It’s Not Me, It’s Us
Please welcome ASPCA Shelters’ Edge guest blogger Dave Betournay, who has a thing or two to tell us about the benefits of collaboration amongst animal welfare agencies. ASPCA Community Initiatives Director and president of the New England Federation of Humane Societies, Dave is currently seeing the results of working together in Buncombe County, NC, where he represents the ASPCA as one of the three partners who have helped increase the community live release rate 4 percentage points in 2010. And they’ve developed a plan to push it as much as a possible 18 percentage points in 2011…
A few years ago, I worked for a shelter that sat rurally between two small cities. Each city had other animal welfare organizations, physical and foster, municipal and transport, and I remember a feeling of wonder.
As a group, we wondered such things as:
- “I wonder how many animals in need of service in our area are truly served.”
- “I wonder how much redundancy and overlap there is in our programming and our fundraising.”
- “I wonder if there is a better way.”
At the time we pondered such wild ideas as mergers and affiliations—and this shelter even successfully affiliated with another after I left.
It’s not that we did not know our neighbors. We saw them at meetings; we visited them and called on them to keep the lines of communication open. Once in a while we might try working together on a project or two. Not bad as animal welfare goes, and I know that many of us have seen much worse.
So, what more could we ask for? Much more…much, much more.
There are people and organizations truly embracing animal welfare as a community-wide issue. They are pushing through the “Us and Them” and into the wild world of “Us and We.”
So who are these “We”!? (Aside from an uber-motivated group of over-focused workaholics…) We are the shelters, the rescues, the municipal organizations, all foster organizations, and OH wait, don’t forget the actual community itself.
Looking at your community as a whole, using all of its resources to solve its animal welfare issues may just prove more productive than…well, pretty much anything else. Just ask Frances Jonon, Executive Director of Austin Humane Society.
“Instead of looking at the work of just one organization, we look at the work that the entire community accomplishes in working together. It is such a larger picture, such a bigger impact,” says Frances. “We are all playing a role that is much larger than what we were doing alone, and in working together we are seeing the results—increased impact.”
Wow, increased impact! Isn’t that what we are striving for? Austin is one of the communities working in the ASPCA Partnership, a collaboration with communities to increase the live release rate, saving the animals most at risk through sustainable
data-driven plans and programs.
In the last 4 years, the ASPCA Partnership in Austin has transitioned their community-wide live release rate from 54.6% for 2006 to 70.6% for 2010 (through November). This type of dramatic community-wide positive change would not have been possible if the organizations working with Austin’s homeless animals worked independent of
The benefits of partnering with others can be found far and wide, in both large and small examples. From the formation of the European Union to the simple transfer of a single animal from one organization to another to increase the odds of adoption, there will always be benefits to collaboration.
“The ASPCA Partnership has helped us analyze the animals who are at risk and leverage our resources. It is the first time that as a community we set community-wide goals,” says Marianne Luft of Humane Alliance of Western North Carolina, an ASPCA Partner in Buncombe County, NC.
It is always easy? No, of course not. Can partnering with others increase your impact and save more lives? Absolutely!
Want to learn more about the ASPCA Partnership and the impact it is having in communities across the country? Visit the ASPCA Partnership pages on ASPCApro.org, where you can also find out how to apply to become an ASPCA Partnership community.
Have you collaborated with another agency in your community? Tell us how it went.
Austin Humane Society photo courtesy of Sandy Carson