Foster applications are tricky things. You want to encourage potential volunteers to become foster parents for an animal, but you need to ensure the animal is well cared for and that the foster meets your standards. You’ll have to balance a simple application process with a more in-depth process that may scare away potential volunteers.
Basics – You will need basic information like name, address, phone and email, but maybe the potential foster is already a donor to your organization so providing them a simple checkbox to indicate they’re already in your database can save them time.
References – There is always a healthy debate regarding whether references are worth the time to capture or not. Are you going to actually call their references to verify them? If not, best save them from the hassle of inputting.
Household description – Knowing their situation (house, condo, apartment) and whether they have checked with their landlord or investigated the rules of the association is important to help identify candidates that may not quailify before they get too far into your application.
Family members – Identifying the number of adults, children and other furry (or non-furry) animals in the household will better allow you to match a foster animal with the foster family.
Enable the application with technology – If you’re still handing potential fosters a paper application and then having someone else type their information into an excel, you’re missing an opportunity to better enable the process. Use Google Forms to create a quick online form they can enter using their phone, tablet or computer so they don’t have to stand there with a clipboard and so you won’t have to decipher their handwriting.
Simplify, simplify, simplify – Use checkboxes, and phrase your questions to require simply Yes or No answers to allow your potential fosters to quickly complete your application.
Do a intro video – We know what you’re saying right now…”I don’t have time or the skills to do a video” but with just a mobile phone and some quick prep you can deliver a powerful message to your potential fosters about the application process. Use this to get them excited before they delve into your application.
Provide FAQs and answers – Give your potential fosters some self-serve Frequently Asked Questions and answers that they can read up on before undertaking the process. They likely have some of the same questions you’ve been asked in the past and some of the same concerns. Save you and them time by being up front and proactively answering their questions.
Make them advocates, not just fosters – How you administer your foster program speaks volumes about your organization. Are you making the fosters a part of the process or just a tool in your tool belt? Empower them to be the walking and talking advocates for their foster animal. Explain to them and teach them how to identify potential forever homes for the animal. The more you involve them in the process the more likely they will be to stay on as fosters for your organization.