It wasn’t the Publishers Clearing House people knocking at the front door. But for Humane Society of Charlotte staff, it might have been even better.
Officials from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals showed up Nov. 30 with a check for $25,000 – HSC’s reward for winning the Southeast Region in the ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge.
The Charlotte staff won $20,000 for adopting or reuniting 1,101 pets with their owners from August through October, an increase of 549 saved during the same period last year. HSC won an additional $5,000 for increasing lives saved by more than 300.
“They notify the winners in person, kind of like Ed McMahon style,” said Shelly Moore, Humane Society of Charlotte president and CEO. “They show up with a big check. They brought a pull-up banner with the number of adoptions we did.”
Moore said HSC was one of nine shelters competing in the region, finishing eighth in the entire competition among the 50 entrants. The $100,000 grand prize went to City of San Antonio Animal Care Services.
“There were shelters of all sizes – huge shelters and small, rescue shelters,” she said. “You’re not competing with other shelters’ numbers; you’re competing with your own numbers.”
HSC Vice President of Operations Jorge Ortega, who came up with the idea to enter the contest, said the challenge to improve efficiencies made it a victory.
“Our goal was to adopt out 852 animals in three months (an increase of 300 over 2011),” he said. “That’s never been done in the history of the organization. But everybody here was a trooper.”
Said Moore: “The whole idea is to get shelters to look at their processes, how they do their adoptions, how they manage the population flow of their animals through their shelters to help them increase capacity and save more animals’ lives. It makes your staff think outside the box, streamline processes, utilize other resources that they might have underutilized before.”
Moore and Ortega cited their volunteers as a key example.
“We provided more precise training to specific job descriptions that we needed in order to expedite adoptions,” Ortega said. “For instance, we needed not just a volunteer to work at the front desk at customer service, we needed volunteers to do adoptions, to be specific adoption counselors. We needed volunteers to do data entry.
“We broke it down to within specific job descriptions within customer service. That actually gave us the opportunity to work with more volunteers” and also matched them better with their skills and preferences, which led some of them to volunteer more frequently.
“Our whole goal is to reduce intake and euthanasia at our county shelter,” Moore said. “In our partnership with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care & Control, we transfer in over 50 percent of our animals directly from them. ... They have an intake of over 16,000 animals over there. So for us, the more animals that we can transfer in from that shelter, the fewer animals will be euthanized because there’s not room.”
Moore said HSC won’t have a hard time determining what to do with the prize money:
• Help underwrite adoption promotions via social media to people in the shelter’s database, also with press releases. Special attention will be on at-risk animals: cats that don’t get adopted as often as kittens, or older dogs.
• Help subsidize spay-neuter surgeries for people who can’t afford them.
• Perform outreach into the community and go into communities where there are populations that have never used HSC services, offering services there at low to no cost.
• Replenish a medical fund for sick and injured animals.
Moore, a south Charlotte resident who has spent 27 years in animal welfare, said Charlotte-area residents played a role in the contest win:
“The way you got into the competition was, the community voted you in. Back in March when we started the process, we reached out to the community because the top 50 vote-getters competed for the prize money.”
She’s most proud of her 42-person staff.
“When we first applied to be in the challenge, they ask you on the application to use three words to describe your organization. For us, it was ‘small but mighty.’ We have extremely passionate, dedicated staff, volunteers, supporters, board members, donors who are never satisfied with the status quo.”