Banish Politics from Your Animal Shelter

Do shelter politics get in the way of saving the lives of homeless pets? Sometimes I get emails from newsletter “unsubscribers” who answer the “why” question saying they no longer volunteer at the shelter due to politics, rude and/or unfriendly people, “don’t fit in,” etc. What a shame to lose volunteers who are interested enough to seek out information to help their shelters. From my own volunteering, I know that many nonprofit organizations are filled with politics or managers with poor social and people skills. Evaluate your shelter on the questions below. Be honest! Try to weed out situations that may be preventing your group from being as successful as it could be.

Are you open to the ideas of others? Very often you see the “Not invented here” syndrome, ie., if it’s not MY idea, it’s not a good idea.

Are you hiring paid employees and attracting volunteers who have specific skills you need at the shelter? I’ve seen a nonprofit manager literally turn away people who could bring needed expertise to the group but was too threatened to bring in anyone she perceived as more knowledgeable than she.

Do you attempt to create a friendly and open environment? Are your employees and /or volunteers divided into cliques? Do they only talk to each other, only share ideas with each other, etc? Those who are not part of the clique are not heard or even included in general conversation, much less allowed to share their ideas. Remember that volunteers don’t HAVE to be there. If they don’t feel like they’re part of the group, there are so many other places they could volunteer.

Do you know the job skills of your volunteers, both those still employed and the retirees? Do they have skills that could be used at the shelter? Do you ask for their ideas? Often volunteers who have volunteered elsewhere will have useful ideas that you don’t know about. Many retirees previously worked in professions that are directly related to your needs, such as accounting, fundraising, marketing, writing, etc. Tap into that knowledge!

Do you provide both paid employees and volunteers with the information and authority they need to do their jobs? I know of nonprofit directors who refuse to provide complete financial information to the treasurer so proper income statements and balance sheets can be prepared. In one case, the treasurer was a retired CPA from a national accounting firm. Trying to control and micromanage every single function will reduce the efficiency of your shelter and take away from your mission of helping homeless pets.

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