Thanks to the dedicated work of animal rescue professionals over the past decade, we are headed in the right direction. The number of healthy animals being euthanized because of their location is on the decline and we can envision a day when this is no longer the case.
But as the supply and demand has equalized in some areas of the U.S., other areas still continue to experience challenges, so both source and destination shelters and rescues are looking for new partnerships depending upon the side of the equation they are on. But where do you start? How do you build these connections? What do you need to look out for? We’ve captured the key points into 5 major themes.
1) Start with the end in mind and work backwards
Whenever you are building a new program, one of the best ways to figure out what you want is to start with the end in mind. It is often much easier to define your roadmap to get to your destination when you can visualize what the program looks like when it’s running. So think about it…when your established partnership is up and running, what will it look like? How many animals will you transfer between your organizations? With what frequency, type, age, breed, etc? Will you use paid or volunteer transporters or your own vehicles? Will you select the animals to send or will they? How will you fund the program? These are just a few of the questions to ask yourself to visualize those open questions that you need to answer.
2) Ask what’s in it for them and focus on it
It’s human nature to go into things looking for what you want to get out of it. If you did not have a need, you would not go looking for something after all. But going into a new transfer relationship you should do a 180 and re-think your approach. Try to look at it from their perspective and ask, “What’s in this relationship for them? What do they get out of a successful partnership?” Maybe you are the destination location and they are the source. Are they getting help reducing their overpopulation? Are they able to transfer animals that do not adopt well in their location? When you try and envision why they are requesting this relationship it will help you to better understand areas that you can work together on to develop a common goal or understanding.
3) Build relationships, don’t process transactions
At the beginning of any new program it is always exciting and the tone is positive, people are friendly and open and nothing can stop us. But as things go from a build to a steady state run mode, it is easy to start expecting something from the other side without communicating. We get into a mode where we are just processing transactions per the agreed upon approach and we forget that we’re dealing with people on the other end that have lives, goals, concerns and obstacles just like we do. That’s why you should focus on building relationships instead. Get to know your counterpart in this relationship. What makes them tick? What motivates them? What scares them or worries them? When you empathize with someone and understand their situation, it can help you adjust your style as well. We always recommend doing a Skype or Google Hangout or other video type conferencing whenever possible. Yeah we know you hate being on
camera but so does the other person and human beings are very social creatures and need to see the facial expressions that go along with the conversation to build tighter relationships.
4) Be transparent; Don’t assume
You know how the expression goes, “When you assume you make an a** out of you and me.” You might go into this new relationship assuming that they want the same things out of it that you do. We’re all in this to save more animals right? You might be assuming that they know you only want puppies or hounds or <<insert your favorite need here>> and so there’s no need to state that. But are you being completely transparent with your new partner in this program? Overstate what your objective is, what you’re looking for and any assumptions that you have. When you state or put in writing your assumptions and ask the other person to validate them, they go from assumption to statements of fact. Or they might just wind up being scrapped because the other person thinks differently. Wouldn’t you want to get it all out on the table before you get too far into the relationship?
5) 3 C’s – Communicate, collaborate and commiserate
Ok so we have to be a little cheesy every once in a while. But we cannot understate the importance of regular, ongoing communication. We highly recommend you setup a regular status report (i.e. monthly) where you and your partner commit to discuss what is working well, what you might like to change and any concerns you have. When it’s on the calendar you’re less likely to make an excuse as to why it’s not needed. While you’re communicating, collaborate on the problems you’re both facing and trying to fix. Maybe your boss is pushing you to take more animals or spend less money or do more with less. What
can your partner do to help you? How can you collaboratively work on a solution or adjustment to the program that works for both of you? Finally commiserate together. Sympathize and empathize with each
other. This is hard stuff. We’re dealing with living creatures and we all know the consequences when things do not work out perfectly. Support one another as a person first and you will be amazed how these
relationships can help you out in the toughest of times.