Man cradling his medium hair tortoiseshell cat in his arms

Creating an Online Orientation for Foster Volunteers

Foster care engages the animal-loving community in creating a temporary live outcome for dogs and cats, essentially going from original home to foster home to new permanent home. This lifesaving program can help animals from newborns to those in medical recovery, or simply provide a break for pets who may not thrive or show well in a shelter.

If you want to increase your 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 orientations
  • Allows greater flexibility when recruiting potential foster volunteers
  • Allows you to gather insights on community members’ interests
  • Makes it easier to identify people who are ready to foster animals (and those who aren’t)
  • 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 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 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. In an online orientation, potential foster volunteers are asked to do the following:

  • Provide contact information.
  • Watch an orientation video.
  • Answer five short questions (5 minutes).
  • Complete a brief survey on their fostering interests (2 minutes).
  • 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.

Here is a sample online orientation like the one Best Friends uses. Feel free to reference it as you develop your own. Best Friends created it with Google Forms, which is included with a Google account. If you are new to Google Forms, a quick tutorial from Google explains how to create a new form in about 10 minutes.

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 your staff time and save more animals.

The Best Friends 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.

Another way to recruit more foster volunteers is to work collaboratively with other local organizations. 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. Interested in starting a coalition but aren’t sure how? Check out our Animal Welfare Coalition-Building Action Kit to get started!

Related Best Friends resources

Pet Fostering

Dog Foster Care Manual

Cat Foster Care Manual

Kitten Foster Care Manual