Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Symposium #446
Improving Volunteer Retention in Nonprofit Animal Shelters
Monday, May 26, 2014
4:00 PM–4:50 PM
W192b (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: OBM/AAB; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Bailey Wilcox (University of Nevada, Reno)
Discussant: Veronica J. Howard (University of Alaska Anchorage)

Volunteers are a common feature of nonprofit organizations, contributing nearly 3.2 billion hours of volunteer service in 2012 (US Bureau of Labor Statistics). Despite their sizable contribution to the economy, few studies in Organizational Behavior Management have studied the work performance of volunteers. The factors that regulate, improve, and sustain volunteer contributions to nonprofit organizations are not well understood. Nowhere is the contribution of volunteers more valuable than in nonprofit animal shelters, where volunteer labor be used to supplement the labor of paid staff in delivering animal enrichment and socialization that improve the life and outcomes for sheltered animals. Volunteer turnover is also extremely high, suggesting that the factors that contribute to the decision to become a volunteer does not sustain volunteer contributions. The current studies aim to address the issue of high volunteer turnover through the addition of system support and volunteer training. Data on retention, effectiveness, and social validity will be discussed.

Keyword(s): animal shelters, nonprofit organizations, turnover, volunteer management

Training Both Ends of the Leash to Increase Adoption and Volunteer Retention

RAE DEBRUYNE (University of Minnesota Duluth ), Julie M. Slowiak (University of Minnesota Duluth), Becky Mathiowetz (Animal Allies Humane Society)

To assist with animal care and day-to-day operations, many shelters utilize the help of volunteers. Research (UPS Foundation, 1998) indicates that people would be more likely to volunteer if the volunteer organization made good use of time, had a reputation of being well managed, made better use of talents, made tasks more clearly defined, offered experience that helped career, and offered thanks. Animal Allies Humane Society (AAHS) in northern MN, is the largest regional animal shelter, taking in over 3,000 dogs and cats in 2012 and having nearly 450 active volunteers. In order to attract and retain high quality volunteers, AAHS has taken recent steps to improve the management of their volunteer program, beginning with its 200+ Dog Buddy volunteers who contribute over 675 volunteer hours per month. This presentation serves three purposes: (1) to provide an update on the effectiveness of the "Dog Buddy" training program with regard to program effectiveness and social validity, (2) to provide an overview of a new project implemented to both train socially acceptable shelter dog behaviors and to increase volunteer retention, and (3) to provide insight on new volunteer satisfaction and retention. Data collected and available for dissemination will be presented.


Assessing Volunteer Retention in the Nevada Humane Society

CAROLYN BRAYKO (University of Nevada, Reno), Nikole Nichols (Nevada Humane Society), Ramona Houmanfar (University of Nevada, Reno)

In the past year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated about 64.8 million people in the United States participated in at least one volunteer activity, with the median of 50 hours spent per person per year. Thus 3.2 billion volunteer hours were donated last year, and the volunteer need in organizations is likely to be much higher. Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) as a field has published little about volunteers in organizations, despite the fact that they make up a significant percentage of the work force, particularly among non-profit organizations. Specifically, a common problem among non-profits is retaining volunteers once they have been recruited and oriented. The current study examined volunteer retention at a local humane society where recruitment is high, but retention is low. Assessment data will be shown to further illustrate the importance of creating effective volunteer systems in order to maintain volunteer participation within a non-profit organization. OBM has much to offer non-profit organizations, however, the nature of volunteership poses some formidable challenges. The talk will address: how the field of OBM can expand into this neglected area of study, the various implications for doing so, and use the recent work done at the Nevada Humane Society to illustrate the numerous opportunities for research and application.




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