PAL ANIMAL SANCTUARY
February 19, 2011
This review is not being written with the intent to do harm to PAL. It is intended to provide a volunteer's perspective and hopefully constructive criticism. I have read all of the posted reviews and would like to make one thing absolutely clear. I am writing this review of my own volition. No one has asked or coerced me into doing so. I have no ax to grind. I have nothing to gain and nothing to lose. Let me start by saying that volunteering should be an intrinsically rewarding experience. There is no monetary compensation but we want to do it because it feels good to help others be they two-leggers or four-leggers. However, I would have to give my volunteer experience at PAL mixed reviews. This is due to a number of reasons. First of all, I would like to express some positives. I met some great people that also love animals and that gave 100% plus in their efforts to assist PAL with it's goals. The Senior/Pet Connection program, in my opinion, is one of the most effective and impactful programs that PAL offers. Livia does a great job keeping it organized and functional. With regard to the animals in PAL's charge, I never saw any that were mistreated, intentionally neglected, etc. Staff members and volunteers kept areas as clean as possible and were affectionate with the animals. I honestly believe that they were caring and compassionate caregivers that did everything in their power to give the animals a home away from home and a chance at finding a permanent home. Getting animals adopted was exciting. However, there are many areas that could use some major improvement. One of my biggest concerns for the future of PAL is how resources are managed--both financial and human. I don't have access to PAL's financial status, records, etc. so I cannot really comment too much on that area but I have many questions. Is it really just a bad economy? What are the priorities? Is there really transparency with regard to how funds are spent? When there are limited funds, shouldn't the animals be the first priority? I know there are long term goals for organizational development but sometimes you have to go back to basics. In some ways, I think they have tried to do just that but there is a complete lack of focus. It is onto the next big idea without thinking things through. Unfortunately, that speaks to lack of leadership. There is a vision but the follow through is weak. There are people that love animals, are passionate about saving them, but are not equiped to be in a leadership role. Which brings me to management of human resources. Like it or not, it takes people to make an organization successful. It would be impossible for one person to perform all of the necessary tasks. When you have good people working for you, you need to try to retain them. Turnover is costly in many ways. It can be financially expensive, it causes problems with morale, it can really affect overall performance of an organization. It is difficult to feel sorry for someone that complains about being shorthanded but makes little effort to keep people there. I realize that there are constraints on a non-profit as far as being able to pay a competitive wage but there are other ways to keep people around. One is showing true appreciation for their efforts and not using an authoritarian leadership style. People need and want to be inspired to work for you. Fear of reprecussions is not a good motivational tool and will eventually (if not swiftly) lead to turnover. Another issue that I had a problem with was how the Herdina Grant was handled. I don't know the financial details--whether there was or wasn't money in the account, etc. I just know that there were people in need of assistance and they were given excuses not straight answers. Many filled out applications, left messages, waited for a response and got none. Why? Why should they have to call back several times and not get some definitive answer so that they can decide what to do? Dodging calls was a pervasive pattern. And it was the volunteers that had to speak to these people over and over again trying to explain why they had not received a response. I just got to the point where I didn't want anything to do with the phones. This practice was not only ineffective but unethical and unprofessional. That is why I gave this organization the lowest rating. Unethical behavior toward clients is not acceptable in my book. And when you see a breech of ethics in one area, chances are good that things are not as they should be in other areas. As a volunteer with a conscience, you want to distance yourself from that whole situation. In closing, I want to reiterate that this is not meant as a personal attack but it is difficult to address these issues without questioning leadership. It does seem to be the common denominator. Ultimately, that is where responsibility lies. Leadership doesn't have to be warm & fuzzy but it needs to be effective. And people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of how one feel's about them. It is in the best interest of the animals. I would love to see PAL succeed and have more of a positive impact on our community. The concept is great but the execution needs a lot of work. With the high number of negative reviews, one must lend credence to these concerns. They aren't just disgruntled former employees/volunteers. I personally observed many of them putting their heart and sole into PAL. But there is only so much one can give or put up with before they have to save themselves. Maybe that is what has happened to Kathi. Maybe she is burned out or overwhelmed and needs to turn PAL over to someone that can breathe new life into it.
I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...
my family and in person.
Ways to make it better...
If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...
make several improvements with regard to organization, follow through, how clients are dealt with, transparency, and management of human resources.
Volunteer & office/gift shop/food program.