This post originally ran in March 2021. We are republishing today because we think it’s as relevant as ever!
Traditionally in many shelters, only select pets have been eligible for foster care. Those sent to foster homes have typically been neonates and pets with medical needs. Due to lack of time and the seasonal nature of pets’ births, foster recruitment at most organizations has been done on an as-needed basis. This can leave shelters and rescue organizations scrambling to recruit the fosters they need.
As we move toward community-centered sheltering practices, foster caregivers are more important than ever. Placing the majority of an organization’s pets in foster homes requires more foster caregivers than most shelter-based organizations have needed before. Finding them is absolutely possible, but it may necessitate a more comprehensive approach to foster recruitment. Creating a year-round plan that includes multiple, diverse strategies for extending the invitation to foster to all segments of your community can set your organization on the path to having all the foster caregivers you need.
Here are some things to think about as you create your plan and craft your messaging:
Where are you recruiting fosters, other than social media? While social media is a great tool for foster recruitment, it’s far from the only tool. More importantly, there are large segments of the community that you may be unable to reach this way. Diversify your foster recruitment methods by including strategies such as working with local media, having written materials available at events (in English and in other languages), and facilitate word of mouth.
Is your foster network as diverse as your community? There could be large segments of your community who are unaware of your need for foster caregivers. What strategies can you use to reach them?
Are you being specific about the fosters you need? In addition to general foster pleas, let supporters know what types of fosters you’re most in need of. Better yet, tell the stories of specific pets who need foster homes and explain why they’re needed. The general public may not realize that, for example, shelter stress can lead to behavioral decline or how foster caregivers can save these pets’ lives. Help them make that connection.
Do you have an efficient process for marketing pets from foster care? Though it’s technically not foster recruitment, it’s even better! Getting the pets who are currently in foster homes adopted has multiple benefits: your experienced foster homes open up for more pets, and foster caregivers feel seen and appreciated.
Are you making an effort to convert volunteers and other supporters into fosters? Make it easy for them to foster, and make sure they know it! Include foster success stories and foster pleas for specific pets in your volunteer newsletter, with instructions for how to get involved. In communications to short-term foster participants, include instructions for participants who want to foster the pet they took out longer-term.
Download a planning template for a comprehensive foster recruitment to get started!
Interested in learning even more about foster recruitment? Watch the webcast, Recruit, Re-engage, Renew: How to Place More Pets into Foster Homes Right Now!