It happens everywhere: foster caregivers fall in love with a pet they’re fostering, and some are unable to continue fostering after they adopt. In fact, research shows that nearly half of foster caregivers end up adopting their foster pet at some point. This can be a great thing, since knowing how the pet behaves in one’s home can help make great adoption matches, and those who are unable to continue fostering may be happy to help your organization in a different way. There are a number of strategies you can use to keep your foster base strong while allowing for some expected turnover and reengaging those unable to continue fostering. Here are five of our favorites:
Streamline your onboarding process. Make your foster onboarding process as simple and efficient as possible. Aim to give foster caregivers the training and support they need without overinvesting your time. Shelters and rescues are doing this by putting their foster training online, where it can be accessed anytime, and using volunteers to help onboard and mentor new fosters.
Ask for personal testimonials and offer templates. Chances are, your foster caregivers know how much you need their help, and many would be willing to reach out to others about fostering. Ask your adopting fosters (and current fosters—why not?) if they’re willing to post a testimonial on social media or talk with friends and family about the need for fosters to help you recruit. Consider creating template document listing the text for one or two general foster pleas that can be shared on Nextdoor or another social media platform to help you recruit others.
Ask them to help you in other ways. Market research shows that nearly 60% of foster caregivers would be willing to expand their role in some way, such as mentoring new foster caregivers, organizing supplies or helping you with administrative tasks.
“Reach out and ask them if there are other aspects of the foster program they can assist with,” says volunteer Nancy Hill of Cascade Feline Alliance. “Were they good at social media posting, so they have a wide network they can still post fosters on, or were they great at videos or photos? Were they fosters long enough to segue into mentoring new fosters?”
Never stop recruiting. Your organization should aim to talk about foster as much as they do adoption in their communications. Create a comprehensive foster recruitment plan to enlist foster caregivers via multiple strategies, year-round.
Don’t sweat it. Consider the time you’ve invested in a caregiver that adopts their foster pet as additional adoption counseling, increasing the likelihood that their pet won’t be returned.
“A lot of the fosters I have that can no longer foster, end up sticking around to help with recruitment events, offsite adoption events and are still active on our foster volunteer Facebook group. I have found that a lot of fosters who adopt make great relief fosters when other foster volunteers go on vacation.” says Christina Hutchins, foster coordinator at SICSA Pet Adoption and Wellness Center.