 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering, and Participating, “most people became involved as volunteers because they were personally asked, by someone inside or outside the organization, than by any other way.” This suggests that the best way to get volunteers is for you, your staff, or your volunteers to deliver the message that you have opportunities available personally.


Target Audiences
• Pet owners – research shows those who already own (a) pet(s) are more likely to consider fostering and/or adopting an additional pet
• Pet store shoppers – those considering fostering/adopting a pet
• Women of the house – research shows they are household decision makers
• Men – research shows that men are lacking as volunteers; their physical abilities, as well as mental and emotional support, are needed at the SPCA
• Families – parents may be open to idea of fostering a pet to teach their children the responsibilities of owning a pet for future adoption
• Young adults – those who have begun a professional career are financially stable, which assumes this group has appropriate means of pet care: foods, shots, housing
• Senior citizens – this group has time to care for animals; nursing homes can benefit from a pet fostering program and/or pet days
• Prisons – those who have begun rehabilitative counseling can benefit from a pet fostering program
• Convicted citizens – those persons who have been convicted and therefore, sentenced to community service


Tactical Initiatives

Most Effective Recruitment Tool - Pet Foster Parents
Pet foster parents are effective recruiters because they share information about the need for foster parents through word-of-mouth and can promote the idea of fostering just by their presence in the community. Offer incentives to foster parents for successfully recruting other foster families. Use foster parents as facilitators during pre-service foster parent training classes.

Be Prepared
Have your foster program information posted on your web site, including your foster parent application, foster care manual, Frequently Asked Questions, and flyers.

Create a Great Flyer
Ask local graphic designers if they would like to donate their time to create a flyer. Use college students or graduate students in creative design to do some work. They are looking for work to add to their resumes and to get some extra class credit. Or find a volunteer with good computer skills. Get great photos of animals for free on Stock.xchng (ask for author's permission to use them). Click here to see our flyers (you can copy our flyers but in exchange we ask that you acknowledge the Pet Foster Network on your web site).

Post Your Flyers
Ask people how they heard about your organization, event or program. The answers tell you what is working best in terms of reaching people and how you can improve getting your message out.

Public Service Announcements
Radio and public TV stations run free public service announcements (PSA). Periodically send them via email a 10-seconds and 30-seconds ad which they can read on the air. Click here for an example of PSA. Recruit volunteers to find the mailing and email addresses of radio and public TV stations. Put all the data into Excel spreadsheets.

Finding Volunteers
Recruit veterinary technicians, canine behaviorists, and trainers to foster. Recruit virtual volunteers to conduct online searches such as finding the mailing and email addresses. Post volunteer positions (foster parents, dog walkers, virtual volunteers, pet transporters to vet appointments and/or adoption events, etc) at community colleges, universities, community centers, and volunteer centers. Ask local churches to call for volunteers in their bulletins, which are distributed to all who attend. Email volunteer opportunities to representative of companies who can circulate them electronically within the companies.

Locate Civic Organizations
Find mailing and email addresses of local youth groups, sports groups, civic organizations, professional and employee groups, arts and cultural associations, schools, public libraries, churches, veterinarians, daycares, physical therapy and rehabilitation centers, and major companies in your community. Put all the data into Excel spreadsheets. You can then easily print mailing labels. Use yellowpages.ca and Google to locate the mailing addresses and web sites of these organizations.

Postcards
Convert your flyer into a postcard (click here for an example). Periodically mail postcards to youth groups, sports groups, civic organizations, professional and employee groups, arts and cultural associations, schools, public libraries, churches, veterinarians, daycares, physical therapy and rehabilitation centers, and major companies in your community. They may be willing to display your recruitment information or may allow you to address their groups.

Recruit Your Adopters
Your adoption database is a potential gold mine for foster homes. Chances are if a person has passed your adoption screening process, they will probably pass your foster home screening process. Be sure to include foster home recruiting information in every adoption packet you send out.

Newspapers
Local newspapers may have a community or volunteer section where you can post your event or program for free. Also ask them if they can post your ad (flyer) as a public service advertisement or a filler. Recruit volunteers to find the mailing and email addresses of local newspapers. Put all the data into Excel spreadsheets.

Mailing List
Create a database of pet foster parents, volunteers, and adopters. Everyone who contacts you through your web site can be added to your mailing list.

E-Newsletter

The creation of an e-newsletter will give you the opportunity to highlight pets that need foster homes, events, tips, and resources of interest. Try to incorporate success stories. Include photos of pets that need foster homes, their name and a short history and/or description. Include links of pet listings (PetFinder.com). Simply periodically email your information to everyone on your mailing list. Keep articles short and sweet, since you will lose readers with long, involved articles. Click here for tips on how to write pet profiles. You can use your web server, Google Groups or Yahoo! Groups to create your newsletter. Click here for an example of an e-newsletter.

How Did You Hear About Us?
Ask people how they heard about your organization, event or program. The answers tell you what is working best in terms of reaching people and how you can improve getting your message out.

Stay Organized
Keep a timeline of activities, due dates, when to send PSAs, deadlines for newspapers, mailing postcards, etc.

Donations from Local Merchants
Ask local printing companies to print your flyers and postcards for free. Ask a local t-shirt making company for free t-shirts. Ask a local magnet maker company fro free magnets. Ask a local web design company to create your web site. Every one has businesses that want to help in their own ways. Click here for tips on how to get in-kind donations. Click here for a sample letter for a donation request.


Creative Promotions

Pet Fostering Week Awareness
Nominate a week “Pet Fostering Week” where all your pet foster parents will wear buttons “I am a pet foster parent – Ask me a question!” Have a volunteer or graphic designer design the button. Find a company to donate the buttons. To locate a company in your area, use the Promotional Products Association International’ website (enter your zip code). For Canada, use PromoCan. Send press releases and notify all your volunteers of the event.

Foster For a Day
Dogs at the shelter need daily exercise and a change of scenery. Moreover, many businesses support their employees for their volunteer activities. You should enter into a partnership with businesses located near the shelter. Business employee volunteers could come once a week during their lunch hour to walk the dogs. You should also enter into a partnership with the local Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization in which a “Big” and a “Little” are matched with a dog for a day of fostering. Click here for tips on how to set up a “Foster for a Day” program.

(Wo)Man’s Best Friend
Local prisons may be interested in a trend that has been sweeping the United States: inmate and dog training. Inmates who have proven good conduct in prison are allowed to be involved in the pet program. Some programs train Labs how to become seeing-eye dogs for the blinds. Other simply train the dogs how to have good behavior. Even simpler, some programs just bring the dogs to be cared for/played with by the inmates. The point here is that each party needs the other for the same reason – love, care, attention and social training. You should find out the policy at local prisons.

Use Personals Ads
It’s an ad you’ve got to pay for anyway, why not put something in it that’s good? You are going to attract more people—“SINGLE BLACK FEMALE seeks male companionship, ethnicity unimportant. I'm very good looking and LOVE to play. I love long walks in the woods, riding in your pickup truck, hunting, camping and fishing trips, cozy winter nights lying by the fire. Candlelight dinners will have me eating out of your hand. I'll be at the front door when you get home from work wearing only what nature gave me. Love and respect for animals a must. Call (404) 875-6420 and ask for Daisy.”

Homemade Happiness
Those people of the community living in assisted-living facilities have long benefited from the love, care and attention of interaction with animals. The problem this audience faces, though, is choosing not to adopt or foster a pet for fear of dying before the pet does, resulting in abandonment. You should find out the policy at the facility.


Benefits of Creative Promotions
The following tactics should be carried out at every event where your organization mans an information booth and/or promotes an event:
• With participant consent, create a list of contacts with name and email address to send out e-newsletter
• Utilizing word of mouth by inviting past and/or current pet foster parents to events to share their stories
• Create and post posters (with photos and stories) of happy foster families and animals who are seeking a forever-home)
• Provide surveys for event attendees to fill out concerning how they feel about pet fostering, adopting an the event, to gain valuable feedback


Key Resources

No More Homeless Pets Forum
Each week, this forum offers a meeting place and practical advice for people involved in humane and no-kill No More Homeless Pets efforts.

No More Homeless Pets Forum Archives
Includes transcripts of past forums such as community outreach, marketing and more.

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