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Canine Companions for Independence
March 19, 2010

As a newer (< 1 year)Puppy Raiser for the Southeast Region of CCI, I can't say enough about the time, effort, love and experience put into this organization's mission by it's volunteers, employees and supporters. I have raised puppies for another service dog organization in the past, but CCI far surpassed my expectations of support, quality, communication and professionalism. They accomplish amazing goals with a huge volunteer base and very dedicated employees. The public graduation ceremonies are a must-see to truly understand the impact these well-trained dogs have on people's lives. They have modern, very clean, climate controlled kennels and their dogs are obviously well kept. Their breeding program is very successful and they have very few genetic issues (i.e., hips) and they track and support the teams throughout their lives. It appears they spend their money very wisely, with a minimum of waste, using volunteers extensively and wisely (and successfully). While the Orlando campus is beautiful, use and function are apparent (no useless decoration) - an example of good use of donated funds.

Photos

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

my interaction with the Puppy Raising department and attendance at three (3) graduation ceremonies.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

add more classes if the funding allowed.

More feedback

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

the support and excellent quality of the employees and volunteers.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

dedicated, open, caring, warm, welcoming and experienced.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

graduate many more teams!

Ways to make it better...

does not apply!

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

funding and need.

One thing I'd also say is that...

I volunteer for 5-6 different organizations every month and CCI ranks right at the top!

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every week

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010

MY ROLE:
Volunteer & Puppy Raiser.

Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc.
September 20, 2009

Over the last four years, I have spent countless hours as a volunteer for this organization in several areas -fundraising, office work, events and raising puppies. I greatly admire the mission they are attempting to accomplish. While revenues dropped and the economy is still not recovered, this organization has spent funds on many unnecessary 'trimmings' (expensive decorative fencing, landscaping, uniforms, etc), reduced the number of clients they serve (from 90 to 70 annually), increased the number of employees (from 52 to over 65), reduced contact with volunteers and donors, new taglines/logo colors (new stationery, vehicle signs, advertising, brochures, etc.), a life size statue in a brick paver 'garden', etc. While the publicly accessed areas of the 'Nursery' has seen many improvements, the other kennels are not air conditioned or even screened, so the dogs live in heat and insects. Many well experienced employees (some with 10+ years there) were dismissed (most without severance) to be replaced with college degreed young hires with NO experience in breeding, handling, training, or caring for dogs or experience with blind individuals for that matter. Approx. 250 puppies are bred and born every year - with only 70 becoming guide dogs. A handful of others become 'Gifted Canines'. Although a 5 year plan is in place, the first priority should have been their 'product' - the dogs, and the clients they serve. Instead, they have focused on 'Image' and being 'premier' and 'world-class', none of which are necessary to GIVE healthy, happy, well-trained guide dogs to blind individuals. There is little to no appreciation or even acknowledgement given to the hundreds of volunteers and no formal program is in place to support them all. As an accountant, I have noticed an oddity. While the Financial Statements (on their website) indicate 2008 Management and General Salaries total only $121,000, the IRS Form 990 indicates the Director of Finance earned over $99,000 and the new CEO earned (annualized) $120,000. Together, their salaries alone total over $210,000, so the numbers are skewed. While it makes the percentage of direct program costs look better, it is not accurate. Additionally, according to a local prominent foundation's current salary surveys of over 100 area non-profits, the CEO and Director of Finance are grossly overpaid for this size charity and their length of service. The vast majority of those serving on the board of directors aren't even Florida residents. Unfortunately, I and more than a few volunteers (some new, some long-time) are turning our attention elsewhere until this non-profit stabilizes.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

the independence having a well trained guide dog affords a blind individual.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

focus on human relationships, hiring mature, experienced employees and compensating them well, get and stay in touch with the donor and volunteer base.

More feedback

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

the other volunteers I've met.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

mostly long-time employees and volunteers - some were obviously not in the right place, but most were well experienced caring people. The board members I met were totally out of touch.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

modernize the kennels and the dormitory rooms, improve volunteer relations, improve the breeding program to eliminate health issues.

Ways to make it better...

the board and management cared more about the dogs and much less about the elitist image they are 'buying'.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

the huge amounts of money being spent on non-essential costs and the lack of money beng spent on caring for the dogs.

One thing I'd also say is that...

I would stay involved with this group if I thought the dogs were well cared for and a priority. The Board of Directors has taken a path that leads them away from this priority. The warm, friendly, happy place it once was is gone.

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009

MY ROLE:
Volunteer & Office, data entry, mailings, puppy raising, fundraising event assistance.