First you need a clear understanding of how dogs move through your current system. This is crucial because you want the program to help your organization and not hinder how you operate in any way. When placing dogs into an Adoption Ambassador program you need to ensure they have been behaviorally and medically evaluated, vaccinated, and altered.
- Identify an Adoption Ambassador coordinator
This is an engaging, enthusiastic volunteer or staff member with exceptional customer care skills, who is accessible to Adoption Ambassadors at all times. The coordinator needs a clear understanding of your organization's operations as they pertain to dogs, and be able to interact with staff to facilitate dogs entering the program. The coordinator should also be able to do adoptions and be the point person for those homes who need assistance.
- Recruit your volunteers, and ask them to recruit their friends and families. Ask for continuous feedback so your program can continually improve.
- Decide which types of dogs should go into the program
All dogs can benefit from an Adoption Ambassador program. Some organizations place dogs in the program after they have been on the adoption floor for a certain amount of time. Others place dogs immediately into the program based on behavior or physical attributes, knowing they may do better in a home environment.
- Create a plan for moving dogs from the shelter to the Adoption Ambassador homes. Identify the steps they go through in your system – behavior evaluation or surgery, etc. – and at what point the dogs are selected and flagged to enter the system.
- Email your volunteers with information about the selected dogs.
Include photos and complete information about the dogs so volunteers can help determine which dogs are best suited for their homes.
- Gather all material needed for the volunteers and dogs. This includes:
- "Adopt Me" vests
- Medications such as flea and heartworm preventative
- Leashes, collars, and tags that have your organization's information
- Business cards for the dogs
- Local hot-spot list
- Behavior and training information
- Adoption paperwork
- Camera to photograph dogs
- Train your volunteers
Your volunteers need to be confident and well-informed. You may want to hold small meetings to train several homes at once, or have each volunteer watch an adoption from start to finish before beginning. Marketing of the dog is key to the Adoption Ambassador program, and volunteers should think of themselves as talent agents for their dogs. They need to get the word out about how amazing their dogs are in every possible way. This includes promoting them through social media, word of mouth, emails to friends and family, and by hitting the streets.
- Determine your time frame
Let volunteers know you will check in with them around 3-4 weeks to ensure things are still going well. Volunteers have the option to bring dogs back to the shelter if they feel it is too difficult – you want to keep them motivated for the program.
- Start saving lives!
Place your first dogs into the program, and be willing to adjust the program and your approach based on volunteer feedback and success of finding homes.