Today at Big Cat Rescue July 5 2013
We don’t pay anyone to do animal care because there are always plenty of people who will volunteer for that kind of work. We only pay people to do administrative tasks and I have attached some of our most recent contracts.
Most of our staff have been with us for many years, but in 2013 we lost one of our Volunteer Managers when her family business needed her to return. Instead of hiring another volunteer manager, we sat down with existing staff and re-wrote their jobs so that her position was spread between them.
It gave us the chance to be sure we had all the right people in the right seats on the bus, as they got to choose the parts of their jobs to keep and trade with others. It’s been working and our staff seems happier, since they are doing more of what they like, and saved us a full time salary.
I think one of the biggest mistakes that sanctuaries make is that they pay people to do animal care. Those in charge are often paying themselves to do animal care and that is a huge waste of money when there is no shortage of people who want that experience and are willing to put in long hours, in awful weather to get it.
It’s been raining here, every day, for as long as I can remember, it seems and yet every day there are 30 or more volunteers out there cleaning cages, feeding cats and trying to mow the grass that is going wild with all the rain. We currently have 17 interns living on site, so even remote facilities can attract plenty of free labor if they give them a roof and groceries.
When I could only afford 3 paid staff this is what I had, in order of importance to our growth:
1. Operations Manger – Mostly managing volunteers to be sure the animal care was done right.
2. Videographer – This seems like a luxury, but has been critical to getting out our message, inspiring action and raising funds. We reach millions through YouTube whereas we only have about 27,000 onsite visitors each year.
3. Gift Shop Manager – Again, seems weird, but for us it has always been a huge part of our mission to educate people and the Gift Shop manager makes sure the tours are covered with knowledgeable tour guides. When tours return she makes sure they call or write their congress and buy stuff that supports our work and advertises us via logo wear.
I’ve never taken a pay check because my real estate business has been able to limp along and keep me fed, but my role has always been to seek out new ways to accomplish our mission of no more cats in cages and to make sure that we are fiscally responsible to the 100+ cats who are already here by not taking on more animals than we can afford or than we can give optimal care. In most other organizations, this would probably be the first pay check.