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Management Challenges

Few readers of this blog will be surprised to learn that, as the saying goes, it takes a village to run a rescue group. Oh, sure, ‘way back when we rescued a half-dozen or so Shelties each year, things were simple. We fostered all of the rescues in our own home, we found and interviewed potential adopters, and we followed up on things as well as we could. But Sheltie Rescue of Utah has grown a lot since those days. Now, we rescue dozens of Shelties every year and have to rely on others to carry some of the burden. As the breadth and extent of the work has grown, Barbara finds herself spending the majority of her time either feeding and pottying the dogs or answering phone calls from potential adopters, fosters, SRU members, etc., leaving her little time to handle the increasingly large administrative issues associated with being Chair of the Board of Directors for a non-profit.

It’s not unusual for there to be anywhere from 15 to 20 Shelties in our rescue program at any given time. We still foster many of them ourselves, but once we get more than 10 or 12 Shelties in the house, things simply get too crowded and hectic. We have to depend on others to provide foster homes for the remaining dogs. But foster families, by definition, aren’t responsible for every aspect of the Shelties for whom they’re caring. They provide much of what the dogs require (love, structure, training, food, and the like), but there are other things for which SRU remains responsible, such as major or chronic medical care, locating and interviewing adopters, and the like.

Lately, we’ve begun to worry that we’ve not been doing a great job of caring for our wonderful foster families. They do so much for Sheltie Rescue and ask for so little in return, and yet it sometimes seem that we take them for granted. It has finally sunk in that we need to be much more pro-active in sustaining and nurturing the relationships that we have with our foster families. We should be contacting them regularly, both to keep them informed about things that are going on in Rescue that might be of interest to them and to give them an opportunity to give us reports on the states of the dogs they’re fostering, ask us questions that have been on their minds, etc.

Barbara told me yesterday that one of SRU’s volunteers (and fosters !) has agreed to maintain close contact with all of our foster families, present, past, and future (well, those we know about, anyway :) ). Char’s been a great friend of Sheltie Rescue and has stepped in many times when we really needed help. We’re extremely grateful to her for agreeing to track and manage our relationships with our fosters.

Of course, we have many problems analogous to this one. One of my personal pet peeves is that we fail miserably to actively maintain contact with our adopters. Our contract requires adopters to notify us when they move, when their adopted Sheltie dies, and upon a small number of other events. We know that many past adopters have not fulfilled their obligations in this way (some of those Shelties would be in their late 20s by now, which seems pretty unlikely). I fervently wish that we had the resources to contact every new adopter at least once a week for the first month or two, once a month for the next five or six months, then once a year “forever”. If you like talking to people, especially about Shelties, and you’d like to volunteer for this task, please contact Barbara (801-942-4762).

The list of jobs goes on and on and on. We need people to help with and lead our fundraising efforts, to start and maintain a community outreach and education program, to do home visits before adoptions, etc. It’d be great if we had a single volunteer who was able to canvass every animal shelter in Utah regularly and frequently, especially those in Utah, Salt Lake, Summit, Davis, and Cache counties.

Volunteer! Please! The jobs don’t pay a cent in cash, but the rewards are there, in karma, in the knowledge that you’re helping, and in the eyes of all rescued Shelties.

On this day..

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1 comment to Management Challenges

  • Harleysmom

    What if we had case managers? We would set up a set of questions that the case manager would call or contact the foster home and cover say at least once a month or as the need arised. Just a thought.

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