Sunday, April 19, 2015

Effective Leaders Empower Volunteers

National Volunteer Week is drawing to a close. The average value of a volunteer in America is at it's highest level ever in America. The estimated average value of a volunteer's time is $23.07 per hour with Wisconsin running just slightly under the average at $22.24 per hour.

I am blessed to have  many wonderful volunteers in my life.  Lost Dogs of Wisconsin and Lost Dogs of America are entirely volunteer run.  At Lost Dogs of Wisconsin our volunteers have helped reunite over 600 dogs so far in 2015.  Wisconsin Voters for Companion Animals is also made up entirely of volunteers.  Since 2010 we have had helped repeal or reject Breed Discrimination in 15 communities. We also have several other areas of focus and although legislative progress can feel as slow as molasses sometimes, we are still making forward strides.

Look around you. Is your local shelter empowering their volunteers to save lives? How many volunteers are in positions of leadership at your local shelter? How many volunteers go on to become board directors? How many volunteers lead teams of other volunteers?  If your answer is "few" or "none" then your shelter is missing out on a tremendous opportunity.  I can guarantee that there are talented people just waiting to be empowered. If they aren't challenged to use their talents and knowledge to save lives, their focus and energy will soon become frustration and negativity when they see things they would like to fix but aren't empowered to fix them.

It's time to stop worrying about "losing control". It's time to stop micro-managing. It's time to start embracing and empowering your volunteers. A very wise friend once said "Don't worry about losing control.  You never really had it anyways."

Hats off to volunteers everywhere.  You are making a difference. You are making the dream of a No Kill Nation a reality. You are driving the change in America's shelters. You are saving lives.

"One of the first lessons of leadership is that one person cannot do everything.  But everything that needs to be accomplished CAN be accomplished through recruitment, training, and empowering of others. - Stan Toler"

Saturday, March 14, 2015

It Isn't Personal

I had an interesting conversation with a killing apologist/shelter defender recently who accused me of "despising" Shelter Director xxxxxx.   Hmmm.... I don't think so.  I don't despise xxxxx or any other person for that matter.  I despise shelter killing.  Big difference.  Personality conflicts and drama are a big waste of energy that I don't have time for.

Shelter directors are just people. With strengths and flaws and personalities and baggage.  Shelter directors come and go. They retire, get fired, move, change jobs or professions, have babies, or burn out and lose interest in saving lives.

What we need in America are laws and policies that protect our nation's shelter animals regardless of who is in charge. We need laws that will require shelter management to implement programs that will save lives rather than end them.   Almost weekly we hear of a shelter that quickly starts to regress or improve with a change in management.  We cannot blindly trust shelter management  to always have the animals' best interests at heart. They may be gone tomorrow and we'll be back to square one.

This is why we need strong laws like CAPA (Companion Animal Protection Act) to pass in every state.   To protect our community's animals.  Regardless of who the director is.

Currently the following bills are moving through the legislature. If you live in one of these states please take action by clicking the links below:

Florida HB497 Saves Shelter Animals Lives

Maryland Companion Animal Protection Act HB0876 

Virginia Senate Bill 1381

It might be more worthwhile if we stopped wringing our hands and started ringing our congressmen. ~Author Unknown

Monday, February 23, 2015

Newsflash! The Genie is Out of the Bottle

If you pay any attention to social media posts on animal welfare issues you will have noticed that in the last couple of months there has been a flurry of activity regarding freedom of speech and volunteer rights.  Everything from watching an ex-employee spill the beans on the goings on behind the PETA killing machine, to the volunteer handbooks trying to stymie free speech and volunteer's rights, to a court decision in Maryland that protects the rights of volunteers to speak out when they see something wrong. 

Social media has made it increasing easy for people to share their concerns and opinions. Social media has also allowed the general public to access the most current information available. The information is being shared amongst interested parties with the click of the button. We now have volunteers who may know more about life-saving methods than shelter staff, management and board members (I recently had a conversation with a shelter director who had never attended an animal welfare conference or picked up a magazine to read an article.  She was in a time warp, still operating in her 1980's model of animal sheltering). 

We also now have volunteers and members of the public who understand that they have a right to know where their tax dollars and donations go and are demanding statistics and information by filing Freedom of Information requests.  They are then distributing the information they acquire through social media. Pretty much a good thing isn't it? The more that we can expose the under performing shelters, the more lives that can be saved. 

I have to say that I find it more than mildly amusing to watch micromanaging shelter directors trying to stuff the genie back in the bottle. Changing volunteer handbooks, trying to stymie free speech, not permitting photos (even to the point of not allowing volunteers to bring their cell phones to the shelter).  Yes, let's treat our volunteers like toddlers. That's a good way to motivate them. 

Their first attempt to stuff the genie back in the bottle is to discredit a volunteer's concern by labelling them "disgruntled" or "troublesome".  Are there truly "troublesome" volunteers and employees? Of course there are. But they are a very small minority. I don't think anyone can deny that 99% of people that sign up to volunteer in animal welfare do so because they want to help animals. When you hear the same complaints from more than one or two people, it's a big red flag that something is wrong. 

The second attempt to stuff the genie back in the bottle is a shelter director who tries to  to make the volunteers feel guilty about voicing their concerns by saying "This isn't helping the animals.  We all need to work together to achieve our goals."   

So what's a shelter director to do?  Here's my advice. Poof! Let it go. The genie's out of the bottle. Don't waste time trying to stuff it back in. Don't waste time trying to keep control. Focus on saving lives. Focus on being the most transparent, compassionate, volunteer-embracing shelter possible. Listen to your volunteers. Ask for their input. Acknowledge their concerns. Listen to their ideas. Empower them to take leadership roles.  And then see what happens. You might be pleasantly surprised!

The following quote is from a little book that I keep on my bookshelf called Minute Motivators for Leaders by Stan Toler.  His words sum it up nicely: 

"The greatest barrier to effective leadership is the desire to control others.  Tight control breeds low morale and ineffective performance among team members.  Micromanagement stifles the creativity and natural ability that teammates bring to a project.  Good leaders know that more is accomplished by empowering others than by commanding them. ... Motivation, encouragement, inspiration, support - these are the weapons of the greatest generals.  They don't rigidly manage their troops. Instead, they motivate them to achieve the mission.  Leaders give power to the people."

Friday, December 5, 2014

Honesty is the Best Policy

I was recently chatting with a new acquantaince about her quest to adopt a dog. She doesn't know me well and was busy telling me her exciting news so I didn't interrupt. I just listened. She told me that she was considering adopting a dog from a rescue that brings 100% of their dogs from the south because (and her eyes got as wide as saucers) they KILL dogs in the south. Wasn't that horrifying? They kill dogs in the shelters in the south so this rescue swoops in, transports them north, and finds them homes. Wasn't that wonderful? And she was going to do her part, by saving an animal that would have surely been killed in the shelter. 

When she finally took a breath, I asked her if she knew that dogs were killed right here in Wisconsin also.  In fact, we have shelters that are still killing half of the animals that come in their doors. She gasped and sputtered and shook her head in disbelief. Noooooo..... it couldn't be so.  She only saw nice things on the TV news about Wisconsin shelters. 

Petsmart Charities recently released a study (you can read it in it's entirety by clicking here) that 85% of the public underestimate how many animals are killed in shelters each year.  This woman was clearly part of that 85%. 

Milwaukee Animal Alliance publishes the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission (MADACC) stats monthly because unless people know that there is a problem in Milwaukee County, they will not be inspired to help.  In fact, they may choose to shop rather than adopt OR adopt from out of state rather than a shelter or rescue that helps our local animals.  Critics of MAA feel that the statistics should not be posted. Rather, they prefer  a "Move on, there's nothing to see here" attitude.  Which has clearly not been in the best interest of Milwaukee County's animals in the past.  

Only by shining a spotlight on the reality of the facts and figures will the public become aware so that more lives can be saved. Sorry, critics.  You can't have it both ways. Honesty is always the best policy. 

Oh, and by the way. She adopted a local dog. 

I find that when you open the door toward openness and transparency, a lot of people will follow you through. - Kirsten Gillibrand

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Smoke and Mirrors - 2014 Version

I've blogged about the deceptive phrases and language used by Wisconsin shelters in the past. A few years have gone by and although there has been some progress, there is still a long ways to go.

Here are  statements from two Wisconsin animal shelters that show their intent to deceive the public about their practices:

This is a screenshot from the Fox Valley Humane Association website:
Here are the statistics for the years 2011 thru 2013 from the same website:

Sauk County Humane Society seems to have the Pinocchio syndrome also:

In a statement to the public they recently said: 

Yet their 2014 statistics year to date show this: 

As shown in Purple, only 10% of shelter animals are "unadoptable". Is your shelter saything they are saving all "adoptable" pets yet still killing more than 10% of their population? Then something doesn't add up. All healthy, treatable and manageable pets should be saved and national research has shown that this amounts to about 90% of shelter animals.  Here is a graph from the Center for Shelter Dogs: 

Year-end giving is fast approaching. Please only donate to shelters who are being truthful and who mirror your beliefs. These are YOUR community's animals. They deserve better.

Follow these two Facebook pages and support the changes they are trying to bring to their communities:

He who permits himself to tell a lie once finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual.  - Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Join the Believers

In a follow up to my last blog post, here is the reverse side of the signs at the Best Friends National Conference.  Just like with the Ignore the Naysayers side, these were very inspiring. Please share them with anyone who still says that No Kill is impossible. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Ignore the Naysayers

It was a long, long corrider in the Rio Hotel and Casino to the meeting rooms where the Best Friends National Conference was being held. (I have learned to pack sensible shoes). The highlight of the hike was these wonderful signs that inspired and delighted everyone. I was posting them on Facebook and Twitter and I had a request to put them all in one place.  The pics were snapped with my phone so please ignore my bad photography skills. One side of each sign featured an "Ignore the Naysayers" message.  The other side had a "Join the Believers" message. I'll put those in a separate blog post.  Enjoy.