What's it like being a trustee and fosterer?
We talked to Cat who is both a branch trustee and a cat fosterer to find out what it’s like to volunteer with the RSPCA in Guildford and Epsom. She gave us some interesting insights into both roles.
The trustee role
Volunteer trustees are really the ‘key holders’ of a branch and the driving force behind what it does, so it’s a really responsible role.
A lot of people don’t realise that the RSPCA is actually divided into lots of branches of separately registered charities across England and Wales. It’s these charities who are responsible for a lot of the direct animal welfare work the RSPCA does.
Cat explained how she and her fellow Guildford and Epsom trustees have to make decisions about how to spend the branch’s funds to help the animals most in need and the kinds of activities it gets involved in.
How much time do you need to give?
Cat meets with the other trustees once a month. The meeting lasts two to three hours, and they make sure they are well refreshed with tea and biscuits; the trustees take it in turns to buy the refreshments. These meetings give rise to a variety of actions that all of the trustees have to undertake e.g. what animal welfare activities they should focus on, which local events to attend to talk about promoting kindness and preventing cruelty to animals and reviewing branch governance documentation.
Some months Cat may also be involved in other activities such as taking cats to animal centres or organising and attending high street fundraising events.
The precise amount of additional time Cat dedicates to her trustee duties varies month to month – some months can be quite busy and some are quieter – but she finds she is able to balance the role with her young family.
What is your background?
The trustees Cat works with are a friendly and open group, and all of them bring different skills and experience to the table. So there is no set background that makes a good trustee, in fact the group thrives on the diversity of skills and experience.
It’s important to be able to work as part of a team, but equally important is having the initiative to work independently and find ways in which you can contribute to the group. Cat’s background is actually in animal care and she used to work with the RPSCA in one of its animal centre, although that’s by no means a prerequisite of becoming a trustee.
What’s the best thing about being a trustee?
Cat is passionate about helping animals. In particular she explained how she gets a great deal of satisfaction from being able to find an animal in need a permanent home; being a trustee of RSPCA Guildford and Epsom Branch helps her to fulfil this calling.
The fostering role
Fosterers provide temporary homes for cats in RSPCA care until new, permanent homes are found.
Cat has been fostering cats for a number of years. Typically the cats she fosters are with her for between two and four months; but she has fostered for as little as a few weeks and as much as six months.
What advice do you have for people thinking of fostering?
Cat emphasises that you have to go into fostering knowing that the cats are not going to be your own and you need to feel prepared to hand them over once they have been placed in their permanent homes. You also have to be flexible and honest about the time you can give; foster cats can’t go outside and want company and socialisation so a foster carer needs to be in a position to offer this.
However, for Cat it is well worth it – she highlights what a rewarding activity it is for cat lovers who, alongside the satisfaction of helping a cat in need, get their companionship whilst being supported by the RSPCA with the cost of things like food, litter and vets fees.
Can you tell us about a cat you’ve fostered?
Cat told us the story of Alex, a black and white kitten who she fostered recently. The RSPCA first became aware of Alex when we received reports of a stray cat who was far too young to be out on her own and she was taken to the RSPCA Putney Hospital.
When Alex first came to Cat she was three to four months old and very timid. Arriving at Cat’s home she hid and refused to come out. However, with a bit of time, love and socialisation Alex’s confidence quickly grew. Soon she allowed Cat to stroke her and happily sat on her knee.
Alex found her forever home with Susannah after a few months; she saw Alex on Find a pet and was immediately attracted her timid character. It was a brilliant match and Alex is now settled happily with Susannah and loving life!
Interested in volunteering?
Find out more about volunteeringWe’re always on the lookout for volunteers across a range of areas. To find out about volunteering opportunities with RSPCA Guildford and Epsom Branch, please see https://www.rspca.org.uk/local/guildford-and-epsom-branch/help/volunteer