By Juliet Davenport, Nonprofit Ambassador, DonationMatch
For the past 20 years, PAWS San Diego has provided "essential pet services and support to low-income elderly, chronically ill and disabled individuals." They currently run two programs - a PetCare/VetCare program which includes, among other things, in-home delivery of pet food, cat litter and flea medicine to their low-income senior, or chronically ill and disabled clients, and their PAWS Pantry Program, formally launched this year, in which PAWS sets up several distribution sites around the county to provide supplemental bags of pet food for families in need.
Here's what DonationMatch learned in 5 minutes with Geraldine D'Silva, Executive Director of PAWS San Diego!
What is the goal of PAWS San Diego?
"PAWS San Diego’s goal is keep pet families together. With our two programs we hope for the day when no more pets are relinquished to shelters due to lack of resources for pet care and pet food in San Diego County. Studies show that unfortunately low income is one of the main reasons for pet relinquishment."
You had different positions within the organization before you became Executive Director. Do you think that experience has helped you become a more effective ED?
"I am so thankful that I started off with PAWS as Operations Manager two years ago. PAWS had just started moving from being a volunteer run organization to being staff driven. With the transition we were in need of a 'Manager,' especially when donors and others phoned to ask for one. When I was promoted to Operations Director after 6 months I had already learned so much, and after completing a Certificate course in Non Profit Management I was ready to take on bigger responsibilities. Now as the ED, I clearly feel the pulse of the organization and I feel privileged to work alongside our volunteers, amazing staff and an extremely supportive, talented and professional Board of Directors. Together we are effective."
Do you have a favorite story of how PAWS has helped someone?
"I have many, many wonderful stories to tell! The most recent one is a beautiful testimonial we received when we thanked a donor. They informed us that they were in fact a PAWS Pantry client a year ago. The family had suddenly become homeless and was living in their car with their dogs and cat. 'PAWS saved their lives' by giving them an emergency supply of pet food so they could keep their pets.
One of our PetCare & VetCare clients, Ray, takes almost 3 hours each morning just to get out of bed. Ray is a senior, chronically ill and disabled. He has been home-
bound for years and his only motivation to get up is his beloved dog and constant companion Ziggy. He talks to Ziggy all day and Ziggy is always right by his side. I personally deliver food to Ray and Ziggy and I always enjoy seeing the unique bond that they share. They clearly love and need each other."
What types of events do you hold?
"Fiesta is the major, annual event for PAWS San Diego. We also have an annual Volunteer Appreciation event and hope to hold a Donor Appreciation event regularly in the future. Apart from that, we participate in a few outreach events throughout the year, particularly PRIDE and PAWS in the Park and also the AIDS Walk where we run the water station."
What are your biggest fundraising event planning challenges?
"Our biggest challenge without a doubt is the need for an event planner. We are a team of four part-time staff with regular day-to-day responsibilities. Fiesta is our one major event each year, and in addition to it being time-consuming to plan, we are also heavily dependent on volunteers to make this event happen. Having the right event chair each year is of prime importance and fortunately this year we have a wonderful and very organized Chair. Coordinating and keeping volunteers committed through the whole process is a challenge in itself, apart from needing to market the event on a low budget."
Which events raise the most money, and which help you raise awareness the best?
"Fiesta forms approximately 15-17% of our budget. The outreach events help raise some brand awareness. We have small fundraisers throughout the year, hosted by restaurants, bars and stores that donate some of the proceeds to PAWS."
Where would you like to see PAWS in 5 years?
"In 5 years, I would like to see PAWS working more seamlessly with other human and animal welfare organizations and being more self-sustaining on a higher budget. I would definitely like to increase and diversify our funding base while growing and stabilizing our infrastructure and the number of people we serve."
If you were going to eat a brownie, would you choose a middle piece or a corner piece?
"If I were going to eat a brownie, I would choose the chewy center. But I would love a nibble of the crisp corner too, if I had that choice."
Thank you Geraldine and PAWS for all you do! Click here for more information on PAWS San Diego and their 20th Anniversary Fiesta Celebration on June 8th!