Episode 74 – Bonney Brown

Bonney Brown brings retail management experience and a background in art to her work for the animals. In her role with Humane Network Bonney works with organizations large and small across the country, helping them to save more lives and to become a vital presence in their communities. Bonney also launched the first online Animal Shelter Management Certificate Program with the University of the Pacific and currently is working with communities and shelters across Nevada both to increase lifesaving from shelters, and to enhance access to veterinary care in rural and underserved communities. Through this podcast Bonney will share her advice for running successful organizations and engaging the community to save more lives.

way. Welcome to the Professionals and Animal Rescue podcast, where a goal is to introduce you two amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved with animal rescue. This’ll Podcast is probably sponsored by do bert dot com. Do Bert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Now on with our show, Bonnie Brown brings retail management experience and a background in art to her work for the animals and a roll with Humane Network. Bonnie works with organizations large and small across the country, helping them to save more lives and to become a vital presence in their communities. Bonnie started a grassroots, not profit animal rescue organization in the 19 nineties. She worked for the Best Friends Animal Society on their national outreach, and she started as the chief executive for Nevada Humane Society and open a mission no kill shelter. Bonnie also launched the first online animal shelter certificate program with the University of the Pacific and is currently working with communities and shelters across Nevada, both to increased lifesaving from shelters and to enhance access to veterinary care and roll in underserved communities. Through this podcast, Bonnie will share her advice for running successful organizations and engaging the community to save more lives. Hey, Bonnie. Thanks for coming on, Chris. It’s great to be here, so you get to start us off by telling us a little bit about you and kind of your background and how you got in to rescue. Sounds good. Well, I actually grew up in a family of animal rescuers. My father worked in Boston. He had a store and he would always managed to find stray dogs and cats, and he would bring them home, and my mother would patch them up, and we looked for homes for them. But we also kept a fair number of them. So, um, I just grew up with Animal Rescue. And, um, I have to say, though I didn’t really ever think about it as a potential career or something. I necessarily was going to spend a whole ton of my time doing until ah, one night when I was driving home from work. I was working at a retail store as a manager, and I was driving home, and the headlights of the car caught this black kitten that was in the gutter eating some garbage or something. And it was while I was looking for help for that kitten that I learned what you know. It was abundantly obvious to most of us now that most shelters that took in dogs and cats were euthanizing the majority of them. So to me, that didn’t I feel like a good outcome for this guy that I was trying to help. And so I started calling around, and finally I found a rescue group that was about 45 minutes away from me and agreed to help this kitten, and I began volunteering for them. It was a group called All Pause Rescue. I remember, and I would drive 45 minutes and volunteer in the shelter, and I was trying to tell him that I could help with other stuff, but they really wanted mostly just people to help in the shelter. Or maybe just stuff envelopes which are worthwhile things. Except I kept feeling what I could do more to help you, and I made a proposal to them for how we could expand what they were doing into my area, which was 45 minutes away. But they were like, Yeah, no thanks is enough. So I got together with a group of friends. A graphic designer found a veterinarian who was interested on attorney, friend of C p. A friend, and we started a nonprofit in our area. And so that’s kind of how I got into this side by starting a rescue group in Massachusetts in 1990. Wow! And what was the name of that group that you started? It’s called the Pontiff Valley Humane Society, and it still goes on. I think mostly today it’s a spay neuter group with a little bit of rescue on the side. So very cool. What an interesting story as to how you got into this. Say you realize that I’ve got a lot more potential than just doing this. Yeah, and and And it helped me as I’ve sort of gone long in my involvement in the field to realize, to really try to listen to what volunteers are capable of because they’re capable of a lot, and you need a lot more than people to walk dogs or foster kittens. You you really do need people who have other skills as Well, those things are important. Don’t get me wrong, but just to be more open to people and where they’re at and what their skill set might be, there are people who love to help with fundraising even. And yet groups don’t often think about engaging those folks. Yeah, no, you’re exactly right. And I think that’s kind of part of the goal of our podcasts as well is to help people to understand there’s so many ways. Did you can help animal whatever your skill set is, and we want toe, inspire them and introduce them to all those ways to get involved. Totally. I think that’s just great. So tell us you’ve got just such an amazing background in terms of everything you’ve done from there just kind of walk us through From 1990 until now, some of the different organizations you’ve worked for in positions you’ve held well, it. I was very intrigued by the no kill movement. And aah had come become aware of Richard Avanzino at the San Francisco S P. C. A and work that he was doing there that I heard about this woman and Phoenix named Linda Faro, who was ah starting the first ever know Kill Directory. Her concept was that there were all these people everywhere doing things. Ah, kind of the kind of thing that you’re thinking about in a way. And she thought, if I could just connect these people and this is before everyone was on email and had access to the Internet. So she gathered information from groups and printed a little directory that she shared with people. And she started the first ever know co conference in 1995. And I worked with Linda and brought it to Massachusetts in 1997 and worked with him for quite a quite a long time. And through Linda, I met the people at best friends and got a job at Best Friends Animal Society. And I worked there for about 6.5 years or so. Ah, work for Michael Mountain, who really, I think is brilliant and pioneered a lot of the fund raising techniques that shelters used today. Ah, you know, more positive stories and really focusing on thinking the donor instead of the really horrible to look at photos and stuff like that, um on and, uh then I worked for Ellicott allies for awhile. I’ve known Becky Robinson since 1990. Another interesting story is Becky’s. And then the job opening occurred at Nevada Humane Society, and I applied for it. And ah, fortunately they hired me, and I have say it was the hardest and most remarkable job of my entire life. Ah, you know, running an animal shelter with the goal of creating a no kill community. So I’m eternally and ever will be grateful to the board of directors of Nevada, the Rain Society, for giving me that that opportunity. And then, well, I was there. We started to get sick money requests because we were telling people about what we were doing and all these people were writing, calling, and they want to visit and learned about how we did it. Ah, in Washer County, Nevada, and we just didn’t even have enough time to answer them. And you felt awful because you’ve got animals coming in, and that’s got to be the top priority and communicating with the public. So we decided to start. He made network my, uh, colleague Diane Blank, Enberg and I, who’s another former best friends person and ah and we began helping organizations all over the country with their live release rate and, um, and their outreach in order to really engage the community, which is just such an important aspect of what we do. And we were approached by the University of the Pacific and help them to create the first Animal Shelter Management Online course, which is still going. And we’re very excited about that, because leadership, I think, is another one of those challenges that that that we face. Yeah, definitely. The industry is a hole. I mean, where we are constantly looking for leaders and disruptors and innovators and people. Thio You know, it’s funny when people they feel like the traditional ways you have to be a veterinary person or you have toe work in a shelter. But honestly, some of the best leaders come from other industries because they’re not constrained by the existing way that we do that. What a great comment. Absolutely. I feel like my retail experience was invaluable in terms of running an animal shelter because it’s about customer service and on and, um, an outreach, really engaging people in supporting what you’re doing. Ah store would close if you didn’t do that well, and it’s something that our field has great opportunity and potential to do Still better. Yeah. So I’m curious. I’m gonna put you on the spot. I mean, what do you see as some of the biggest challenges that we have? An animal welfare? An animal rescue? Yeah, Well, as you know, there’s, um you’ve got a lot. Going for us is a field and made these huge strides in the last 20 years or so, but there there are some substantial challenges. I think areas that as a field, we need to pay attention to. And to me, the two biggest ones are, um this this question of engagement, really engaging the public mawr in what we do, because it’s surprising that there are still a lot of people who aren’t aware of the local organizations in their community, and we need them and they need us. And so putting effort into that is something that’s really important to me. And the other one, I think, is that leadership issue. And I loved what you said. I totally agree that, you know, bringing people in from outside the field. It there’s a lot to learn, but it’s really not rocket science. A smart person can learn about this field and can be successful, and they would be bringing with them all skills from their previous profession, which is really a wonderful thing for the field. So those are the two for me, I think, really engaging the community and really cultivating leadership as we go forward. Yeah, I mean, you’ve mentioned community a couple of times and some of your responses. I want you to elaborate on that. Why? What does that mean to you? Why is that so important? Yeah, well, I mean, I feel that we in order to help animals, we really have to be working with people. And it’s on interesting kind of challenge or contradiction, because so many people you talk to in the field they say, Well, I really love animals, and I can kind of so so on people, but we really need people, people in order to really help the animals. Years ago, Robin Star, who’s now retired from running the Richmond Spc she had written a great article called The Best Shelter is a humane community, and I thought, What a great concept it’s She’s absolutely right. And when you think about even the term humane society, which is kind of generic label that lots of Ghana’s as you well know when you think about what it means, it really at the heart of it is, quite, um, it’s almost philosophical, like it’s about building a more humane society. It isn’t just this group of people who kind of wants to take care of animals at its high. It’s low level. We’re really putting that out there, and we’re engaging a whole lot more people and getting a lot more people engaged with helping the cause that so near and dear to our hearts. So, um, another person who’s really influential to me and my thinking about this community pieces Richard Avanzino and I remember early on when I was first getting in the field, I attended a conference and Richard was speaking and someone asked him a question. And they said, What what is the key to fund raising? You know, we’re really struggling and he said it was amazing. He said This three part thing he said, do good work, tell people about it and ask them to help, And I just thought it was so brilliant. And since then I’ve seen how important that isn’t. How really smart. Itwas in being so concise because I’ve had people approached me and said my dream was to open a dog sanctuary and I want people to give me money. How do I get the money? And the first thing I tell them that you have to start helping dogs, sir, helping dogs today and then you can you will be doing the good work. Then you can tell people about it and you can ask them to help. But if you just sort of have this idea, they may or may not. Ah, you come around to supporting you. But people who care about animals by telling the stories, the real stories of the animals that we help you really engage people. And I feel like this power of stories is partially understood in our field, but not fully. And when you think about it, way before we had books or the ability to write and share information with each other, people had stories. That’s how we passed down information from generation to generation and ah, and wisdom and information. And so we’re kind of hard wired for stories. So if we can identify those stories and the thing that I noticed when you talk to people in the field is they are doing so much great work every day. They’re saving so many dogs and cats and they have these wonderful, touching stories that just, you know, hit you right in the heart and really make you want to help. And and yet they don’t even see them is remarkable because to them, it’s just all in a day’s work. But finding those stories and telling them with words and pictures, uh, that’s really a huge key to getting people interested in in in what you’re doing. Yeah, it’s a really interesting point because I find so many organizations just post generic things. We need more Foster’s. We need more volunteers, and it’s kind of like it gets lost in the noise of social media, right? Yeah, and and social media has done amazing things for the field, but I feel like it isn’t the only way we need to be communicating with people. In fact, that’s one of the other challenges I see that groups have is when when I talk about you know, increasing pet adoptions are increasing. Volunteers or engagement People always say, Are we doing? We’re doing that. But then when you said Well, how often are you doing that? Really? And it turns out there doing it like once in a while. But in order to really get someone’s attention, Market is used to say people had to see or hear about you seven times before they took action. And now some experts saying, because off all of the information we’re bombarded with through television and the Internet and Facebook and you know, just our texts coming in constantly that you have to create even Maur impressions that you have to really be out there. So I tried to tell people You have to be absolutely relentless in your marketing and telling your story, and this is to do what you had pointed out before where we can really use people who maybe their interest isn’t getting up in bottle feeding kittens at 2 a.m. Or walking dogs after they’ve worked. Ah, Long day at work. Um, maybe their interests really could be in helping us with the professional skills like marketing and media and conventional media is still important. You know, getting in your local newspaper, getting on a local radio talk show. Those things are still important. And I even feel like grassroots things like posters are not dead as far as a way to reach the public. And so, um, I just in. And the great thing is that once you have a great image that you could use on a poster, you can use that on Facebook. You can, ah, use it in a 1,000,000 different ways to tell your story and to engage people. So, you know, maybe don’t just ask for volunteers to do Foster, maybe ask for a volunteer, graphic designer or a volunteer writer who could help you take those great stories and would be able to pull them out of you because you’re doing this every day. You maybe don’t see how amazing it is. What, you know, the rescue that just occurred last week? Yeah, it’s a great It’s a really great point because you almost become numb to it, right? You, these sensational stories and what’s happened, and the wonderful people that have donated time and money and all these other things to help these animals and like you said, that’s just all in a day’s work for people and rescues and shelters. And sometimes they they failed to notice how powerful that story could be. Totally so absolutely. And it’s really gold in terms of engaging other people. And, um and really, even so many people will feel experience burn out, too. But when you can look back and see how remarkable what you did Ah, is it really helps staff. It helps volunteers to feel good about it, too. When you’re really marketing and telling that story to the community. Yeah, no, I think it does. It all comes back to community, right? It’s like what works in your community. What if you’re a rural community or you a city and where do people congregate? And how do you How do you reach that population? Because sometimes I feel like people take that spraying prey methodology, right? We’re you post on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest and you’re just expecting that people are gonna hear you instead of saying OK, what are the types of people we want to reach and how do we reach them where they best gonna be found? And it may not be social media. It’s a great comment, Kris. Very insightful. I totally agree. And ah, and that may not be, you know, one individual’s cup of tea. So I I always talk to people about partnering with people who have complementary skills. You know, you’ve got the skills that you’ve got, but finding a partner or multiple partners who care about the mission on a high level but maybe bring totally different skills and attitudes to it. And that’s why I really have always worked to find other folks that have complementary skills to meet. We don’t need another person just like me. We need someone who breaks the things that I’m not great at to the table so that we can be really successful. And if you look at a lot of even people we think of as lead business is business leaders in the background. There’s other folks that are right behind him and right beside them, helping them with the areas that they’re not really that great at. Yeah, I mean, one of my skills is technology, and that’s why so I put my skills in the giant pot. Uh, it’s like a potluck, right for animal rescue And I’m a technology. I gotta not a marketing guy. So But if my technology skills can help out an organization, that’s kind of what I’ve tried to do with Do Bird is to build that technology that everybody can use. Um, and then I need help with marketing. So it’s, uh we all gotta help each other out for sure, Absolutely. And it’s that’s a fabulous contribution. Do Bert and ah, yeah, you make a great example of how you bring what you bring and you find other people who have the skills that you know aren’t yours. So I’m curious percent of this listening to this, it says, you know, I’m I’m inspired, right? I want to get involved and help. Where would you tell them to start? If they’re new, I would tell him to start by looking locally and seeing if there is an organization that can use the skills that they have because there may be and the organization, maybe a large organization or it might be a small startup rescue in your community that you can get involved helping with. And if you really don’t find it, um, you know, build it and invite other people. Thio come and work with you and make it a real success. But it requires being open and being okay with differences. Ah, lot of groups are sort of limited and they’re going to stay small because they don’t have any tolerance for new ideas or they want to do it the way they’ve always done. It s I always encourage people to keep learning. And this podcast, I think, is a great example of how people can do that. And they can also attend conferences. And I just feel like exposure to different things. You know, I’ve been in the field in one way or another since 1990 but every time I visit a new animal shelter, I always learned something. And so there’s just so much and the field is changing so fast. Ah, that you you want to try to keep up with that and, um, and put yourself out there and be open to it. Networking with others can also give you the support you need tough field. And there’s times where it’s really nice to be able to pick up the phone and say, Hey, you won’t believe what just happened and have someone on the other end, too, has been there and can empathize and help you get on with things. So they think there’s a lot of important reasons to network and get to know other people in the field. Yeah, it’s a very passion filled industry, but with that comes that compassion fatigue that comes along with it. Sometimes that’s a really good point that we gotta be able to support each other. So I’m curious. What is a typical week look like for you these days? For me? These days, it’s, um, you know, it’s changed a lot in every different job that I’ve been in right now. It’s ends up being a lot of meetings, a lot of calls, a lot of emails, a lot of time on the computer, Um and ah ah, little bit of travel. And, uh so it’s some. It’s not quite as exhilarating as being on the front lines in an animal shelter, but it has a lot of other rewards in terms off being able to help folks. It’s one thing I try to tell people is that it’s really helpful to get a different perspective, and so to have someone from outside of your organization give you advice. Maybe it’s a friend who works at another organization or our consultants. A war? Um, I don’t know. But just to not get too stuck on what you’re doing every day and not to ever step back and take a look at it and get that outside opinion because it’s really hard for us to see what we’re doing and what’s working well and what may not be. And so I feel like there is great value. And I’m going to conferences and meeting new people in watching Webinars, listening to podcasts on dhe, engaging with other people, really getting to know folks so that you can have a sounding board for what you’re doing and a fresh set of eyes on what you’re doing. An advice can be incredibly helpful, and I say that from both perspectives is the person who does that gives advice. And as the person who in the past had shelter assessments done and had a wide variety of consultants come in to work with our team, Um, and you know another thing. I guess I would give people advice on his really engaged with your colleagues and sometimes a C shelter leadership. And they’re really they have a tight little management team, and they talk to those people. But, you know, engage your whole team and things like brainstorming and for ideas for promotions and and things that the shelter might do that could save money or, ah, save more lives. You’ll be surprised the ideas that people haven’t. You’ll be helping to cultivate that leadership in the field by engaging others. And don’t just educate yourself. Do the same for them, you know, provide training for your volunteers for your staff if you have. If you’re fortunate enough to have staff, so many shelters will say, Well, we don’t have a training budget. But, you know, ask because there are people who will invest in the staff at at your organization. When I was at an event, he means to say we had several donors. In fact, several of them were volunteers themselves who would donate money so we could bring in, say, someone to lecture on animal behavior or, ah, stress reduction in Richmond for the animals, and so we would be able to get a donation to cover that to enable us to provide training to people. There are grants out there for conference scholarships. I know Maddie’s fund offers them. I think a couple of other organizations do, too. So if you don’t have the money, there are people willing to help you. And it’s just so it just opens up your whole world and can even help with the kind of, you know, compassion, fatigue that people experience. It really can recharge you. Yeah, absolutely. So I know you and I recording this kind of the end of 2018. So what is 2019 look like for you and for Humane Network? Well, we’ve just been talking about that a lot with the end of the year coming up, and right now we are engaged in doing Maddie’s pet Project in Nevada. This is Ah, Project, funded by the David Cheryl Duffield Foundation and Maddie’s Fund, and the goal is kind of to fold for the state of Nevada. Both two improve the live release rate from animal shelters and to improve access to care out there in under served in rural areas. Which is really exciting because I see that as the next frontier kind of for animal welfare once we have most of the urban areas taking care of. And I do understand, of course, is underserved areas within those Sometimes that need help, too. But many rural areas go with little to no service is. And Nevada is a great state to look at that kind of thing. Because you have two major metropolitan areas, Las Vegas and Reno Sparks and the whole rest of the state is very rural. There’s, ah substantial number of Indian reservations and large areas that have no veterinary clinics. So we are looking at some models for how we can address that challenge. And even in urban areas, I feel like this. The need for affordable veterinary care is huge and that it’s something that the animal welfare field is going to need to look at because if we can, you help someone keep a pet that they love because we can provide veterinary care. Uh, that’s really fulfilling our mission because it’s sustaining that human animal bond and making sure the person has what they need to do right by the animal. And rather than judging people, what used to be the way things happened, I think that folks are seeing that that, you know, people can love an animal deeply and not have sufficient money, too. Pay for what? These days can be very expensive vendor care. I mean, even a dental. This is a lot of money. So I’m excited about that aspect of the campaign. And so we’ll be working a lot on those two things next year. And also, of course, continuing the courses at the University of the Pacific. So those of the 22 big things for 2019 Great. Well, it sounds like you’ve got a lot of stuff on your plate. It’s gonna be an exciting year for you in 2019. And I want to thank you for coming on the show today. Bonnie, is there anything else you wanted to mention before wrap things up? No. Except just to encourage people that, you know, though it could be a challenging field. It’s also one of the most rewarding things you can do. Having, you know, had a previous career which I loved in retail. I can say that that this this field offers you just so much in terms of, uh, what you can accomplish and it. It’s just a great I just feel honored every day to be able to do this work and you meet you know, as as you and I had said right before we got on you eat so many amazing people. So, uh, thank you so much, Chris. It’s a wonderful podcast, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to join you today. Well, thank you. Bonnie has been great talking to you, and I couldn’t agree with you more. About what? What an amazing field it is. And I’m proud to be a part of it as well. So thank you for coming out. It was great toe. Have a conversation with you. And you, too. Thank you, Chris. Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast. If you’re not already a member, join the air p A. To take advantage of all the resources we have to offer. And don’t forget to sign up with do bert dot com. It’s free and helps automate the most difficult tasks in animal rescue.


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