Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteer Opportunities at BENCHS

Shelter volunteers provide hands-on animal care such as cleaning, grooming, exercising, and socializing the animals while they wait for their new homes.  In addition, volunteers assist with kennel cleaning, general housekeeping, and customer service. We could not save the lives we do without volunteers!

Dedicated volunteers are vital to everything we do at BENCHS. Other volunteer opportunities include animal photography, office work, yard work, building maintenance, fundraising events, and committee work. There are many ways in which you can help; use our Volunteer Opportunity Directory below to learn more. The Court-Appointed Community Service program at BENCHS is separate from the Volunteer Program. If you need hours for court, please see the information on that page.

If you have a special skill or trade that you feel may be beneficial to our shelter, please share it with us. Wherever your talents lie, BENCHS welcomes you!

Volunteer Opportunity Directory

Duties: Typical duties include: general cleaning, customer service, donation support, basic animal care, handing out food for Food Share Program, help maintain animal play yards. Requires handling soiled items.

Qualifications: Must be able to work with the public.

Training: In order to work with the animals, training is mandatory and often happens as you work alongside another volunteer.

Times Needed: Daily

Duties: For the dogs, each day includes walks in all kinds of weather, nap time, calm music, and a special enrichment activity. Train (basic commands) and socialize the dogs. Clean up after the dogs and help staff care for them as needed. Requires handling of soiled items. Possibly take dogs to off-site events, on excursions, or staycations.

Qualifications: Must be able to interact with dogs of various sizes, shapes, breeds, and training levels. Prior understanding of dog behavior and dog handling skills are preferred, but not necessary.

Training: Dog Enrichment Program training is mandatory (2 hours).  Followed by buddy walks.

Times NeededTimes needed are flexible but we ask for a two hour, weekly commitment between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm. Due to the time it takes to complete the training, we ask for a 6 month commitment from the DEP volunteers.

Duties: Provide human companionship, interactive playtime and socialization to help the cats cope with shelter life and the disruption of their daily routines. Clean up after the cats and help staff care for them as needed. Requires handling of soiled items.

Qualifications: Must be 18 years or greater. Must be able to interact with the cats. Basic understanding of cat behavior and cat handing skills.

Training: In order to work with the animals, training is mandatory and often happens as you work alongside another volunteer.

Times Needed: Daily, afternoons preferred

Duties: Sometimes animals with special needs are placed in foster homes where they can receive more appropriate care than in the shelter. This could include animals with medical or behavioral issues, or pregnant or nursing mothers. Other times, animals simply need a break from the shelter setting and can use the extra attention from a foster caregiver.

Qualifications: Must have an approved foster home application. Most criteria will depend on the individual foster care need.

Times Needed: Short term care (1-7 days) to Long-term care (up to 3 months).

Directions to Volunteer: Please complete a foster home application found here on our Fostering page.  We will send out messages about foster care needs. Please respond to a message if you can help.

Duties: Assist staff members during adoption hours: greet the families, bring the animals to the families, pack up the adoptions bags and anything else staff members need. When there is down time you can help with photography, laundry, clean, fill water bowls, socialize with the animals, etc.

Qualifications: Able to work with the public.

Training: In order to work with the animals, training is mandatory and often happens as you work alongside another volunteer.

Times Needed: Thursdays 3-7 pm, Fridays 3-7 pm, and Saturdays 2-6 pm

Duties: Clean and sanitize shelter housing areas for animals. Feed animals and provide clean water. Be aware for behavioral and medical needs.


Training: In order to work around the animals, training is mandatory and often happens as you work alongside another volunteer.

Times Needed: Daily, 8:00 am – 10:00 am

Duties: Provide lunch for staff members on extremely busy clinic days and possibly for other events. During the BENCHS Outreach Clinic (BOC) days, staff members are extremely busy providing spay/neuter services to other area rescues. On these days, they have limited time for lunch so it we ask volunteers to provide a lunch (including a vegan option) for 12 people. You would just need to drop the food off at the shelter. We have plates and utensils. Staff members provide their own beverages.

Qualifications: Volunteers must have a way to transport the meal to the shelter and then come pick up their pans, etc. later on.

Times Needed: Dates vary according to the BOC calendar. Lunch needs to be delivered by 11:00 am that day.

Duties: Support a variety of events in the community: promoting the work of the shelter; encouraging donations; recruiting volunteering; hosting a table at community outreach events, etc. Volunteers would also be needed to help set up/tear down the events.

Qualifications: Must be friendly, outgoing and quite knowledgeable about the shelter.

Times Needed: Generally events are 2-4 hours long.

Duties: Volunteers run errands for the shelter: purchase supplies, pick up donations, and collect money from donation jars at various businesses in the Mankato area. Volunteers must record locations visited on a shared Google Spreadsheet.

Qualifications: Must meet with the Volunteer Coordinator about this opportunity. Must be at least 18 years old and have a valid driver’s license. You would need to provide your own reliable personal vehicle and be capable of doing heavy lifting as needed.

Times Needed: One day per week, approximately 2 hours; possibly last minute opportunities

Duties: Transport pets to and from vet appointments. Vet clinics might be here in Mankato or as far away as the Twin Cities. Pets typically need to be dropped off at the vet by 8 am and they get picked up by 4 pm, but it depends on which veterinary service we are using.

Qualifications: Must be at least 18 years old, have a valid driver’s license and a reliable personal vehicle.

Times Needed: On call, weekdays.

Duties: Doing various outside and/or inside work for the organization. Outside: groundskeeping, gardening, hauling cans to recycling, etc. Inside: plumbing, painting, heavy work, carpentry, etc.

Qualifications: BENCHS has some tools and equipment, but at times you will need to use your own. Some specialized skills will be required for certain tasks.

Times Needed: The shelter would like a list of handymen and handywomen to call when needs arise.

BENCHS often supports groups of volunteers. Activities may include painting, building maintenance, yard work, laundry, dishes, cleaning, office work, and other projects that benefit BENCHS and its animals. Short-term volunteers do not work with the animals because of the training needed. Groups should be no smaller than 3 people and no larger than 10.

If you are the leader of a group and would like to set up a special volunteer session, just email our Volunteer Coordinator at [email protected] and we can set something up for you.

The BENCHS Board of Directors is a group of dedicated individuals who volunteer their time to help advance the mission of BENCHS and advocate for the organization. We are currently a working board with the goal of transitioning to a governing board after the onboarding of an Executive Director. The Board focuses on organizational governance and strategic planning, while supporting the staff of BENCHS in the operation of the organization.

If you are interested in joining the Board of Directors or the Advisory Board, please contact Kristin Dauk, Board President, at [email protected].

Duties:  BENCHS engages volunteers in four main committees:

  1. Executive Committee: This committee is comprised of the Board President, Vice President, and Treasurer.
  2. Governance: Taking the lead in everything related to board development: ie., orientation, creating/maintaining board materials, evaluating the board’s performance.
  3. Internal Affairs: Oversees all things operational and financial ~ handling anything that directly influences the organization’s ability to fulfill its mission: ie., overseeing financial details, personnel, buildings and facilities.
  4. External Affairs: Handles anything outside of the organization: fundraising, donors, marketing, communications, and public relations.

Qualifications: Committee members must be able to attend regular meetings and help with outreach events and activities when possible. Volunteers should be outgoing and enjoy interacting with the public.

Times Needed: Meeting schedules are yet to be determined.

Volunteering at an animal shelter can be a rewarding experience with many benefits. Reliability is one of the most important characteristics needed in volunteers. BENCHS needs to know we can count on you! 

Woman folding towels in a laundry room
woman petting dog

Volunteer FAQs

  • Volunteers must be 18 years of age or older. If you are younger than 18, look below for a list of ways that children can be involved in BENCHS.
  • Volunteers must be able to understand and fulfill their assignments independently. (See Essential Capabilities of a Volunteer below.)
  • Only trained volunteers are allowed to work with the animals.
  • We ask volunteers to commit to once a week for twelve weeks. Our animals do best with consistency and it helps with their social development.
  • Volunteers are asked to sign in every time they volunteer. The number of volunteers and the hours volunteers work help us to secure grants to keep our program strong.

If you are looking for college credit or court-ordered volunteer opportunities, please see the specific programs for those volunteers. 

Volunteering at BENCHS does require certain skills and abilities. These essential capabilities are, but not limited to:

  • Able to work independently and willing to work as part of a team.
  • Comfortable speaking to members of the public.
  • Maintain professional appearance & positive energy when volunteering.
  • Willing to learn and utilize our online volunteer scheduling system.
  • Able to see the body language of an animal for safety.
  • Able to take instructions and follow safety protocols.
  • Able to work with cleaning chemicals.
  • Meeting the basic physical requirements for volunteers.
  • Commitment to the BENCHS mission & the volunteer program mission.

BENCHS has an official partnership with MRCI in Mankato to provide community service opportunities to people with disabilities.

For any volunteers wanting to work with animals, there are these additional essential capabilities:

  • Standing unassisted for long periods of time.
  • Walk distances unassisted.
  • Bend, kneel, crouch unassisted.
  • Use of both hands simultaneously.
  • Lift, carry and move at least 25 pounds independently.
  • Volunteer roles may have additional requirements.

BENCHS has an official partnership with MRCI in Mankato to provide community service opportunities to people with disabilities.

BENCHS is always looking for ways to involve children in the rescuing of dogs and cats! Here are some ideas:

  • Ask for birthday donations instead of gifts.
  • Raise awareness about the importance of spaying and neutering your pets.
  • Hold a donation drive for items on our donation list.
  • Raise money for BENCHS through a bake sale (human or pet),garage sale, lemonade stand, craft sale, etc.
  • Make adoption advertisements for the adoptable dogs and cats to hang in the hallways at BENCHS
  • Make snuffle matts.
  • Make dog toys out of old t-shirts or jeans.
  • Volunteer to help at a BENCHS event with a parent.
  • Make “Adopt Me” bandanas or vests for the BENCHS dogs.
  • Help hang flyers up in the community for BENCHS activities.
  • Start a coin drive in your school for BENCHS.
  • Host a read-a-thon! Ask friends and family to donate money for each animal-related book you read.
  • Create an “Animal Lover’s Quilt” or put together an “Animal Supplies” basket to raffle off.

In short, no. Dog walkers must go through comprehensive training to work with the dogs in our Dog Enrichment Program. Because of the time it takes to complete the training, we ask that they commit two hours every week for 6 months.

Customers and short-term volunteers cannot walk dogs at the shelter. Customers are allowed to interact with dogs only with volunteer or staff assistance.

Volunteering at BENCHS is about more than snuggling with the animals. We ask that volunteers complete the volunteer opportunity they signed up to do first, and then take time to snuggle and cuddle the animals. We always need extra help with the daily care of the animals and upkeep of the shelter ~ and the animals need your love and attention while they wait for their forever homes!

Reminder: Volunteers must go through comprehensive training to work with the animals.