Best Friends Volunteer Handbook
This is the handbook given to volunteers for Best Friends Animal Society. The information is specific to Best Friends, but you may find this manual useful as a guide if you’re creating a volunteer handbook for your nonprofit organization.
Table of Contents
1.) About Best Friends Animal Society
2.) The Best Friends volunteer experience
3.) About the handbook
4.) Best Friends guiding principles
5.) Our staff commitment to you
6.) Volunteer program staff responsibilities
7.) Overview of volunteer positions
At the Sanctuary
Around the country
8.) Youth volunteers
At the Sanctuary
Nationally and in program cities
9.) Your volunteer commitment
Computer-related (if applicable)
Your volunteer profile and history
Expenses and insurance
10.) Volunteer benefits
11.) Representing Best Friends
Standards of conduct and customer service
12.) Attendance policies and procedures
Cancellations and ‘no-shows’
Personal leave of absence
13.) Confidentiality and nondisclosure policy
14.) Volunteer performance support
Causes for release from volunteer service
15.) Requests for animal help
16.) Conflicts of interest
17.) Sexual harassment policy
18.) Best Friends volunteer team contact information
19.) Thank you!
Revised April 2016
Best Friends Animal Society is the only national animal welfare organization focused exclusively on ending the killing of dogs and cats in America's shelters. An authority and leader in the no-kill movement, Best Friends runs the nation's largest no-kill sanctuary for companion animals, as well as lifesaving programs in partnership with rescue groups and shelters across the country. Founded in 1984, Best Friends has helped reduce the number of animals killed in shelters nationwide from 17 million per year to approximately 2 million annually. That means there are still nearly 5,500 dogs and cats killed in shelters each day. And our work won’t be done until that number is zero.
Best Friends believes in taking a positive and collaborative approach to saving lives. With our vast amount of knowledge, technical expertise and on-the-ground network of partners, we will end the killing and Save Them All®.
Best Friends Animal Society
5001 Angel Canyon Road
Kanab, UT 84741
When you volunteer with Best Friends, you’re giving the animals one of the greatest gifts of all — your time. Whether you’re spending one-on-one time with the animals, helping out at events or assisting in some other way, you’re helping the animals to feel loved. For that, everyone here at Best Friends is incredibly grateful, especially the animals. We wish you an enjoyable, safe, fulfilling and rewarding volunteer experience!
To learn more about volunteering with Best Friends and to ensure an even better volunteer experience, please take a few minutes to read this guide.
This handbook summarizes many of Best Friends’ volunteer policies and procedures. All Best Friends staff members are responsible for administering the policies described in this handbook and would be happy to provide you with further information or clarification if you need it.
Best Friends volunteer managers and their designees may modify, rescind, delete or add to the provisions of this handbook at any time. If changes are made, we will be sure to notify you as soon as possible.
Nothing in this handbook creates a contractual relationship or employee relationship between you (the volunteer) and Best Friends Animal Society.
Best Friends is guided by the following values or principles:
- The Golden Rule: To treat all living things as we ourselves would wish to be treated.
- Kindness: To demonstrate compassion and respect for all living creatures.
- Positive Influence: To judge our effectiveness by the extent to which animal lives are saved and improved, and by the positive experience of the people we touch.
- Leadership: To lead by example — developing, promoting and sharing great new ideas and programs to help animals.
- Authenticity: To do what we say we do.
- Transparency: To be open and honest in our relationships.
Everyone representing Best Friends is expected to follow these principles.
The staff members at Best Friends truly appreciate your service and your dedication to help Save Them All, and we want to make sure you have a wonderful and enjoyable experience. So, we strive to:
- Provide you with adequate information, training and assistance so you can be successful in your volunteer position.
- Provide you with guidance, goals and feedback.
- Respect your skills, dignity and individual needs.
- Be open-minded and receptive to your comments and suggestions.
- Treat you as a valued team member along with staff, equally important in helping to accomplish the mission to end the killing of dogs and cats in shelters.
The Best Friends volunteer departments are led by a volunteer manager and a team of volunteer specialists. These staff members are responsible for the general administration of all volunteer programs in their purview. Each program city has a dedicated team that coordinates volunteer programming.
Depending upon the program, staff responsibilities might include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Recruit people into appropriate volunteer positions
- Provide new volunteers with orientation and training to be successful
- Assist with scheduling or schedule volunteers for volunteer opportunities
- Maintain the confidentiality of volunteers’ records and personal information
- Provide regular and appropriate recognition for active volunteers
- Provide ongoing support and assistance as volunteers work with other paid staff
- Provide updated information about Best Friends’ activities and volunteer opportunities
- Process requests from Best Friends staff for volunteer assistance, including volunteers for events, initiatives and special projects
- Provide written references pertaining to the volunteer’s experience (hours contributed, length of commitment, position description) if requested
Scheduling. When you volunteer at the Sanctuary, you can schedule your own shifts online at volunteers.bestfriends.org. This self-scheduling process includes signing a volunteer agreement and watching an orientation video.
Volunteer opportunities. You can participate in a variety of volunteer activities at the Sanctuary. Most people choose to help in our animal areas (Horse Haven, Marshall’s Piggy Paradise, Dogtown, Cat World, Parrot Garden, Wild Friends, Bunny House and Rescue Village). For volunteer opportunities in other areas, please contact the volunteer department staff. We are always looking for ways to engage and include volunteers like you because you help make our lifesaving work possible.
Internships and service-based learning opportunities. If you’re a student, we encourage you to participate in our internship or service-based learning opportunities at the Sanctuary. Many posted volunteer opportunities can be tailored to your needs, and we are open to discussing other projects of interest to you. The staff of the Learning Experience can assist you with exploring internship and service-based learning options. For more information, please visit bestfriends.org/sanctuary/volunteer or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volunteer opportunities in our program cities. At Best Friends, we work with our members and with rescue groups, shelters and entire communities to help save the lives of dogs and cats through spay/neuter, foster and adoption programs. We currently have lifesaving programs in four areas:
- Best Friends Animal Society–Utah. In 2014, Best Friends launched the NKUT (No-Kill Utah) initiative, which brings together city shelters, a coalition of animal welfare organizations and passionate individuals with the goal of ending the killing of dogs and cats in Utah shelters by 2019. In Utah, we provide low-cost and free spay/neuter services through our clinics and voucher programs, as well as help for those caring for community (stray or free-roaming) cats. Our lifesaving efforts include the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center and the Best Friends Kitten Nursery in Salt Lake City. Volunteer opportunities are available in every Best Friends–Utah program. For more information, please visit bestfriendsutah.org or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Best Friends Animal Society–Los Angeles. Best Friends leads the NKLA (No-Kill Los Angeles) initiative, which brings together about 100 NKLA Coalition partners, city shelters and dedicated individuals focused on ending the killing of dogs and cats in L.A. city shelters by the end of 2017. Best Friends runs two adoption centers here: the Best Friends Pet Adoption and Spay/Neuter Center, from which pets from L.A. city shelters find homes, and the NKLA Pet Adoption Center, where our coalition partners can showcase their adoptable pets. We also operate a kitten nursery to save newborn kittens from city shelters. When you sign up to volunteer with Best Friends–Los Angeles, we ask that you commit to helping out at least five hours a month for at least six months. You can volunteer in a number of different ways, including at our adoption centers, events and the kitten nursery. For more information, please visit bestfriendsla.org or email volunteerLA@bestfriends.org.
- Best Friends Animal Society–New York. In New York City and the surrounding tri-state area, we run a foster program in collaboration with Animal Care Centers of NYC, and host adoption and fundraising events. In 2017, we’ll be opening a Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in the heart of Manhattan. More information about volunteer opportunities at the new adoption center will be available soon. Until then, plenty of opportunities are available at our events and with our foster program. For more information, please visit bestfriendsny.org or email email@example.com.
- Best Friends Animal Society–Atlanta: Volunteer opportunities are available at the Best Friends facility, formerly Atlanta Pet Rescue and Adoption, to help animals in the metro-Atlanta area. For more information, visit our local programs or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volunteer opportunities in other parts of the country. Best Friends also needs volunteers to help with events and programs such as Strut Your Mutt, the Best Friends National Conference and our community cat initiatives. Or you can always help out at one of our No More Homeless Pets Network partners, located across the country. To find volunteer opportunities near you, please visit bestfriends.org/sanctuary/volunteer/volunteer-near-you.
Just a friendly reminder: When you work closely with animals, you can sometimes be bitten, scratched or injured in another way. Your safety is always our priority, but if you do happen to get hurt, please let a Best Friends staff member or manager know immediately.
Best Friends welcomes the involvement of younger volunteers in several different volunteer positions. The goal is the same as it is for our older volunteers: to have a fun and rewarding experience. Below are the policies to ensure that our young volunteers have a safe experience.
For the protection of children as well as the animals, children five years and younger may not volunteer. Children ages 6 to 17 must be accompanied by an adult volunteer. Parents or guardians of minor children (under age 18) must sign a Minor Permission Form, which gives permission for minor children to volunteer.
Minimum age requirements for each animal area are:
Marshall’s Piggy Paradise
Children ages 12 and up may volunteer nationally and in our local program cities. Volunteers 12 to 15 years old must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Volunteers 16 and older may volunteer without a parent or guardian present. Please note: It is up to volunteer coordinators at each location to decide which, if any, volunteer positions are open to minor volunteers.
When you serve as a Best Friends volunteer, we ask the following of you:
- Have regular access to the Internet and a private email address. Email is our main form of communication to share information, such as volunteer instructions, opportunities and confirmations.
- If you do not have computer access, we ask that you find a friend or family member who can help you with your communications with the volunteer department.
- Respond to emails from the Best Friends volunteer staff in a timely manner. Staff are committed to answering emails within 48 hours (during regular business hours).
- Use the Best Friends Volunteer Center (known as Digital Cheetah) to schedule your volunteer shifts and log your volunteer hours as applicable.
- Please visit volunteers.bestfriends.org to create or access your volunteer profile.
- Complete all required paperwork for acceptance into our volunteer programs.
- Supply references as requested. For certain volunteer positions, Best Friends may perform criminal background checks. Best Friends may perform these checks at its sole discretion.
- Keep your volunteer record updated with your current email address, phone number and USPS mailing address. (Your name and addresses will not be sold, traded or given to any other organization.)
- If applicable to your volunteer position, by the last day of each month, input your volunteer hours worked for that month. Instructions will be provided. This record of your hours is used to recognize your contribution, to show potential donors and funders that we are supported by community members, and in grant reports.
- Complete any assignments for which you volunteer. If you cannot complete the assignment, please notify your staff supervisor or the volunteer manager.
- Stay within the parameters of your volunteer position(s) and assignment(s).
- Understand that all content developed by any volunteer as a Best Friends volunteer is the property of Best Friends Animal Society. This includes, but is not limited to, all graphics, web pages, narratives, research, compilations, instructional texts, text, photos, videos, writings, computer programs, spreadsheets, summaries and recordings. It also includes any royalties, proceeds or other benefits derived from these materials. Of course, volunteers will receive appropriate credit for their submissions.
- Grant Best Friends rights in all photographic images, video and audio recordings of you made during the course of your assignment.
- Follow the dress code outlined in this handbook when representing Best Friends Animal Society at functions, meetings and events.
- Return all Best Friends Animal Society property when requested or when your volunteer service ends.
- Cover all your own expenses associated with volunteering for Best Friends. In certain instances some expenses will be reimbursed, but you must receive approval in writing (i.e., email) from your staff supervisor or volunteer manager before Best Friends will reimburse you for any expense.
- Carry your own insurance coverage. Best Friends does not carry health, medical, liability, automobile, worker’s compensation or disability insurance coverage for any volunteer.
We truly appreciate your hard work and commitment to helping save the lives of homeless pets. So, depending on where you decide to volunteer your time and talents, you may:
- Be able to participate in the private online communities provided for Best Friends volunteers
- Receive formal and informal recognition from Best Friends staff
- Be provided with opportunities to move into leadership volunteer roles as appropriate
- Receive special invitations to events and activities sponsored by Best Friends
Your mileage costs and other expenses relating to your volunteer work may also be tax-deductible. Please consult with your tax professional for more information.
When you’re serving as a volunteer for Best Friends Animal Society, what you say and do reflects on Best Friends as a whole. We know volunteers may have a variety of beliefs and values when it comes to animal welfare issues, and we sincerely accept this diversity of thought. But if there is an issue on which Best Friends has not taken a position, you should remain neutral on the matter while representing Best Friends. Any personal comments you make should be clearly identified as personal comments.
As a volunteer, you are permitted to act as a representative of Best Friends, but please do so only to the extent described in your position description.
Online communication tools such as blogs and social media networks (e.g., Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) are becoming the go-to channels for people who are interested in keeping up with Best Friends and our many efforts to Save Them All. For that reason, and because your behavior as a volunteer reflects on Best Friends, please use good judgment whenever you contribute to Best Friends’ social media pages. We encourage volunteers to join online conversations and spread the word about Best Friends and the animals, but you should never speak as an official representative of Best Friends.
When you are engaging with others via social media on behalf of Best Friends, please keep in mind the following:
- Be transparent: Identify yourself as a volunteer of Best Friends.
- Be accurate: Make sure you check your facts with a staff member who’s involved with the issue before posting. Take every precaution to gather the most current information available. Be the first to acknowledge and correct your own mistakes.
- Provide resources: Link back to our website whenever you can so that people can see where your information is coming from. For example, direct people to our extensive online resource library: bestfriends.org/resources.
- Be considerate: Please do not use profanity, derogatory language or personal attacks, or engage in any other inappropriate conduct.
- Be real: Do not just copy and paste press releases or website content. Take talking points and put them in your own words. (The one exception is when you are quoting someone or using an official statement.)
- Be professional: Do not allow legitimate online explanation of a position or debate to devolve into personal attacks, fights or flame wars that would reflect poorly on you or Best Friends. If you have any doubts about the appropriateness of your involvement in an online discussion, please disengage or do not get involved in the first place. Pass along the link to your volunteer coordinator.
- Protect sensitive information: Protect Best Friends’ confidential and proprietary information as well as the personal information of others. Get permission to use copyrighted content such as photos or videos, or to cite or reference our supporters, partners or suppliers. Do not disclose or use any confidential or business information about Best Friends, such as member or donor information. Do not disclose personal information about co-workers, volunteers or former employees.
You are encouraged and welcome to use your own social media platforms to help promote adoptable animals, events, volunteer opportunities, advocacy, outreach and more. However, Best Friends volunteers are prohibited from starting any new social media properties that represent the organization. If you have any questions about this, please contact your volunteer coordinator or Best Friends’ social media manager, Jessica Earl, at email@example.com.
Media relations can be complex. For that reason, we ask that, as a Best Friends volunteer, you don’t speak for Best Friends with the media without prior permission from your direct supervisor. Please send all media inquiries directly to your supervisor. Please note that media inquiries are extremely time-sensitive and should be forwarded as soon as they are received.
Best Friends upholds the highest standards of conduct and service for the sake of saving the lives of animals. When you are serving as a Best Friends volunteer, we ask that you please do the same. Here are a few service guidelines that we kindly request you follow.
Be professional. As a Best Friends volunteer, please present an image that is both professional and appropriate to your working conditions. Remember, you represent Best Friends Animal Society and the first impression you create may be a lasting one. Keep the following in mind:
- You should have a well-groomed appearance. Closed-toe shoes and pants (or capris) should be worn unless instructed otherwise.
- Best Friends T-shirts and name tags (if issued) or aprons (if applicable) should be worn and be visible at all times when representing Best Friends in public. Other attire should be clean and appropriate for the setting.
- Eating, drinking and gum-chewing are not recommended at event booths when visitors are present. No volunteer should ever smoke, drink alcohol or use drugs when representing Best Friends in public.
- Booth and exhibit areas should be kept neat and free of debris. Literature should be displayed neatly and be easily accessible.
Be responsible. Service begins and ends with individuals. While you cannot control what others do, you can guarantee the quality of your own individual contacts. Each individual can potentially make or break the chain of great service. Responsibility is the key to this process, so you should strive to provide accurate and timely information. And don’t be afraid to ask for help from staff when you need it.
Be positive. A positive attitude is contagious. Approaching your assignment with enthusiasm and dedication will positively impact members, potential members and staff. Some other tips:
- Raise concerns and share ideas in a positive fashion; focus on solutions, not problems.
- Respond positively to complaints; never argue with anyone or dismiss someone’s point of view.
- Offer additional services and information; add value to each interaction.
Be friendly, courteous and helpful. Common courtesy goes a long way toward making a favorable impression on our current and potential members, volunteers, adopters, donors, corporate partners, the general public and Best Friends staff. Remember the following:
- A smile goes a long way. Smile when someone approaches you at an event or function.
- Use the person’s name whenever possible, and don’t forget good manners.
- Practice active listening: Give your undivided attention to the person with whom you are speaking
- Treat each person with kindness, and as an individual.
- Please don’t use slang and technical jargon or terms that the other person may not understand.
Be knowledgeable. To help Save Them All, it is crucial that you keep up-to-date with what’s happening at Best Friends. The public sees you as someone who represents Best Friends, and they expect prompt, courteous and accurate responses to their questions and concerns, regardless of your individual specialty or field of knowledge. So, please stay up-to-date on Best Friends programs and services by reading the magazine and stories on our website, bestfriends.org. Know and understand Best Friends’ mission and guiding principles. If you don’t know the answer to a question, please ask your staff supervisor.
The above are only guidelines to providing great service. Of course, no written standards can ever take the place of good judgment. When in doubt, remember that one of our guiding principles is the Golden Rule: “We treat all living creatures as we ourselves would wish to be treated.”
When you commit to a volunteer position, you become a valuable member of our team and play an important role in the success of Best Friends’ mission. For that reason, we ask that you please do not make a commitment that you may be unable to fulfill, or take on responsibilities for which you feel unqualified.
We understand that life happens and you may not always be able to make it to your volunteer shift. If you are not available to complete the volunteer shift(s) for which you have registered, please log into the volunteer center and cancel your shift(s) or contact the applicable volunteer department as soon as possible. By doing so, this will make the shift available to other volunteers.
If you can’t perform the duties of your volunteer position or meet required deadlines, and you don’t notify the volunteer department or your staff contact in advance, your participation in the volunteer program may be adversely affected. We encourage you to try to avoid this situation; by not fulfilling your commitment, you will miss out on some wonderful opportunities to help homeless pets.
Regarding specific “no-show” policies, please consult with your volunteer team.
If you are unable to volunteer due to unforeseen circumstances, you may take a leave of absence for any period of time. Please discuss your needs with your staff supervisor.
As a volunteer, you are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of all proprietary or privileged information of Best Friends Animal Society to which you are exposed while serving as a volunteer. Failure to maintain confidentiality will result in termination of your relationship with Best Friends.
When you become a volunteer, you agree and understand that any breach of this confidentiality clause will cause Best Friends immediate and irreparable harm. You agree that Best Friends is entitled to injunctive relief or a preliminary injunction if this confidentiality clause is breached. You agree that Best Friends does not need to post a bond if Best Friends asks a court for a temporary injunction or interlocutory injunctive relief. Some volunteer positions may require you to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement.
Our goal is to make sure all our volunteers have wonderful, rewarding experiences with Best Friends, while providing the best care possible to the animals. Because of that, some volunteer programs offer volunteer training, support programs and performance feedback.
Performance feedback sessions give Best Friends staff a chance to meet with volunteers one-on-one to review the position description, discuss what’s going well, and identify goals and areas for improvement. If, as a volunteer, you have not acted in Best Friends’ interests, it may be necessary to end the volunteer relationship. Volunteer management staff may end your volunteer relationship at will.
When the relationship between Best Friends and a volunteer is terminated, all Best Friends Animal Society property, if any has been issued, must be returned to the volunteer team contact immediately. All volunteer benefits will terminate as of that date.
Here are some potential causes for release from volunteer service:
- Breaking of confidentiality
- Failure to adhere to policies or follow procedures
- Failure to report volunteer hours
- Inappropriate drug or alcohol use
- Inappropriate or unprofessional conduct
- Excessive “no-show” for volunteer shifts
- Not fulfilling the duties of the volunteer position
- Misrepresentation of Best Friends Animal Society
- Violence or implication of violence
If you have any questions or challenges regarding your volunteer assignment, please bring them to the attention of your staff supervisor or the volunteer department.
The volunteer management staff make every effort to provide you with an opportunity to raise your questions in confidence and without fear of reprisal or discrimination. Every effort will be made to investigate in a timely manner and settle the issue on a fair and equitable basis.
As a Best Friends representative, you may be asked by people in your community for help with specific animal situations. Here are some ways to handle these requests:
- To help people find solutions to common problems, direct them to our library of resources at bestfriends.org/resources.
- If the person has witnessed animal abuse or neglect, tell him or her to report it to local authorities — the local police, animal control departments or humane society. Encourage people to report the abuse not only to help the animal in distress, but also to make local officials aware of the severity of the problem.
- If you anticipate that the situation will become very public or you are contacted by the media or a high-ranking official, please notify your Best Friends staff contact to get further instructions.
As a volunteer for Best Friends, you should avoid any outside activity that could negatively affect the independence and objectivity of your judgment, or interfere with the timely and effective performance of your duties and responsibilities, or that could discredit Best Friends or conflict or appear to conflict with Best Friends’ best interests. The success of Best Friends rests on its reputation and the goodwill of its many supporters.
Unless expressly authorized, no outside activity should involve the use of Best Friends assets, funds, materials, facilities, time or the services of other Best Friends volunteers and employees. Violations of this policy may result in release from volunteer service with Best Friends.
If you are asked to take part in an activity that conflicts with the vision and philosophies of Best Friends, or if a potential or actual conflict of interest arises, please contact the volunteer department.
Best Friends is committed to providing an environment that is free from harassment and unlawful discrimination. In accordance with all federal, state and local laws, Best Friends expressly prohibits discrimination or harassment based on race, color, religion, creed, gender, pregnancy, age, national origin, ancestry, physical or mental disability or handicap, citizenship, marital status, sexual orientation, military or veteran’s status, or any other protected classification.
Best Friends expressly forbids and will not tolerate any actions (e.g., words, jokes, comments or gestures) that unreasonably create an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment. Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature where:
- Submission to such conduct is made a term or condition of volunteering, either explicitly or implicitly
- Submission to or rejection of such conduct has the purpose or effect of creating an offensive, hostile or intimidating work environment
Anyone engaging in sexual or other unlawful harassment will be subject to release from volunteer service. If you believe you are the victim of harassment or have witnessed harassment of any kind, immediately notify the volunteer department.
Best Friends will not tolerate any retaliation, harassment or intimidation of any volunteer who makes a complaint under this policy or who assists in a complaint investigation. Any retaliation, harassment or intimidation may result in release from volunteer service.
Investigation of reports of harassment will be conducted, and these investigations will be kept as confidential as is practical. Following the investigation, the volunteer who filed the complaint will be informed of the findings and the action taken. If, as a result of the investigation, Best Friends determines that an employee or volunteer has engaged in harassment or illegal discrimination in violation of this policy, Best Friends will take appropriate corrective measures. Such action may range from counseling to immediate termination of employment, release from volunteer service or possible legal action.
Sanctuary volunteer team (Kanab, Utah): firstname.lastname@example.org
National volunteer team: email@example.com
Los Angeles volunteer team: volunteerLA@bestfriends.org
New York volunteer team: volunteerNYC@bestfriends.org
Atlanta team: volunteerATL@bestfriends.org
Volunteers like you are one of the keys to helping to save the lives of countless pets across the country. Thank you so much for caring about the animals and for giving them your time, energy and affection. We wish you a long, happy and rewarding relationship with Best Friends!
Together, we can Save Them All.