Thursday, 08 January 2015 06:19

Swift Current SPCA needs ongoing community support to provide services

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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Great Plains College mascot SunDog, who was adopted from the local animal shelter, presents his $5 buy-a-day entry for the Swift Current SPCA 2015 calendar to SPCA board member Susan McLaughlin, July 11, 2014. Great Plains College mascot SunDog, who was adopted from the local animal shelter, presents his $5 buy-a-day entry for the Swift Current SPCA 2015 calendar to SPCA board member Susan McLaughlin, July 11, 2014.

The financial situation of the Swift Current SPCA at the start of 2015 is not so dire as a year ago, but the shelter will require ongoing support from the community to continue its operations.

SPCA board members met in December to review their fundraising efforts during 2014 and to discuss plans for 2015.
Board Vice-President Melanie Weinbender said the SPCA appreciates the support from the community of Swift Current and surrounding area during the past year when the shelter’s future was in the balance.
“We never want to find ourselves in the situation we were in this time last year,” she told the Prairie Post. “I never want to see that shelter in that situation where it’s heartbreaking to think that we may have to just close those doors and walk away and I don’t think this community wants that either.”
The society launched a fundraising campaign, called $14-for-2014, in January 2014 to keep shelter doors open.
Board member Susan McLaughlin said the community’s support for this initiative and other fundraising efforts during the year resulted in a small financial surplus.
“That is a huge relief because instead of draining our bank account, we will actually for the first time in about a decade be able to put a bit of money back into the bank,” she said. “It allows us to go forward cautiously into 2015 bar any disasters. We move forward and we shouldn’t be worried about closing the doors or reducing any of the services or hours, but we still have the same problem of putting that revenue into the shelter. Every year we’re starting all over again.”
The $14-for-2014 campaign raised 60 per cent of the $50,000 goal, which amounts to about $30,000.
“We were looking for a rapid infusion of cash at the beginning of the year, so that’s why we chose that style of fundraiser and that very direct approach to the public,” she said.
“It gave us a bit of breathing room that allowed us to relax a bit and figure out what are the next steps.”
According to McLaughlin the public had no idea how serious the SPCA’s financial situation was before the launch of that campaign. The shelter posted a deficit of $41,000 at the end of 2013 and there was only enough cash in the bank to keep the shelter going for about three months.
“We’ve had deficits nine of the 10 years in the last decade, and each one is progressively bigger,” she said. “We could not afford anything to go wrong or we were in really bad shape. We’d been using what little money was in the bank and eroding it year by year to just help pay the day-to-day expenditures out there.”
There was no deficit in 2011 due to a bequest to the SPCA. The shelter’s dilemma is that it needs to raise around $250,000 every year to cover operating expenses.
In recent years, the shelter’s annual budget has been around $300,000. It receives an annual financial contribution of around $50,000 from the City of Swift Current, which includes a contribution towards the spay and neuter program and payment for pound services.
In addition to the $14-for-2014 campaign, the SPCA held its first radiothon in 2014. The event raised about $25,000 and included a single, anonymous donation of $10,000. There will again be a radiothon in 2015.
“One of the benefits of the radiothon is that it does get our profile out there in the rural surrounding area, more than just our website or Facebook page,” she said. “So we’re going to really promote that message very heavily for this coming radiothon to try and pull in more of the rural surrounding areas, maybe get them involved in small fundraisers so that they can make a donation on air, get the schools involved, those kind of things.”
The SPCA was the beneficiary of the annual Bill Lee charity golf tournament in 2014, which raised about $11,000. The higher awareness about the shelter’s financial predicament resulted in numerous fundraisers in the community. These third-party fundraisers generated about $32,000 for the SPCA during 2014.
The SPCA Used Bookstore continues to be an important source of revenue. It consistently generates about $22,000 every year, but McLaughlin expects income from the bookstore will increase to about $29,000 for 2014.
“There’s been a lot of hard work and there’s about 25 volunteers that work the bookstore,” she said. “It’s been a lot of hard work on everyone’s behalf, not only to just reorganize the facility and make it more intuitive for people coming in, looking for books, but to promote it.”
Volunteers increased public awareness about the bookstore with a presence at Market Square during the summer months, which resulted in more book sales, but also increased foot traffic in the store.
Weinbender noted in addition to the various fundraising efforts during 2014 the board also considered ways to cut costs.
“We went through and we cut as much as we could possibly cut without cutting services,” she said. “Our staff is the minimum staff we require for the shelter. … We’ve gone down to the absolute bare necessity of what that shelter needs. There’s no frills, not that there was a lot before, but we looked at everything.”
A real challenge for the SPCA is the lack of volunteers to assist with fundraising initiatives and to help out at the shelter.
“We don’t have a huge volunteer base,” McLaughlin said. “The volunteer base has habitually been the board members and the families. We need more volunteers. We need more foster families too because the shelter is usually full and there is a waiting list.”
An important board priority during 2015 is to promote the long-term financial security of the shelter through a new initiative to secure donations of stocks, bonds, mutual funds or shares in publicly-traded companies to the SPCA. This type of donation to the animal shelter will have tax break benefits for donors and the SPCA has already set up a trust account at Innovation Credit Union for this purpose.
“We want to be considered as the charity of choice to receive these things,” she said. “We want people to know that we are now able to receive these kinds of donations. We’re aware that not everybody can give to that degree … but there are people out there who are in a position to do this and who are also pet lovers.”
According to McLaughlin, the SPCA board members are cautiously optimistic about the future, but also very realistic about the challenges still facing the shelter.
“We want to leave people with a message this year that we still need their help,” she said. “We need their help in small donations as well as consider us now for these large donations, such as the publicly traded securities. We want to let people know that we’re a happy, positive place, a no kill shelter. … We’re positive, we’re energized, we want to be around for the long haul and think of us in a positive light and come out and visit us.”

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