Here at Journeys for Good, we’re in the business of learning about the connections between volunteers and volunteer organizations. How do organizations find people who are willing to give their time, and their physical and emotional energy for a cause? How do people find the organizations that speak to their hearts? We are also interested in the business side of this equation: how does an aid organization get noticed? This week I was reading about a powerful international organization that manages to facilitate these connections spectacularly well: International Animal Rescue.
IAR is a large organization, but it wasn’t always that way. They started small, as we all do, and today have offices in six countries. They are a non-profit, so all of their funds come from volunteers, donors, and other organizations. Their mission is to help animals of all sorts. They run spaying and neutering clinics to control wild populations of feral pets, rehabilitate and re-release injured animals, and permanently house animals that can’t be returned to the wild. They work with a worldwide consortium of other wildlife organizations. If they can’t help, they find someone who can. As global warming, development, and other environmental threats endanger wild animals worldwide, organizations like IAR become ever more important.
There are several lessons other non-profits can take from IAR. First, they have a well organized website with prominent links for donating and getting involved. They have an extensive social media presence and host a network of blogs that follow their various projects around the world. The blogs are critical: they build a readership, provide a platform for sharing accomplishments or setbacks, and offer volunteers an opportunity to see their writing published and appreciated in an important and meaningful way. Getting volunteers involved in contributing website content is an excellent strategy for infusing a website with a wealth of perspectives. It also inspires potential volunteers. It’s a positive feedback loop: potential volunteers find the website, are inspired by other volunteers, become volunteers, and add to the website. There are many voluntour/volunteer organizations that incorporate volunteer content on their websites: for example, the Peace Corps.
IAR also has a “sponsor an animal” program. This, in particular, is worth exploring. Any organization that works with individuals, be they human or animal, should consider a sponsorship program. Personally, I like knowing who or what I am helping. I like to see where my money goes and I get great satisfaction out of watching progress happen, even from afar. I have always sponsored children. I have adopted a whale, a chimpanzee, and an orangutan. It’s only pennies a day, but it is so rewarding to watch these animals thrive.