Monday, December 5, 2011

Intervention Services versus Prevention Services: How Does Your Portfolio Stack Up?

Regardless of the specific mission of a shelter or rescue, I am confident in saying the heart of the majority of animal welfare organizations is to provide either prevention or intervention services (and in most cases, both) for the animals it takes under its wing.  At the most basic level, all shelter services, programs, or departments can be filed into either category (*sometimes they fit into both) and contribute to what the organization offers the community.  But an intelligent organization will intentionally control the percentage of intervention services if offers with that of the prevention services it offers.  In other terms, a clever organization will not put all its eggs in the same proverbial basket. 

First, let’s define what each of these services means.  Intervention services are any service, program, or department dedicated to intercede on behalf of an animal already in the shelter system.  Examples include:
1.     Adoption Programs: focus on permanent placement of homeless animals
2.     Investigations: use the law to adjudicate in support of abused or neglected animals
3.     *Behavior and Training: readies sheltered animals for placement in a permanent home
4.     Volunteers: invites supporters into the organization to contribute to the mission

In contrast, prevention services are any service, program, or department dedicated to averting an animal from entering the shelter system from the start.  Examples include:
1.     Spay/Neuter: prevents future litters
2.     Humane Education: fosters humane attitudes and living harmoniously with animals
3.     Safe Havens: attempts to keep people experiencing personal difficulties with their pets as they navigate towards a solution to their problems
4.     *Behavior and Training: promotes basic obedience and good behavior; well trained animals remain in their homes
5.     Trap-Neuter-Return: prevents further amplification of the feral cat population
6.     Pet Food Pantry: offers free or very low cost food and supplies to struggling families

*Notice that Behavior and Training can fall into both categories.

To find a typical distribution of services, I did a brief analysis of 5 shelters in the Chicago area.  Based on the programs and services they advertised on their respective websites, I calculated the percentage of intervention versus prevention services they offered and the following resulted:  

Brief Description
Prevention Services
Intervention Services
Large, Open Admissions (with a physical location)
Medium/Large, No-Kill (with a physical location)
Medium, No-Kill (with a physical location)
Small, No-Kill Rescue (with a physical location)
Very Small, No-Kill Rescue (without a physical location)

Each shelter’s budget, staffing, animal capacity, and mission are (obviously) different, but it’s interesting to see how the smaller organizations—in terms of animal capacity—skew towards intervention whereas the larger shelters balance the two more evenly.    

This investigation is very superficial and should not be used as the sole analysis of determining an appropriate allocation of prevention and intervention services.  What this analysis does not provide is how much (in terms of financial, human, and facility resources) are distributed per capita or as a total percentage of said resources.  From the above, one can make the correlation that the larger the shelter, the more it can provide by way of prevention services, but of course this analysis only examined shelters.  There are organizations out there exclusively dedicated to funding prevention services without actually sheltering animals.  

A strategic planning exercise—either in and of itself or as a subset of the overall strategic planning efforts of the organization—will help a group focus its efforts and resources on the types and general allotment of prevention and intervention programs and services it offers, but an annual detailed analysis of various shelter metrics (intake, live release rate, disease rates) will help guide a group to allot those programs and services to accurately meet the needs of the community it services:

1.     What is being spent on spay neuter services?  Have we noticed a change in our intake, especially kitten litters during “kitten season”?
2.     Since we started investing more time on post adoption follow-up, have we noticed a decrease in our return rates? 
3.     What percentage of adopted dogs enroll in training classes post placement?
4.     What percentage of volunteers donate over 20 hours of service per month? 

By examining the answers to these questions, groups can better understand and adjust their prevention and intervention services division.  Every organization’s distribution will be different depending on their mission and vision, but it does suffice to say that a good game plan includes diversifying your allocations.  Similar to the market, a diverse portfolio of intervention and prevention services will not only help an organization deliver solutions based the needs of a community, but it will also assist it in remaining relevant during a changing environment.  So, how does your portfolio stack up?    

1 comment:

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