Can your animal organization find help outside animal welfare?

October 24, 2017

It can sometimes seem that all animal welfare organizations are returning to the same sources for funding, program support, and even recognition, over and over. But what would happen if instead they looked to community organizations not usually involved in animal welfare causes?

A Kentucky community cat project spanning eight counties did just that, and not only made huge lifesaving gains for cats in the region, but became the first animal project to win a prestigious award from the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO).

NADO is a national umbrella group for regional development organizations, which typically focus on community issues like transportation, housing, workforce development, disaster planning, social services, elder care, and similar social programs.

“Helping spay and neuter outdoor cats” isn’t normally part of their portfolio of issues, but when a Target Zero-led effort brought the possibility of a half-million dollar grant to do just that to NADO’s Northern Kentucky Area Development District (NKADD), they enthusiastically embraced the idea.

The project was so successful both in animal welfare terms and in terms of revolutionizing how government agencies, community groups, and local business worked together that it was nominated for and won the NADO Innovation Award.

Dr. Sara Pizano, who was part of the Target Zero team at the time, spearheaded the effort to bring the program to Northern Kentucky.

“It’s not an animal welfare award,” she said. “That’s why I think it’s so special.”

The community cat project got its start because of a close relationship between Target Zero and the Joanie Bernard Foundation, a cat-only foundation based in Cincinnati. “A couple of years before, we’d performed a spay/neuter analysis of the NKADD, which is an 8-county area. We came to them and showed them how much of an impact they could make with a community cat diversion program and accessible spay/neuter covering the whole district.”

The Foundation doesn’t give grants to government agencies and had already awarded as much grant money as it was legally able to give to the smaller nonprofits in the region, and at first those groups seemed to think that was a dead end for the project.

Pizano didn’t see it that way. “The majority of cats in two shelters were being euthanized the year before the grant started, you have a huge funder and a huge pool of potential lifesaving. We had this major need and major resources, and there was no way I was going to give up.”

She approached the NKADD to find out if they had a nonprofit arm that could receive the grant. Not only was the answer yes, but she discovered it was headed up by a cat lover named Meghan Sandfoss. With a $500,000 grant in hand, Target Zero told Sandfoss they’d find and organize service providers if NKADD would receive and administer the grant. Again, the answer was yes.

“We put the word out for all the veterinarians in the area, and ended up with 7-8 of them,” said Pizano, herself a veterinarian. “They included vets in private practice, the Ohio Alleycat Resource & Spay/Neuter Clinic (OAR), and United Coalition for Animals, both located in Cincinnati just across the river from Kentucky.”

Most of the sterilizations, whether for free-roaming cats owned by the public or part of the shelter/neuter/return programs or the cats of low income community members, were performed for free, with reimbursement to the service providers by the Joanie Bernard Foundation grant. Service providers had the option to charge only $20 to sterilize the cats who didn’t otherwise qualify.

There were four animal shelters that handled cats in the district, all now part of the Million Cat Challenge: Boone County Animal Care & Control, Kenton County Animal Shelter , Campbell County Animal Shelter, and Grant County Animal Shelter. The remaining counties didn’t have shelters that handled cats, but the grant funding also included owned and community cats from those counties.

“Within two months, two of the counties were at 90 percent live feline outcome and cat intake numbers had plummeted across the district. With only one month left in the first grant year, those two shelters that had been euthanizing the majority of cats are now at 87 percent and 91 percent for cats.” Pizano said. “This has really been a springboard. The Foundation just committed another $500,000 for year two. It’s an amazing success story of collaboration between a foundation, private vets, Target Zero, high volume spay/neuter clinics, and a government agency.”

This was NKADD’s first foray into animal welfare. “Why had they never done an animal project before?” Pizano asked. “Because no one had ever asked them before. Animal organizations frequently leave money and support on the table because they don’t think outside of the animal welfare world. I always tell people not to put boundaries on where they ask for help. I don’t care if it’s a car dealership, you have to ask. In every sector there are animal lovers.”

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1 Comment »

  1. Wonderful story!

    We, too, have received a grant related to maintaining the environment. Republic Services Corporation (a waste management company) awards a $10,000 grant every two years to a local (Fountain Hills, AZ) non-profit organization. The award is to support a program that addresses a “community benefit” (e.g., education, environment, healthy lifestyles). The selection process is by a community vote: five projects are finalists and their project descriptions are online. Each Republic Services residential customer can vote, using points gained by recycling, on the project of their choice. After 2.5 months of voting, the winning proposal/organization receives the funds and initiates their program. Fearless Kitty Rescue’s 2015/16 program for TNR of feral cats (environment) garnered the most votes and received the funds. We are a finalist this year with a proposal addressing stray and lost cats- another environmental concern.

    Comment by Fearless Kitty Rescue — October 31, 2017 @ 5:29 pm

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