SAVE – Saving Animals Volunteer Effort – was created in September of 2009 when concerned citizens from two Alabama counties came to together to address the problem of animal homelessness and overcrowding in animal shelters. Their efforts have been to spay and neuter pets, and feral cars, to reduce the population of unwanted animals, and hope for a day when every pet has a home. SAVE has been accredited with Standards for Excellence Institute since 2015. I recently got the opportunity to speak with Michal Vasseur from SAVE about the organization’s mission and its experience as a recently accredited organization.
Tell me a little about why and how your organization was founded, and your mission as you’ve gone forward.
n 2009, concerned citizens got together to figure out a solution to homeless animals in the area. We only have 3 animal shelters, and only 1 is no-kill. The shelters were overcrowded and we had a large population of animals that were in the streets. After research, it was decided that the only effective way to control the population of animals would be to implement a spay and neuter program. Our vision is that one day all these pets will have homes, and that the shelters will be empty!
What are some of the services that your volunteers provide?
Our entire staff is volunteer. Twice a month we offer a pick up for people to get their pets spayed or neutered with the clinic that we use. Our volunteers take the pets to the clinic, drop them off, and bring them back to their owners the next day since it’s an overnight stay at the clinic. We also have a TNR (trap neuter release) program for feral cats, to prevent colonies from growing. Our volunteers are involved in giving people the materials to safely trap the feral cats, and they will trap the cats if they have to as well. Depending on funding, we try to do a yearly Neuter Day event where people can bring their pets and get them neutered for free. We did this in 2014 with grant funding.
How have the efforts of your volunteers made an impact on the community that you serve?
Data from the pet shelters has not always been forthcoming. It’s been a real challenge to try to quantify the impact that we’ve made because of that. We are actually working on legislation to make it the law for the shelters to make data about the animals they house available. But, we do have anecdotal evidence that we have been successful, people working in the shelters have reported a reduction in the intake of animals. Plus, there is data about the rate at which pets reproduce and their litter sizes, so we can guess from that information that we have prevented the birth of about 5,000 new animals. Also, in some ways, we have become a victim of our own success. We’ve become very well known in our community so we get a lot of calls for help now so people have come to think of us as a positive in the community.
SAVE has been accredited recently, last year in 2015, tell me what going through the accreditation process was like for your organization.
Grueling but worth it! It was a long process, especially for a new and small organization, that we started in February of 2014. We had a lot of support from the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama, which we can’t thank them enough for. They really made it possible. I spearheaded the process since I already had experience as an executive direct of nonprofit organization. There were a lot of steps from setting up a committee, making drafts, and having discussions before even taking it to the board for full approval. You really need an engaged board to get this done!
What factors brought you to Standards for Excellence Institute?
We wanted to implement the best practices, and give our donors confidence. Standards is great for standing out in the community, and also we were hoping that it would be helpful in finding and receiving grants. The more in depth look at conversations and decision making for the board is great, and it gets more in depth as you approach decision making with Standards.
Can you recall a recent time when you used the Standards for guidance in a situation?
We need to know more about our programs’ impacts, and Standards makes us think about new and better ways to do that. Now we do surveys of participants and ask ourselves more questions about impact and outcomes. Also, Standards has helped us look at more useful ways to track finances. While our financials were never wrong, they didn’t use to track what they really wanted to – now we do better.
How has your new accreditation been useful to your organization?
We received two new grants! One was offered by the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama, and the second foundation found the Standards to be impressive! Also anonymous benefactors provided matching funds, so that enabled us to turn $10,000 worth of funding into $20,000! That money really enables us to meet our mission.
Are there any recent achievements that you would like to highlight?
Well, we were very excited about those grants, since they put so much toward our mission. But we’re definitely most proud of achieving our Standards accreditation!
To learn more about SAVE, or to donate, visit their website here: http://alsavepets.org/