Competing and Collaborating for animals!
Humans are by nature competitive. But how can we channel this competitiveness into a coalition of rescues and volunteers who are all trying to accomplish the same goal of saving innocent animals? We need to think about competing versus collaborating when it comes to local animal shelters and animal rescues.
First it’s important to both recognize the problem & the opportunity. Competition by itself is not a problem but the problem comes in when the competitiveness masks the overall intent of animal rescue. Without a doubt, every animal rescue organization in the U.S. and around the world originally started with the idea of saving animals and providing them a better life. Over time, this underlying goal has been masked by opinions on what the right standards are for animal welfare, and whether saving an animal from a slightly worse off situation is responsible to do versus getting them to a more ideal situation. We are all opinionated and we all believe that our way is the right way and that anyone else not doing it our way is doing it wrong. This breeds competition to try and outdo those doing things the other way, in order to demonstrate a superiority that our way is the right way. This sometimes leads to inherently negative behavior that blinds us to the fact that we are all ultimately pursuing the same goal. It also provides us the opportunity to look for things that we agree on and focus on those ideals, and leave our differences aside just agreeing that we both have differing opinions.
Once we recognize that there is commonality in what we are doing, we need to look for opportunities to build coalitions that focus on our common foundations. Many rescue organizations have already done this by organizing breed specific collections of rescues who have a similar goal of saving a particular breed of animal. These groups collaborate together and share information and resources to better their common goal. Their bylaws and standards may not read exactly the same way, but their underlying purpose becomes their focus as opposed to their different approach. Would it surprise you to know that there are over 23,000 501(c)(3) animal rescue related organizations in the U.S.? And there are tens of thousands more that have not applied for or achieved this charitable status meaning there are upwards of 50,000 animal rescue organizations in the U.S. alone. In short, there are plenty of opportunities to find like minded organizations similar to yours, where you can pool your resources, share your best practices and maybe even consider merging to streamline your collective operations. Couldn’t you achieve the same goal if you combined your organization with another one? Maybe you could be joint owners or alternate the leadership responsibilities which would allow each of you to get some down time and keep from burning out. Something to consider.
Finally, don’t overlook the idea of joining an association so you can get better connected with other professionals with your same goals. Most rescue communications and organization is done via Facebook, & Yahoo Groups which are not specifically designed for this purpose. They target a wide range of people in order to maximize their benefit but they don’t provide the resources specific to animal rescues. It should be noted that the ASPCA and Humane Society of the US do provide some benefits and association to rescues but they have historically focused on animal shelter organizations and work to make them more efficient and collaborative with one another rather than focusing on the animal rescue organizations. This is not to say that this is a bad thing, just that they have to choose where to focus their attention. Unfortunately there are not a lot of associations out there for animal rescues but the Animal Rescue Professionals Association (ARPA) is one that is still active and provides a forum for rescuers of all types to connect.