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A volunteer. Every single person.

By Patti Loverink, Fences For Fido Co-Chair

In 2009, a group of friends gathered together around a kitchen table and dreamed of an organization, which would be called “Fences For Fido.” On May 23 that year, together they built fence number one. They became the first volunteers for Fences For Fido. And even today—as we’ve unchained hundreds of dogs and expanded across more Oregon and Washington communities—every aspect of the organization is still operated, managed, produced and built… BY VOLUNTEERS. Every single person.

It doesn’t take paid staff to be buttoned up with a robust organization chart and committees overseeing every aspect and detail of Fences For Fido. What’s truly remarkable and worth repeating, reiterating, and restating, is that dedicated volunteers—who collectively give hundreds of hours each month—make all of this happen. Here’s a bit more about how we do it:

 

            It must take an expensive IT consultant to build a custom Web site and connected systems. But not for Fences For Fido. Generous volunteers built our entire Web site from the ground up using a free, Open Source framework called Joomla. This allows us to add free or very inexpensive “modules,” like our events calendar, sign-up system, and seamless integration with Facebook and Twitter, along with other features and functionality to support our organization. The functions and systems we need can’t simply be purchased off the shelf, so we customized a flexible foundation that offers additional building blocks to meet our needs today and in the future rather than paying an expensive consultant to create one for us.

        It must take a lot of money to provide each and every Fido with a dog house and cozy dog bed. But not for Fences For Fido. Our dog houses are cut, painted and insulated by hand at the homes of our volunteer dog house builders and assembled in the field by our volunteer dog house coordinators. And our beds are made using our own loving hands as we fill donated burlap coffee bean bags with shredded cedar and fold over and whip-stitch the opening with twine. The cedar deters scratchy fleas and our Fidos get the softness and comfort of a true dog bed. For some, this is the first bed they have ever known. Pure bliss!

            It must cost a lot to hire marketing communications, advertising, videography, photography and PR agencies. But not for Fences For Fido. We’re very fortunate to have a network of volunteer professionals in those fields who donate hours upon hours to Fences For Fido developing print materials, advertisements, videos, photos, press releases and the social media “voice” for our organization. They’re also out in the field alongside our other volunteers, skillfully capturing those priceless, delicate, heavenly moments when a dog’s life transforms and he runs chain-free for the first time. Photos and videos tell our story in a tangible way, sharing it with supporters around the globe, so we can celebrate our mission accomplished as a community.

        It must cost a lot to hire a fundraising manager, and a social media manager, and a volunteer program manager, and a materials buyer, and a schedule coordinator, and the staff who work for these people.  But not for Fences For Fido.  For every need we imagine, a talented, dedicated, hardworking volunteer steps up to say, “I’ll give that a try.” The energy and the results are always palpable. 

         It must drain your funds to employ staff to oversee and serve as leadership for the organization. But not for Fences For Fido. We attract skilled people from various walks of life who have one underlying characteristic: a love of dogs. These volunteers do their very best to nurture and grow the organization and all its complex needs, all in the service of improving the lives of dogs. 

Fences For Fido has no paid staff. But we have something even better: We have volunteers who are here by choice because they are deeply dedicated to our cause and all that we accomplish.We have families, work full time jobs, care for aging parents, have fur babies of our own, and other commitments and interests. But no matter what, every Saturday morning, we build… for the dogs.

And through this magical village called Fences For Fido, we’ve also expanded our family; our chosen family. Our work is not always easy, and our fellow volunteers are our shoulder to cry on after a tough build, when a prospective client says “no” while a chained dog in the yard looks on, and when a beloved Fido passes away. We also celebrate the elation of a Fido doing ZOOMIES, sometimes for the first time since puppy-hood; sometimes since a decade ago. And we give each other a celebratory high-five when we’ve dug and set our first fence post hole, hung our first gate, or unclipped a chain, removing it forever.  We give. But we also get back beyond measure. Our hearts truly overflow with gratitude.

Now, not everything we do is perfect. Like any team, sometimes we fumble and drop a ball. Sometimes the timing isn’t as quick as if we had paid staff doing the work. Sometimes things don’t work as well as we would hope. But we do our best and always try to do better. And we do it with the purest of intentions.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, we kinda love the fact that our overhead begins at zero. When we fundraise, we don’t have the salaries and benefits of any—not even one—staff person to cover, before the money begins going to our Fidos.

We love each and every one of our volunteers for their compassion and caring, and for what they bring to our kitchen table to help our world be a better place.

"My goal in life is to become the kind of person my dog already thinks I am." 
~Author Unknown