This guest post is written by Madeleine Laird; Executive Director of Hope for Animals Spay/Neuter Clinic in Fort Wayne, IN.
At HOPE for Animals Low-Cost Spay/Neuter & Wellness clinic, we believe in constantly continuing education and also team bonding experiences. In the past, when an applicable conference was on the horizon, we would always take as many staff members as possible. We found that learning new things together helped solidify buy-in and allowed us to develop more consistent policies.
For our first conference, put on by the Humane Alliance, six staff members attended. We rented a van and drove 10 hours to Asheville, North Carolina. All the girls bunked together and the boys shared another room. We had a great time!
In September of 2013, The ASPCA held a conference in New York and everyone wanted to go. In order to take all 12 employees, we rented a cargo van, drove 12 hours to our hostel (yes, I said hostel) and we slept in one common room in bunk beds. The hostel had one shared bathroom for the entire floor, but, hey, we were together right?
So when the announcement was made that the North American Spay/Neuter Conference, co-sponsored by PetSmart Charities was coming to Austin, TX this year, I excitedly announced it to my staff of 20 employees. Then I checked our budget… UH OH!
We didn’t have nearly enough money to send everyone, even if I spent the whole budget for the entire year! Needless to say, when I mentioned that some people would have to stay behind, things got ugly. Our leadership team asked me if they could try to raise the money on their own. I explained that Austin was too far to drive and we were too big to fit in a cargo van now. Airfare, hotel accommodations, conference fees and per-diem costs totaled close to $20,000. Our budget for continuing education and travel was $7,200 for the entire year! What to do?
Now we do have a small bus (pictured below), circa 1988, which we use for our outreach program. However, I wouldn’t trust it to stay together further than the few city blocks we cover in it. The group decided if we could get the bus repaired, drive it the 18 hours to Austin and sleep five staff members to a room, then we would only need to raise about $4,000 (plus all the money in the travel and continuing education budget.) I told them if they could raise the money, they could all go.
They begged their family and friends, held a rummage sale, a carnival, a bake sale and received some donations from a a few generous supporters. Now, I’m happy to report that the entire HOPE for Animals staff is going to Austin!
Thank you to everyone who helped support us in our fundraising mission! We are looking forward to seeing everyone in Austin, TX.
If you’d like to attend the North American Spay Neuter Conference, presented by Found Animals and Petsmart Charities, you can get tickets and view conference details here.