Turning Skills into Service


You may think that volunteering at an animal shelter means scooping litter boxes and walking dogs. While those tasks are definitely needed, so are many other services that you may not think about. See how your hobby or passion can save lives and help animals.

Are you athletic?

YES: Use your commitment to fitness for good. Be on the lookout for shelter-sponsored athletic events, or sign up to do a run/walk to raise funds and gain attention for your favorite animal organization. Have friends and family sponsor you by the mile, encourage local businesses to donate, or ask your company to put its logo on the back of your race shirt.

NO: My idea of a workout is checking under the couch for the remote controls.

Can you cook?

YES: Turn your savory skills into money. Bake treats to distribute to shelter animals or for use in a silent auction or goody bags. Or, how about a good old-fashioned bake sale? You can hold one anywhere, and donate the profits to your favorite animal organization.

NO: When it’s my turn to make dinner there’s only one thing I make well—reservations!

Are you a shutterbug?

YES: Volunteer to take photos of adoptable animals and help spread the word via social media. Enlarge and frame some of your favorite shots for shelters to use on their walls, for silent auctions, or for other events. You can also take beautiful photos celebrating new adoptions, an image the new family is sure to cherish forever.

NO: Did you say pixel or pretzel?

Got a green thumb?

YES:  Grow and package fresh catnip. Shelters can share it with the cats, send it home with adopters, and even sell it to raise funds. You can also collect plant clippings and replant them to bring to shelters to improve the air quality.

NO: I can’t even keep a cactus alive!

Love to write?

YES: Many rescue groups would love more hands on deck to write press releases, stories for their newsletters, and even grants. Take it a step further by finding local news outlets that can promote or publish adoptable animal write-ups and photos.

NO: Does my grocery list count?

Know a Phillips head from a flat head?

YES: Handy people can be a godsend to many shelters. Just as with any “honey do” list, there is always fixing, painting, hanging, and more needed. Cubbies for food, shelves for clean towels, hooks for leashes—there is no project too small!

NO: No, my friend Phillip does not have a flat head.

Addicted to HGTV?

YES: Design-savvy animal lovers can help reorganize and clean out closets or storerooms, brighten up bathrooms, and spruce up staff lounges and waiting areas. A little bit of decorating can go a long way toward changing the entire energy of a space in no time. Bonus points if you can sew—you can make easy dog and cat toys with items you probably have around your home.

NO: No one has ever asked me for help when picking paint colors. Never. Not even once.

Got more “likes” or followers than anyone you know?

YES: The ever-changing world of social media can be difficult to navigate for busy shelters. Offer to help post and tweet, or better yet, teach someone at the shelter the ins and outs of the online scene to get more eyes on animals who need homes. Even a few hours discussing strategies, simple website tips, or explaining confusing online acronyms can go a long way.

NO: I am happy with my AOL account, thanks.

Understand your way around PDF, JPG, and EPS files?

YES: Graphic design services are always welcomed and encouraged. From sprucing up logos and branding, to creating event invitations, posters, and other promo materials, these are services most shelters consider a luxury. Helping shelters improve their image can directly impact traffic, which translates into more adoptions.

NO: Ummm… they all have the letter “P” in them?

Do you have business skills?

YES: No one wants to think about the worst case scenario, but it can happen to anyone, at any time. Having professionals like accountants, lawyers, and bookkeepers available to ask questions and prepare documents can be invaluable to the long-term success of an animal organization. Use your expertise to help groups be prepared and stay on top of important business issues.

NO: I just finished filing my taxes from 2006.

Are your napkin doodles frame-worthy?

YES: Creative souls are always needed! Turn your favorite drawing into cards that groups can use to say thank you or send out when people make donations in someone’s name. Or consider donating your art for silent auctions, for decorations around the shelter, or for other fundraisers.

NO: Do random ketchup and mustard stains count?

Do you sell anything or run your own business?

YES: Consider donating a portion of sales from one product, sales on a specific day, or other earmarked transactions to your favorite animal group. People love to see their purchases “pay it forward” and help others, and you may find that your sales increase when there is a charitable component.

NO: Had a lemonade stand once…

With just a little creativity and a desire to lend a hand, all roads can lead to successfully helping animals and the organizations that care for them. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and reach out to find out how you can make a difference doing what you love!

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