An Interview with Rachelle Gordon; Volunteer Committee Toronto Humane Society
The Toronto Humane Society event at Airship37 had a great turnout of volunteers. What role do the volunteers play in the organization and what was the event recognizing?

The Toronto Humane Society operates with the assistance of approximately 500 onsite volunteers who work in a variety of roles. These essential individuals assist the organization through activities such as dog walking, cat enrichment, kitten feeding, special species enrichment, administrative support, special events, fundraising and so much more. We also have approximately 300 foster parents who provide temporary in-home care for animals that are not quite ready to find their forever homes, as well as providing palliative care for animals requiring a quiet, comfortable home for the remainder of their life.

In every capacity they serve, volunteers and foster parents are a highly valued resource and the organization truly relies on their dedication and hard work to operate. Our Annual Volunteer Recognition Event gives us the opportunity to formally recognize the hard work and support we receive day in and day out from our dedicated volunteers and foster parents. It’s also another way for us to show our sincere appreciation and say thank you.

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The Toronto Humane Society has a very active effective Instagram presence where pictures of the animals are posted with anecdotal descriptions and updates. The Toronto Humane Society Facebook page also has regular postings of animals and volunteers engaged with them. How is  social media used by the organization to increase engagement. What are some of the successful outcomes of this usage?

Social media is an extremely important tool for us – it allows us to engage our audience and it encourages them to act (by sharing, retweeting, etc…).  They help us find forever homes for animals in addition to spreading awareness about important issues relating to animal welfare. By providing compelling content and information regarding our programs and services, the audience feels more connected to our mission and has a better understanding of how they can help. Social media is also a helpful tool for recruiting new volunteers, foster parents, participants for fundraising events and is also a great way for us to make a direct appeal (fundraising, gift-in-kind donations, etc…) and achieve quick results.

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What is a typical day in the life of a volunteer (in terms of their interaction with the THS) ?

When volunteers first arrive for their weekly shift, they sign-in at the computer in the Volunteer Office. Any important information they require for their shift, such as a change to the dog walking route will be communicated to them by the Volunteer Staff. Depending on their role, volunteers will make their way to their department and will determine which animals need enrichment. We aim to have the dogs walked 5-7 times a day and the special species and felines enriched 3 times a day. While the majority of our volunteers work directly with the animals, we do have others that help in an administrative/customer service capacity.

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As part of the fundraising of Toronto Humane Society there are efforts to educate the public as to the needs of the animals. For example the campaign where a certain amount of money will buy a package for the care of an animal for a certain time period. Is this approach successful and is part of the mandate to educate people about the basic needs of animals. 

Being transparent with our donors and giving them tangible examples of how we spend their donations is very important.  When an animal comes in to our care with a high care cost (for example a cat or dog that needs emergency surgery) it is easy to raise immediate funds for that particular animal.  But it’s harder to raise the funds we need for the everyday essentials such as food, basic medical supplies and shelter maintenance. That’s why supporters who donate every month are vital to our work – without them we couldn’t keep our doors open to animals in need.  By providing examples of how much it costs to care for an animal for a certain amount of time – it motivates our donors to give, and it educates the public about the costs of running a shelter. 

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The efforts of the volunteers is inspiring. Does communicating the accomplishments of the volunteers help generate donations where people get a chance to see individuals giving their time and committing to the animals?

Yes, it truly is inspiring. When people see volunteers making a commitment and dedicating their time to the animals each week, it reinforces the fact that we simply couldn’t do what we do without the help of these selfless individuals. Because of the tremendous help from volunteers and foster parents we are able to help thousands of animals every year, many more than if we were to rely solely on the efforts of paid staff.  But, we also rely on the kindness and generosity of donors since we receive absolutely no government funding. People who want to help but do not have the time or the ability to make the required commitment to volunteer are inspired to help in another way by providing a monetary donation.

Which campaigns to raise awareness have been most successful?

Our most successful campaign is our yearly Paws in the Park fundraiser.  This event regularly attracts hundreds of guests and participants, and raised over $150,000 for the animals in our care in 2014.  The goal of Paws in the Park, outside of fundraising, is to keep the Toronto Humane Society at the forefront of mind as the go-to animal welfare organization in the GTA. 

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https://youtu.be/j1P7f27-zHg

Our Spay/Neuter Surgical Blitzes – sponsored by PetSmart Charities of Canada – are also very successful campaigns in terms of getting the message across regarding the importance of sterilizing your pet.  We offer four surgical blitzes each year focusing on either male or female dogs or cats, and during each of these blitzes clients are able to have surgery performed at a discounted rate of $20 per animal.  These blitzes are extremely popular and we often have to turn away interested clients when we reach our surgical capacity.  In the month of January, during our Happy Neuter Year blitz for male cats, we were able to perform 226 neuter surgeries at this low rate.   We are currently in the midst of Beat the Heat, and hope that a similar number of female cats will be sterilized through our services by February’s end.

 How do the volunteers stay inspired? How is the community of volunteers cultivated?

I believe that volunteers stay inspired when they can see the direct impact of their work – whether that be helping us reach our fundraising goal at Paws in the Park, or making enrichment toys for the animals or seeing how their time enriching the animals has helped to make them more adoptable. Volunteers play a significant role in helping the animals put their best paw forward and get noticed by potential adopters. Second chances is what we’re all about and seeing the animals going to their forever homes is without a doubt the most rewarding part of volunteering.

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Our volunteers regularly receive training opportunities to move into different areas or to work with more challenging animals. In addition, opportunities are provided to volunteers who wish to socialize with other volunteers while performing a task outside of their regular duties. Volunteers are integral to our success and we do our best to thank them for their hard work and dedication on a day to day basis as well as hosting two formal appreciation events every year.

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Venue: Airship37

Toronto Humane Society