January 17, 2019

The Blessing of Volunteers and Volunteering

You might be surprised to know how many volunteers work at the Ottawa Humane Society, and you might be even more surprised how much they contribute to our work.  As of today, 759 very kind and very committed people are on the OHS volunteer roster. Last year, volunteers gave an astounding 61,000 hours of their time to the OHS and the animals in our care. Clearly the impact of volunteers working the equivalent of 31 full time staff is enormous. We could not achieve anything approaching what we do without volunteers.

Interest in volunteering at the OHS is equally enormous, and over the years, this has turned out to be mostly a blessing, but the tremendous interest is also a bit of a curse. Screening, orienting, training, scheduling and just generally managing a volunteer contingent of this size is a very big job. Recruiting volunteers, that is, matching a potential volunteer to a role, is a particular challenge. Over the years, we have discovered that recruiting volunteers in much the same way as we do staff has proven to be the only way it can be reasonably managed. Volunteer roles are identified and posted on our website, along with the skills and qualifications we are looking for in that particular role. People who are interested in giving their time submit a short application, highlighting how they are a fit.

This system works pretty well, though some roles remain stubbornly difficult to fill. Finding foster homes for dogs and cats with behavioural issues is a challenging role that is a chronic recruiting problem. Volunteers to give presentations to school children as a part of our humane education program is a close second, followed by volunteer humans and pets to visit people residing in hospitals, retirement residences, shelters and other care facilities in our Brightening Lives Animal Visits program.

I have been lucky to have worked with many hundreds of volunteers over my career—skilled, caring and committed people—who have selflessly given their time to help others. When I have spoken with them about their experiences and feelings, almost every one of them ends up saying the same thing: “I get much more out of this work than I ever give.”

So, in the end, the OHS and the animals are blessed by our volunteers, and the volunteers are themselves blessed by their experience.

Bruce Roney

President and CEO