One of the greatest challenges that you’ll face is the constant question as to who do you serve? Many people getting into the animal welfare profession will tell you that they are “here for the animals.” That is a noble cause, but are animals all that you serve?
When you start your job, you are going to find competing demands as to who you serve. You’ll have to have some loyalty to the bureaucrats who hired you, after all that in addition to the salary that they pay you, they control the purse stings for your organization. You will find it critical to your cause to quickly respond to commission or council members. Having friendly folks on your commission/council will be advantageous at budget time. I had a County Manager in Florida who wanted to drastically cut our budget; fortunately we have several “friends” on the Commission who stopped him and in the end our budget was increased.
Do not forget that you have your community to serve. Don’t worry, there will be plenty of them to remind you that they pay your salary. No matter how demanding that they can become, they are your primary responsibility. Every thing that we do much insure the safety of your community.
Your volunteers may expect that they become your primary focus. In Virginia we had volunteers that wanted to “drive the boat.” They wanted animals to supersede our mission to keep our community safe. They were very vocal in our community. In previous posts, you will see that this was a problem for many shelters in Virginia. Too many shelters gave in to the forces that wanted them to adopt potentially dangerous dogs. Many of them later faced lawsuits for failing in their duties to protect the public.
Above all else, you have to serve yourself. You have to protect your personal and professional integrity and that of your organization. I got into a lot of hot water with my Board because they didn’t like condescension caused by volunteers not getting their way. Sometimes even your Board of Directors forget who they are supposed to serve. You must be willing to risk your job in order to keep your community safe.
The most important factor in your career is to constantly maintain the balance to those who you serve. “Be true to thy own self.”