I want to bring this idea to my city. Where should I start?
We’re so happy you’d like to start your own “branch” of a program like Hand2Paw! Please first note that Hand2Paw is not a franchise. At this point, we don’t oversee programs outside our region. What unites programs like these is a common idea and mission: to provide mutually positive benefits to both homeless youth and homeless animals. We encourage you to replicate and ratify that mission in a way that fits the needs of organizations in your area.
Determine your goals.
First, you will need to consider what your goals are. Do you want to:
- Create an animal therapy program?
- A jobs program?
- A volunteer program?
- All of the above?
It is important to closely consider your goals and create a strategic plan for how to achieve them. Next, you will need to create alliances with organizations in your community.
Working with area animal shelters.
- Connect with animal welfare advocates in your city
- Research if area shelters take volunteers and what their exact requirements are – is an orientation required? Past experience? A certain number of hours per week? A minimum age?
- Find out which shelters are in need of assistance and tour their facilities
- Talk to shelter volunteers, staff, and board members to determine their needs:
- Do their animals need more socialization? Training? Feeding? Walking?
- Do they need help with cleaning and laundry?
- Processing paperwork and sorting donations?
- Other tasks around the shelter?
- Is there a point person at the animal shelter who is interested in facilitating this project? Is he or she willing to run orientations and volunteer sessions? Provide supervision? Does the shelter have space to run the program?
Approval is needed from the “higher-ups” for a program like this. Be sure to get it. Feel free to present Hand2Paw as an example, but you must develop your own ideas to cater to the specific needs and policies of animal shelters in your area.
Working with homeless shelters and transitional living programs.
- Connect with homeless advocates and nonprofit organizations in your city.
- Determine what these shelters need for their residents:
- Do their residents need job skills training?
- Positive programming?
- Extracurricular activities?
- Volunteer hours?
Cater precisely to these needs and ask about their constraints:
- Do they have the staff that are interested and dedicated to starting a Hand2Paw partnership? We recommend at least one “point person” at each organization who is committed to the project.
- What are the ages of the individuals they serve? Keep in mind that animal shelters will rarely take volunteers or allow their animals to interact with individuals under age 18.
- Do their residents have activities that might make it hard for them to regularly participate in a program? Regular meetings? Doctor’s appointments? Program requirements?
- Do they serve individuals on a more transient or long term basis? Will your Hand2Paw program cater to participants who can come multiple times or just once?
Approval is needed from the “higher-ups” for a program like this. Be sure to get it. Feel free to present Hand2Paw as an example, but you must develop your own ideas to cater to the specific needs of homeless shelters in your area.
Managing liability issues.
- Does the animal shelter you want to work with have a volunteer waiver?
- Are there any restrictions?
- Are the individuals that will be participating legally able to waive their rights on a waiver? This particularly applies if working with individuals under age 18.
We strongly recommend seeking legal advice to ensure that all parties are covered.
One of the main tenets of Hand2Paw is to make sure that this is a mutually beneficial relationship for all organizations involved. If the program becomes a burden for either organization, it will no longer be viable. Our biggest suggestion to you is to cater precisely to the needs of the nonprofit organizations you work with.
Good luck! Let us know if you still have questions. If you successfully create a program, update us! We’d love to hear from you. Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.