Most people would agree that getting free PR for you rescue group or shelter is a fantastic way to increase adoptions, boost fundraising and recruit volunteers. But who has the time to write a press release, plan an event or post a blog? Your volunteers, that’s who!

You may also be wondering how to find volunteers with the expertise to help you organization. Where do you find someone who can spice up your adoption events, take fabulous photos, write moving stories about your dogs and get you free PR? Once you find the right people, how can make sure they remain fully engaged with your organization’s mission?

Adding volunteers in areas such as website development, PR, event planning and fundraising is not just a luxury. It has now become is a necessity for rescues and shelters who want to compete with commercial breeding facilities and pet stores.

Skilled volunteers are your best bet for leveraging the many free PR opportunities available. Here are a few simple recommendations to boost your volunteer talent pool:

• Ask your volunteers to help you recruit. They may know someone who would be willing to help with the skill set your looking for. People love to recommend an organization they believe in.

• Have volunteer “job descriptions” on hand. This will allow potential volunteers to understand at a glance where you need help most.

• Show your appreciation. Your current volunteers are your biggest cheerleaders. Remember to thank them for what they do in person, with a quick e-mail, or at a group meeting or adoption event.

• Take time for volunteer recognition. Feature a volunteer of the month on your website, in your newsletter, in your blog, or at any volunteer gatherings. Recognition wins fans!

• Know your volunteers. What is their day job? Do they have any hobbies or special training? What else would they like to contribute to your organization? Find out.

• Listen to their ideas. Volunteers love to collaborate and need to know that their expertise and opinions matter.

• Inspire foster families. Foster parents make the best marketers. They know every funny, endearing, wonderful thing about their foster dog and are eager to share this information with the world. Encourage them to send updates for the dog’s profile on your website and to interact with prospective adopters at events.

• Be creative when recruiting. Consider reaching out in new ways such as putting a post on Craig’s List, display the volunteer opening on your website home page and post it on your group’s Myspace or FaceBook page. Have job descriptions available at adoption events. Volunteers may appear when you least expect it - be ready and they will come!