Archive for Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Kansas Humane Society begins charging its volunteers

August 30, 2011, 8:03 a.m. Updated August 30, 2011, 11:21 a.m.


— The Kansas Humane Society has attracted so many new volunteers since 2009 that it will begin asking people to pay a $15 fee to volunteer for the organization.

Adults who begin volunteer orientation at the Humane Society as of Thursday will be asked to pay $15 to cover costs for a T-shirt, name badge, access key card, training materials, facility use and mailing costs. Volunteers aged 17 years and younger will not have to pay the fee, nor will current volunteers, The Wichita Eagle reports.

Since the organization doubled its square footage when it moved to a new building in Topeka, the number of volunteers has increased from 300 to more than 1,300, said spokeswoman Jennifer Campbell.

"We're looking at making sure that we're balancing that many (volunteers) and the costs associated" with the volunteer program, which also have increased. Campbell said most volunteers support the fee.

"We're so incredibly grateful for the thousands of hours they donate to us," Campbell said. "The bottom line is they want us to take care of as many animals as possible."

The Humane Society said its volunteers worked 5,934 hours in July, the equivalent of $43,022 in minimum-wage work.

Charging volunteers is a growing trend. The Eagle reported that a hurricane recovery group in New Orleans has asked volunteers to give $225 to repair houses in New Orleans; a school district in Colorado charges volunteers $20 for a background check, and a wildlife museum in California charges teens $450 a year to be interpretive guides.

The organizations said the charges weed out people who train but then don't actually volunteer; increases a feeling of belonging by making the volunteer group more exclusive and brings money into cash-strapped nonprofits.

The Sedgwick County Zoo has been charging its volunteers $15 for a T-shirt and name badge since about 2004, said Bridget Landers, volunteer director for the zoo. She said zoo volunteers receive benefits such as free admission to the zoo when they volunteer, free drinks and a discount at the zoo's restaurants.

The volunteers are "very supportive of the zoo — they understand we're a nonprofit," Landers said.

The fee "instills a great sense of ownership in them," she said. "They're proud of the zoo and what it does for the community. They love to show it off."

But Pat Hanrahan of the United Way of the Plains said the Humane Society's decision surprised him.

"It seems kind of counterproductive with what volunteerism is all about," he said. "At least speaking for the United Way, we're so grateful for the support, we don't want it to be something they pay for."


christinamaki 6 years, 7 months ago

I'm kind of flabbergasted by this. I've worked for three different non-profits and we have always been taught to value our volunteers. If these workers are saving the humane society over $40k per month, what justification is there in charging them? The savings in labor should pay for the program on its own if the organization is running things smartly.

conservative 6 years, 7 months ago

Follow-up story 2013, kansas humane society bemoans lack of volunteers. I get having too many volunteers can lead to increased costs and problems overseeing and training them all. But it seems a much better option is to cap how many volunteers you use and tell others you appreciate their interest and they can get on a wait list. Charging people to do free work for you is a sure way to make people resent your organization and make them unlikely to help in the future.

Mike1949 6 years, 7 months ago

I agree, a fee would definitively make me think twice about volunteering!

sourpuss 6 years, 7 months ago

The more people that are unemployed or underemployed, the more volunteers. Many people volunteer out of a desire to help, but some do it to pad a resume or to fill resume gaps during periods of unemployment. This isn't a matter of valuing people - too many people want to volunteer. Volunteers still require training and training requires manpower. Volunteers need to be organized and that requires manpower. Unless an organization is actually hiring more, too many volunteers can be a burden.

That said, there are many organizations that could use more volunteers, so those wishing to help should do some research and find out where their time and talents are most needed. The Humane Society is high-profile but other groups are not and still need help.

Megan Green Stuke 6 years, 7 months ago

The humane society is a place where loads of volunteers go. It's nice to "play with cats and dogs" but it bothers me that volunteers flock to this particular charity and avoid other, frankly more important, areas of volunteerism, like feeding hungry HUMANS.

tolawdjk 6 years, 7 months ago

Megan, as someone who has done both, let me clue you in.

When a dog or cat at the humane society is played with, the affection they show you is genuine.

When the drunk at 11:30 shows up and asks for another slice of bread, and I quote "or I'll stab you", you also have to assume that it is genuine.

Frankly, animals are easier to deal with.

Danielle Brunin 6 years, 7 months ago

Wow, I didn't realize Meals on Wheels had taken such a violent turn recently!

Phone_Man 6 years, 7 months ago

Hungry dogs and cats are more thankful than hungry humans!

gr 6 years, 7 months ago

"She says most volunteers understand the need for the fee."

No. I don't.

But I do understand that the Humane society doesn't need any more volunteers. Or is it, any volunteers?

Something else I don't understand is, if they are to be getting animals to a new home, then why do they charge for doing it? Yeah, I know, it costs. But why? In order to promote their ideals. Genital mutilations. For a good reason, of course. But, I guess this latest is showing some reflections upon the organization as a whole. Like maybe it's nothing to do with the animals?....

I think Christi said it by saying, "The savings in labor should pay for the program on its own if the organization is running things smartly."
Capital "IF".

EarthaKitt 6 years, 7 months ago

In order to promote their ideals? Genital mutilation? Please please tell me you're joking.

April Fleming 6 years, 7 months ago

These people should go volunteer at operation wildlife in Linwood (right outside of town). That place does not have too many volunteers by a long shot.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 6 years, 7 months ago

I have never heard of such a ridiculous and outrageous plan. People who want to give their time are charged a fee????? This is what you get when the Facist Republicans take over the government. Just take a look at the current governer. This is disgusting.

gr 6 years, 7 months ago

I'm afraid I don't understand your sarcasm. And if you are serious, I'm afraid I don't understand what you think the Republicans, the governor, or the government has to do with the Humane Society.

rtwngr 6 years, 7 months ago

George Bush, right? Settle down there Obama. You're going to pop your cork.

1southernjayhawk 6 years, 7 months ago

Amazing that you are able to turn this into a politcal party issue. I suggest anger management counseling for you.

auntmimi210 6 years, 7 months ago

Yes, Operation Wildlife is a wonderful organization! I have brought them a bird or two over the years, along w/ a tiny baby possum, about the size of my thumb. They also educated me about a juvenile bird who was learning to fly, when I was convinced it was injured. (As a side note, they also educated me on the fact that mother possums have no maternal instinct. If they are scared or feel threatened, they will drop those babies from their pouch & run, never to return.) I am on their email list & I know they work very, very hard around the clock w/ just a few people to help. Many of their baby animals have to be fed & tended to at least every 2 hours around the clock, much like a human baby. I am sure they could use volunteers & it would be an awesome experience!

9070811 6 years, 7 months ago

I think they should have called the fee an application fee. Then there wouldn't be such a backlash. I personally have no problem with a $15 fee to volunteer. The manpower to train volunteers costs money. Anyone who really wants to help will understand this fee.

pinecreek 6 years, 7 months ago

Please call BR 549

Is that band still playing around these parts?

Boston_Corbett 6 years, 7 months ago

There are no more vicious politics than humane society politics.

Woof, woof.

Kevin Randell 6 years, 7 months ago

Look, it isn't the Democrats or Republicans fault in all of this. It's greed. There are so many other ways to raise the money. Heck...who needs a stupid T-shirt anyway to volunteer? The sad part in all of this is the fact the animals in there will suffer. Because a lot of the volunteers will go elsewhere where they are wanted and needed....not charged.

dogsandcats 6 years, 7 months ago

Yeah, there has got to be a better way to cover those costs than to make people who are volunteering their time pay a fee. Does this apply to all Humane Society locations in the state or just Topeka? The article mentions "Since the organization doubled its square footage when it moved to a new building in Topeka, the number of volunteers has increased from 300 to more than 1,300"

WaxAndWane 6 years, 7 months ago

If your decision to help animals hinges on not wanting to pay a $15 fee, then you aren't fit to volunteer at an animal shelter anyway.

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago


Why on earth should volunteers, who are giving their time/energy to help out for free, be charged any sort of fee?

Christine Anderson 6 years, 7 months ago

But WaxAndWane, there are persons who are loving and kind to animals who cannot afford the $15. Seriously.

bornon7 6 years, 7 months ago

I say if you don't pay, you don't get the t-shirt, etc. Just volunteer.

pinecreek 6 years, 7 months ago

What a cr*p approach to 'volunteering'. It's one thing to volunteer your time (which is worth money). It's another to 'volunteer' money to volunteer your time. These guys need to take a step back and think about it some more. Maybe work with other animal charities in their area and share the wealth rather than pillage the help. Incredibly short-sighted.

budwhysir 6 years, 7 months ago

Wouldnt this turn the volunteer into a "patron"????

wood451 6 years, 7 months ago

Undeniable Truth of Life #2 - The most expensive help for any organization is a volunteer.

cooltrix 6 years, 7 months ago

I'm sure that if someone really wants to volunteer and can't afford the fee they won't be turned away. The organization may ask for a donation that the volunteer felt they could afford, but I don't see the Humane Society turning away any help. I don't have any issues with a fee, if any of the organizations I volunteer for, needed me to pay for my own name tag and t-shirt, I'd do it. I'd rather they use their funds for the mission, not me.

jayhawxrok 6 years, 7 months ago

$15 is no big deal and covering the cost of your t-shirt and badge is a reasonable request

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