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Keeping Up With COVID-19, 3/17: Take Foster & Volunteer Training Online

March 17, 2020, The Association

Written for the COVID-19 Shelter Kit by Katherine Shenar and Kim Alboum

With shelters around the country strategizing ways to keep the critical services we provide up and running, we’re seeing agencies limiting intake, encouraging the community to adopt, and calling for fosters—should pets need a place to stay if their owners are impacted, and to help clear space for new animals needing our care. 

Volunteer orientation and foster training typically take place in-person. In the current pandemic, however, we don’t have that luxury—and time is of the essence. For quicker and safer onboarding, and to ease the burden of staff, The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement and The Humane Society of the United States are encouraging shelters to take training and orientation online. Fortunately, this is not a new concept—over the course of two years, for example, the ASPCA’s Los Angeles Pee Wee Foster Program fully trained more than 400 foster volunteers using an online system. Many other organizations are also successfully running similar online training programs, and have resources and tips to share.

3 Steps to Virtual Volunteer Training 

1. Decide what Online Conference System you’ll use.

Easy-to-use platforms include:

Adobe Connect 

2. Create a PowerPoint or Google slide deck containing the information you’d share in person—these platforms allow you to easily add videos, images, .pdfs and text documents to open and view in your virtual classroom. You can also add links to forms and materials you want your fosters to use. You’ll find a sample deck from the ASPCA’s L.A. program for inspo here; scroll down for the Zip file.

3. Schedule an hour for presentation and Q&A, and invite volunteers to attend via email and/or your social channels. In the case of most platforms, you’ll need to include the link to join the online meeting and quick instructions for logging in.

Additional Resources & Ideas
Webinar recording: Attract More Fosters via Online Orientation, On-Deck System

Tips:  How to Use Online Orientation for More Foster Parents, Less Staff Burden

YouTube: The Anti-Cruelty Society: Volunteer Orientation
While we understand you may not have the time to create a longer-length, comprehensive video like this one, a short how-to video (i.e. outlining handling or cleaning procedures) can be quickly recorded on a smartphone and will do just fine in a pinch.

Helpful info to share on this topic? Please email 

About the Authors

Katherine M. Shenar brings 25 years of experience to her role as the executive vice president for The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement. She often speaks on leadership development, organization culture, coalition building, marketing communications, fundraising, and emerging trends in animal welfare. 

As shelter outreach and policy engagement director at the Humane Society of the United States, Kim Alboum works to create nationwide partnerships, resulting in the placement of thousands of animals who were victims of animal cruelty and natural disasters. Kim also works with HSUS state directors to strengthen relationships between community animal shelters and animal advocates. 

About The Association
The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement is a cohort of leaders on a mission to champion, advance, and unify the animal welfare profession.
  1. What are thoughts on foster animals that are already in foster care and the foster parent test positive for COVID-19? Have them return the animal? Shelter staff pick it up? What would be the concerns about spreading the disease with contact with the animal or carrier/leash since it can stay on those items for days?

    1. Hi Christy,
      Thank you so much for your comment and excellent questions. Many of them are addressed in this wonderful resource, Intake & Handling of Known COVID-19 Exposed Animals, which you can access here. And, yes, assuming the foster is likely too ill to care for the pet, the animal should return to the shelter.

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