working with cat

If you are working in animal welfare, it’s easy to think that the challenges faced by your community or your organization are unique — that you have to contend with problems, stakeholders, and circumstances other communities don’t. Amelia Monroe from Loudoun County Animal Services (LCAS) thought so, too, until she attended Maddie’s® Volunteer Management and Engagement Apprenticeship at St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center.

“The biggest thing I learned at the apprenticeship was that I am not the only one!” she said. “No matter how different our programs and organizations, many of us struggle with the same hurdles, like staff vs. volunteer culture, retention and databases.”

Monroe has been the Volunteer and Humane Education Coordinator for almost a year, so the apprenticeship was a perfect opportunity for her.

“The apprenticeship was mind-blowing! I learned so much and it was wonderful to share and build on ideas of other volunteer managers from such a wide array of areas and shelters. I’m new to sheltering and a volunteer program of this size, and still learning. The apprenticeship not only showed me things I can do to improve, but also that some of the things I’ve been stressing over are not because of how I’m doing things, but are issues that everyone is working on solving.”

About 50-75 percent of her job is managing their volunteer program of about 100 active volunteers. The remaining 25-50 percent, depending on whether it’s kitten season or school is in, is spent developing, planning and leading humane education programs in and out of the shelter, as well as managing the database and statistic side of the foster program.

Monroe specifically enjoyed learning more about Volgistics (volunteer management software). “Seeing how others were utilizing it to automate responses, communicate and keep records was amazing,” she said.

Since returning home, Monroe has already started implementing changes, including updating some of the ways they use their volunteer database that will benefit everyone. “So far, I’ve updated the online applications and homepage. I’m also streamlining some of the communication and data collecting. We are starting a weekly volunteer newsletter, which will take the form of an email or a post within our software.”

After that? “There are volunteer opportunities, recognition, outreach, time management! I have a list! I love it!”

Monroe wants to tell anyone thinking about applying for an apprenticeship not to hesitate. “It is 100 percent worth it. The learning and the brainstorming with others outside your normal network is amazing.”

She looks forward to staying in touch with her new network to share ideas, collaborate and more.