- Introduction to Mary Beth, Meghan and “Avril Lavigne” with the Humane Society of York County. The group shares the mission and an overview of the operations of the team at the Humane Society of York County (1:03)
- Mary Beth and Meghan share how they support their teams and support both staff and volunteers in the pursuit of a common mission (3:49)
- The group discusses an innovative idea that they have to level up their brand with something as fun as cat yoga! (11:00)
- Tracy poses a good question about the extended team, and broader partner community for the Humane Society of York County (11:16)
- The group shares advice for business leaders who struggle to juggle many priorities (15:25)
- The group shares their thoughts on the process of delegation (21:15)
- Mary Beth and Megan share the awesome things coming up for their organization in the coming weeks and months: (24:21)
- Do you want to learn more about the Humane Society of York County? Check them out here! https://humanesocietyofyorkcounty.org/ or on their facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=york%20county%20humane%20society
- Learn more about how TEAMES & CO builds effective and empowered teams that deliver results at https://teamesandco.com/teams/organizational-design
- Follow TEAMES & CO on Facebook LinkedIn, Twitter (@teamesandco) and Instagram (@teamesandco)
- Want to watch the podcasts on video visit TEAMES & CO on YouTube.
- TEAMES Global is live!!! We will be launching new courses throughout the summer to support leaders and organizations as they empower their teams, connect with customers and reach their goals!!! Follow TEAMES Global on Facebook and LinkedIn, and sign up for a course today!
To check out another great episode about a fellow amazing non-profit that has a heart for serving animals, visit our podcast with Leah Craig Fieser and Brother Wolf Here.
Listen to Episode 38
Episode 38 Transcript
Tracy Eames (00:42):
Hi, everybody. Welcome to this week's episode of Building Teams with TEAMES & CO. We are looking forward to this week's episode because we have special guests from the Humane Society of York County. So it's a double episode for Mike and I today. We've got Mary Beth, the president of the board, and Megan, the rescue manager. Megan, Mary Beth, thank you for joining us and welcome to the podcast.
Mary Beth (01:03):
Mike Vaggalis (01:06):
It's great to see you both. And I think you guys have a third guest there as well. What's the name of the third guest that we have?
Her name is Avril Lavigne.
Tracy Eames (01:15):
We always have a special guest. And for those of you who are listening to the podcast and not watching, Avril is a little kitten versus the actual famous singer. So we're excited to have a special guest on the video podcast.
Mike Vaggalis (01:28):
She still loves skater boys. They were telling us in the pre-show. Well, Mary Beth, Megan, Avril, welcome in. We're so excited to have you guys. I guess we'll start by just giving you the floor. Can you tell us a little bit more about your organization, what you all do on a day-in, day-out basis, what your mission is and how you serve the animals that come into your care?
Okay. So our mission is to give a second chance to the abandoned animals in our area, and our area includes York County, but it also stands out a little bit to the Charlotte area as well. We do various things to accomplish that. They come in the door either by stray, owner surrenders, those that come from animal control so that we can save them from a kill shelter, unfortunately, but that exists. So we do that very much to pull them and keep them alive. We want to give them a good second chance, but to do that, it takes a lot. So it takes a great staff that Megan runs. It takes a thrift shop that we have that funds us. Pre-COVID, it was funding us at 60%. We have fundraising events. Everything's run separately from our staff, by volunteers, including myself, I'm a volunteer. The dedication is amazing, but we need more.
Tracy Eames (02:51):
Well, Mary Beth, well, hopefully our listeners, we have a special hashtag that we use with our listeners called #askteames. So it's A-S-K-T-E-A-M-E-S. This episode, obviously, if you guys have suggestions, you can use #askteames and throw those suggestions out and we'll share those with Mary Beth and Megan. I think, Mary Beth, I think you raise a really good point, which is there's so many wonderful nonprofits out there doing great work day in and day out, but obviously, it is hard work, right? And it's a labor of love for all of you there at the Humane Society of York County, in giving these animals a safe and healthy place to kind of find their forever home, so to speak. So maybe you could talk a little bit about what you do with your teams to kind of help them, right? This is hard work, but specific ways that you like to support the new team members that join or team members that have been with you for a while.
Mary Beth (03:46):
A lot of it is just day to day things. A lot of our volunteers are fabulous. Sometimes we get lunch once a week. Just little things like that really help our employees just feel like they're appreciated. Today, we got lots of fruit and cake, so that was great. They enjoyed that. So it's just very little things that really kind of help us keep going.
Mike Vaggalis (04:07):
So how many employees to volunteers do you guys typically have? It sounds like you do need some help and some support. What does that look like? In an ideal world, how many volunteers would you have working with you guys on a daily or a weekly basis?
Mary Beth (04:26):
It's kind of broken up into sections. So we have those that are tiny dog walkers. They've proven themselves, they've done some community hours and taken a class. So going back to dog walkers, there's special training for that. There is a number of maybe 20, I want to say, maybe less. In a perfect world, I think if we had 25 regulars, those that kept those hours on a regular basis, even if it's one day a week, if they stayed the four hours time frame in the morning and walk the dogs in series, that would be a tremendous help. The same goes for other volunteers. There's volunteers that wash clothes, do dishes. The morning section is really from 8:00 AM until 12:00, is a really big area where we could use some assistance because that kind of aids the staff since we're lacking on numbers, aids the staff in just getting the job done and the animals really good attention.
Mike Vaggalis (05:24):
Yeah. How many staff do you have working there as well?
Mary Beth (05:28):
I think we have 10 total right now. And ideally, we'd have about 14.
Mike Vaggalis (05:32):
Tracy Eames (05:33):
Wow. Yeah. No, it sounds like you guys have a great model in terms of having that integrated team where you have a lot of, a lot of volunteers kind of supporting the staff. I was a dog-walker at the shelter ]that I adopted my pup from, but also way back when I lived in Oregon, I volunteered at the Oregon Humane Society doing a similar thing, and we used to have those four hour shifts. The thing I liked the most about it in terms of a, you'd get that great time with the pups and they wanted to get out and stretch their legs after a long night. Then you'd also have kind of the same team, right? So you might have the same people who would come in on a Wednesday morning from... I think there, it was a little earlier. It was like 7:00 to 11:00 or something, but I just remember, I used to have to wake up really early. So I feel like it was earlier than 8:00.
Tracy Eames (06:22):
It was fun because you'd get to see the same people every week and you'd get to know the dogs and hopefully, the dogs were finding homes really quickly. So you got to see them for a few weeks, hopefully, and then they were adopted. But that team comradery, I really remember from my days back in Oregon, of just having that kind of community feel around, "Hey, we're all here on the same day giving back to this mission," and I'm sure you hear that a lot from your volunteers as well.
Mary Beth (06:49):
Yes. Those that get connected, we really want that. We want them to find that connection and tie because that means they want to be here and it's really good for our animals. It's just finding them. It's finding that commitment.
Mike Vaggalis (07:02):
Yeah. Of the volunteers and the employees that you guys have... So Tracy and I work with a lot of different organizations and we are so fortunate to speak with so many incredible people on this podcast, and one of the things that I think is a consistent theme in all the conversations is finding the right teammates, whether that's in your case, a mix of volunteers and employees. Other times, we're talking to consultants who work as external members of a team, working with a client organization. In all of those, you have a consistent theme of bringing in a group of people who have a diversity of skill sets and experiences and thoughts that they can contribute to an overall organization or vision that's larger than themselves. Can you talk a little bit about the skill sets and maybe the mission alignment that you guys are looking for as you bring in both volunteers and employees into your organization?
Mary Beth (08:03):
We look for various things like event planning, we look for media people, photographers. There's such a wide, vast array of talents that we can actually put to work. Matter of fact, one of the things I constantly say, "If you bring it up, I'll find something for you." So we'll find that talent and then adjust it accordingly. We aren't set tight on what we hold dear. You know what I mean? We will share those jobs for the staff, yes. Obviously, the love of animals is first, but a very close second is you have to work hard. We are running from the minute we get in until we leave. So you have to be able to keep up and be positive because that's also a huge part.
You have to stay positive constantly because we also see lots of emotional cases. We see heartache. We see people who aren't very friendly sometimes, so you have to be positive and be able to work and focus on the babies the whole time. The nearest services and rescue services is like one of the top rated businesses that have a high rate of suicides and things like that, showing the mental and emotional impact is huge. When we have to make a call and put a baby down, it affects everyone; it's something that you go home with every day. So it affects your family and your life at home. So we have to really encourage each other a lot.
Mike Vaggalis (09:28):
Yeah. It sounds like you certainly have a great family feel where you guys can come together. Families love each other, but sometimes get into disagreements and arguments, and it sounds like you guys have that close knit community where you truly do sound like a family and a team. You mentioned before, little things like having food and cake and maybe going out and doing activities together. Can you talk a little bit more about how you come together as a family of volunteers and employees and the other sort of activities that you guys do knowing that it is such a difficult job that carries some emotional weight with it?
Mary Beth (10:12):
Sure. So we try to do a lot of onsite parties as much as possible and then keep it tied into our needs. So last month, we had a foster party. So we showed appreciation to all of our fosters, invited all the volunteers to the luau. We try to have as many things as we can on site so we can all be together, but also still be with the babies. At the thrift shop, we do luncheons. The thrift shop is a different demographic as far as our volunteers. They're a little older, those that may have retired and can spend time in a retail environment doing different shifts, cashiers, processors, clothing processors, et cetera. But we come together for lunches. We had to take a break, unfortunately, for COVID. So we're picking that back up again. We get together as often as we can, honestly. We need to, we need to kind of regroup sometimes and have fun. One of the ideas they came up with is yoga with a cat or dog with them. We have cat yoga tomorrow. There you go.
Mike Vaggalis (11:04):
Tracy Eames (11:08):
I've heard of goat yoga, but never cat yoga. So I like this.
Mary Beth (11:14):
It'll be very exciting.
Tracy Eames (11:15):
It sounds like you have a great team, and to Mike's point, it sounds like you're really kind of close knit. The thing I love hearing about that so much is we talk to organizations around creating that comradery. In the business world, and I'm sure in the nonprofit world, and you guys have such a big job of caring for these animals, there's ups and downs with that, right? But having that close knit team that you can rely on, I'm sure it just makes that load a little bit easier when the hard days come.
Tracy Eames (11:44):
But one of the other things we've heard from nonprofit partners that we've interviewed is kind of what does that extended team look like in terms of community partners? I'm sure you and your team work with a lot of other great organizations to kind of either put on these events or support animals in unique ways and making sure that so many animals find loving homes. So could you talk a little bit about how you kind of work with partners, how those partnerships have kind of come about and what that's like for you in terms of helping you achieve your mission?
Mary Beth (12:15):
Absolutely. There's several. So with fundraising, there's the community of businesses that solicit for vendors or sponsorships. There's a lot of regulars and we'd love to expand and have ideas on how to open that up. This year, we expanded to include corporate sponsorships and other levels of sponsorships, like sponsor a, spay-neuter, sponsor m, heartworm treatments, things like that. It really hasn't taken off, but it could be that it's just new. So we're going to try to show that a little differently, but other things that we do is a spay-neuter clinic. And do you want to talk about the couple...
So we do have a few clinics in the area. They're already low cost clinics, but we partnered with them to operate even lower pricing for people. So just to hopefully get everybody stay-neutered in the community because obviously, that's where the problem starts is with pets not being spayed-neutered. So we probably do about 55 or 60 maybe surgeries a month right now, but it's picking up a lot now that COVID is opening everything back up. So we do a lot of spay-neuter for the community. With those two clinics, they help us do a low cost for them. So they're great. We work with our animal controls really well in the area. Besides us just taking pets from them, we have over-communication. They will call us if they hear of anything. If somebody adopts a dog and something happens out in the community, they call and give us a heads up and say, "Just wants you to know about your former adopter." So we have a great relationship with animal control as well.
Mary Beth (13:45):
Animal control [inaudible 00:13:48]. So York, Clover, Lancaster. Yeah. So it's a lot of different animal controls.
Tracy Eames (13:55):
Well, I'll put our listeners to the test right now. Mary Beth, when you guys do figure out your repositioning of how sponsors can kind of support either spay-neuter clinics or heartworm treatments or whatever that looks like in a more of what we would consider kind of a product based fundraising, you let us know. We'll share that with our audience and hopefully, we can get some of the business leaders that listen to our podcast involved in supporting the great work that you're doing to help care for these animals.
Mary Beth (14:24):
Mike Vaggalis (14:24):
The other thing that I'd ask is you guys are so busy, as you've mentioned a couple of times, doing so many different things from the day-to-day tasks of running your organization, serving so many different animals, organizing the integration of employee volunteer efforts, working with community partners like you just mentioned, what advice or would you give to other business leaders who may maybe working on different tasks, but struggling to execute and juggle so many different priorities? What has worked well for you and for your teams? That could be processes that you've put in place to help you manage. That could be hiring practices to make sure that you're bringing on good people that are aligned and competent and capable. It could be anything, but how have you found the ability to run and be effective in spite of all of the challenges that you've mentioned so far?
The first thing that comes to my mind for me personally, is I'm not one to delegate very well. So I think finding the right people and being able to delegate things. We have a great volunteer coordinator. So if we want to do something with a volunteer, we just text her very quickly and say, "We want to do a party," and she helps us get a party together. So I think finding those people that are awesome, and then delegating to them what needs to happen. We have a new community outreach program we're doing, so we're going to take food out into the community who can't drive up here to get food or feed their pets. So we have that building. I think delegating is a big one for me to the right people and finding them.
Mary Beth (16:03):
On the same note, is flexibility. Being that we're an independent nonprofit, we can adjust accordingly and we do. If something doesn't work, we change it and we try other things that can work. Same on the legal side of it. If we learn something new, we adjust accordingly for our contracts and our processes. So we're pretty flexible.
Tracy Eames (16:27):
That's great. I like two things and I'm sure Mike has picked up other things that you guys have said, but the thing I liked that you were saying, Megan, around the food delivery is I love that your organization is thinking about it holistically, right? You're saying, "Okay. How do we keep pets that are in the homes, in those homes by maybe helping with food deliveries and access to resources so we can prevent them having to come to a shelter?" And then I love your ideas around how your organization continuously learns from the things that you're doing. Right? So not just being stuck in, "Hey, this is the way we do things," but, "Okay. We tried that. Maybe it didn't work. Let's try this other thing." And I think those are two great lessons for all organizations, right? How do we get ahead of things? How do we maybe prevent some of those challenges? And then also, "Okay. Well, maybe we tried something and it didn't work. How do we adjust from there and continuously get better?" I love both of those.
Mary Beth (17:21):
Definitely want to learn from your mistakes.
And we do. We learn.
Mike Vaggalis (17:26):
Yeah. I'd love to dig into that a little bit more. How do you go about that process? Do you have a weekly standup meeting? Or how do you go about learning from the mistakes that you observe in the course of daily operations?
Mary Beth (17:42):
Well, I think that because we're so small, we talk all the time. [crosstalk 00:17:49] So it's an on the fly, constantly adjusting, constantly addressing issues. Transparency, used that word earlier. Truly, transparency is everything for us. Keep it open, keep it going, change as you can, get it documented and then move on. [inaudible 00:18:10].
Mike Vaggalis (18:11):
One of the things that I've found, both in my career and we've heard from some other guests on this podcast even, is when there's a decision or when there's an idea that somebody has, often, there's pride of ownership in that idea. How do you manage that if you know maybe one of you has an idea that you think is going to work really well and then you later learn, "Oh man, it didn't work like I thought it would"? How do you manage the emotions personally in order to come to the right decision if you do need to iterate or change for the organization?
Mary Beth (18:43):
I would say that one more applied to the thrift shop. Our thrift shop, we have people who get very involved and it's fantastic, but that ownership does come into play and sometimes feelings can get hurt. It is an ongoing thing. I think it's such a personal, person to person communicating. We try to hit it on head on and try to come up with solutions, pretty much saying there's no bad thing going on with us. We're always going to try to fix things. Sometimes it doesn't work, but we try.
Tracy Eames (19:16):
So Mary Beth, I love what you're saying there, which is you're recognizing, and I think leaders, this is really valuable for all leaders who are listening, is to recognize that people were coming up with ideas, whether they're volunteers or staff members, they're doing it from a place of caring about the organization, right? They're aligned with the mission. They're excited. And to Mike's point, sometimes some of our ideas... I'll come up with ideas that don't work as well. We all do, but just recognizing, "Hey, we're all trying to do that together." And I love your kind of constant feedback model where you're checking in all the time.
Tracy Eames (19:46):
We often say on this podcast and with our clients it doesn't need to be all these formal meetings. You just need to be able to kind of constantly stay in touch, make it informal. And then the other thing I don't want to get lost, because you said it kind of at the end, is you document. And I think that's a super valuable lesson for everybody who's listening is if you agree to something and you agree to change your process or do something differently in the future, documenting that is a really, really valuable way to make sure everybody's on the same page. Right? And to your point, Mary Beth, you may choose it and you may change it again very quickly, but that documentation trail helps everybody on the team stay aligned. So, really love that point.
Mike Vaggalis (20:27):
Absolutely. I want to dig in before we get too far away and I would underscore everything that Tracy just said. But Megan, earlier you were mentioning a lot of the lessons that you've been learning about delegation, and that's something that we think about all the time and it's such a challenge for those of us that do have very strong feelings and opinions and beliefs about our own organizations. It can be really difficult to let go and delegate and give some authority to somebody else. Can you walk us through your process and any guidance that you would give to our listeners about how you've grown, maybe in your appreciation for delegation or in your practices of how to do it?
I don't know about doing well, but I have learned just to do it. I, like I said, have always been a control freak. I like to do everything myself, but since learning to delegate, it's been much easier. And kind of what we were just talking about is if I delegate someone to come up with an idea that doesn't work, then we just move on. I work with them to try to fix it. We get a different game plan. But it also gives, especially the employees, a lot of pride in what they're doing. They feel like their input is actually valid, which it is. So that's always been great. I think the employees really appreciate getting tasks delegated to them.
Mary Beth (21:48):
I also think it helps gain an appreciation for the steps involved in doing things. When someone else has an opinion or would like to take something over, it gives them an appreciation and how much work is behind it and how much follow-up and how much goes into it versus their view of it potentially, initially. You know what I mean? And it's also an opportunity for new ideas. Other eyes, other experiences always adds new exposure, but it can also be so positive and then you can pick and choose what's good.
Mike Vaggalis (22:20):
Yeah. We haven't talked about there's a lot of personal benefits to learning to be an effective delegator and then there's a lot of organizational benefits. And I think you guys articulated several of those really well. From a personal perspective, oh my gosh, Megan, you mentioned it almost with a sigh of relief when you're able to delegate something and say, "Okay. This is off my plate. It's taken care of from somebody else that I trust," is a huge win for you personally. For the organization, what we find often is when we encourage leaders to put in place different delegation practices and leaders become more intentional about it, they find, "Oh my gosh. My employees..." or in your case, many times your volunteers, I'm sure, "... they're so much more engaged because it's their opinions and their ideas and their thoughts that are moving the organization forward," and we're all just intrinsically more bought into our own ideas and we aren't to somebody else's.
Mike Vaggalis (23:15):
You also have other new ideas when you invite an inflow of new ideas from your people. Inevitably, your organization's going to be more innovative and is going to be coming up with more things as a team. We truly can do more than any of us can individually. So I love the fact that, Megan, it sounds like you're being very intentional and thoughtful about delegating, recognizing some of the both personal benefits and the benefits for the organization by doing so, even though it's really hard and I know can be uncomfortable sometimes.
Tracy Eames (23:53):
I think one of the things... I know that we've been chatting a lot about teams and about all the great work you all are doing to support your teams, but want to also learn a little bit more about what's coming up for you. So I know before we get started, we were chit chatting a little bit and you were mentioning there's some events coming up and a calendar fundraiser. So we'll just love to share with our audience all the amazing things that you and your team have organized that are coming up for your organization.
Mary Beth (24:21):
You hit it on the head. It's very fluid. So tomorrow, we have cat yoga. We also have our pop hike. Pop hike is where our volunteers... This is kind of fun. Our volunteers who are approved for dog walking will take up almost every dog out of this facility that can go out and take them to Riverwalk, which is a nice walk path that is in Rockville, and they have the exposure they've communicated to it. They go online to encourage folks who might be interested in those dogs to come and meet them out there. So they have the day out away from the shelter. They have the time exercising. They have the potential of meeting somebody that falls in love with them, and the list goes on. So that's once a month. Then we do the yoga, and then we're going to have other things come up just because it's fun. We would probably have puppy yoga. We love goat yoga, but we just don't take in goats. We might hire one. I don't know. [crosstalk 00:25:21] It would definitely take us down.
Tracy Eames (25:26):
I think puppy yoga will be popular enough.
Mary Beth (25:30):
I don't know. Goat or donkey, that might really put them over the edge. Other things in the fall, we do our Doggone Good 10 festival, and that is normally at the end of September, but we've moved it into mid-October in hopes of it napping so hot. We want people to not pass out. So we've adjusted the date and hopefully everything on this board there, and we do things on the fly. So we get great ideas from the staff. They have such a tight relationship with our volunteers here, and I can bring in the volunteers from the thrift shop. We tried it and just events that way. So stay tuned. We'll definitely communicate. Our best way of communication is Facebook. Yeah. We put it out there as much as we possibly can to get good exposure.
Tracy Eames (26:16):
Well, we will definitely share your Facebook information in the show notes. So anybody who's listening and wants to follow up on these events or wants to reach out in terms of volunteering, we will definitely share all the contact information. That way, you can reach out to the Humane Society of York County and hopefully get involved or come out to one of the pup walks or one of the events. I'm sure Megan and Mary Beth would both love to see you out there.
Mike Vaggalis (26:40):
Or go do yoga with Avril Lavigne.
Mary Beth (26:44):
She can be on your back. If you have allergies to animals, I hear this all the time, "I can't. I wish I could come and be with the animals," the thrift shop is an awesome way to benefit the animals without having exposure to the animals so you don't have the whole, "I'm going to take everything home because I fall in love so easily," but it's a retail shop. You can be a cashier. You can do all these things that benefit the shop, and then every dollar, except our expenses, comes to these animals. And just to say it, because it's my dog, it costs $58000 a month to do what we do. So it's a lot of money and we are independent, so we have to make our own money. There's nothing trickling down. So all the help we can get is greatly appreciated.
Tracy Eames (27:29):
Awesome. Well, we will definitely share any events that come up. Keep an eye out because we will be sharing updates that both Megan and Mary Beth share with us, so our volunteers will know what's happening out there. If you're not in the South Carolina, North Carolina area, you can't locally volunteer, you can find the Humane Society of York County online on their website and they have an opportunity there to donate, or like Mary Beth said, there'll be sharing some options for maybe sponsoring a spay-neuter clinic.
Tracy Eames (27:59):
Megan and Mary Beth, we can't thank you enough for joining us today. It's been really great to hear your perspective, awesome to hear how you support your teams, how you gather feedback, how you stay agile as an organization, and ultimately, just really grateful for all the work you two do and your team of volunteers and staff do to help support animals. We're a team of animal lovers here at TEAMES & CO. and just incredibly grateful for the work that you do day-in and day-out to support finding loving homes for those animals that are in your care. So thank you very much.
Mike Vaggalis (28:33):
Mary Beth (28:34):
Thank you so much for having us.
Mike Vaggalis (28:36):
Great. And we will post links, like Tracy said, with this podcast. So for all of our listeners, please go check those out. Today, there's no better time to do it than right now. While you're doing so, be sure to give us a thumbs up, a comment and to share the Building Teams with TEAMES & CO. Podcast with your friends and family. We engage with leaders like Mary Beth and Megan every week and love having these conversations. I've learned so much from them and really believe that this is just a tremendous resource. So hope that you're able to share it with your friends and family so that everybody can come learn along with us. Megan, Mary Beth, thanks again so much for the time. It's amazing meeting you. And again, thank you for the work that you guys do day-in and day-out.