PAWS “will close by the end of the month” warns President

I have been asked not to mention any of this before, but seeing as to how Karen P is now making a desperate appeal for cash on Spectrum, warning that PAWS has run out of cash, it seems fair to spread the warning that our favourite local animal charity is just a couple of weeks away from bankruptcy.

It seems that PAWS Holland, which has now closed, was supporting the main charity to the tune of 25K a year. PAWS Holland would accept the animals from Spain and sell them in Holland / Germany / wherever, and send the cash back to Spain to rescue more animals, chip them, and sell them on. The lack of this cash means they’re left with no income due to a lack of local structure.

Of course, with the local shop mismanaged, fund rising committees at everyone else’s necks and the level of in-fighting at heights not seen outside Libya, it’s no surprise that the committee was so desperate for the Dutch cash.

I wrote in 2009 that PAWS was letting local hot-heads take over sub-committees and funds, and running them into the ground (remember the “haute cauture” fashion show disaster?), and it seems that my dire prognostics were correct.

There comes a point in any charity when it gets to a size that it needs to become “professional” and kick out the local volunteers who aren’t really helping. I was involved some years ago in a fascinating debate on this very subject, which aimed to analyse how the UK charity sector has recognised how charities must replace well meaning but inexperienced volunteers with paid professionals who see the charity (and fund raising) as a job, and manage these volunteers as a resource, rather than depending on them.

PAWS never did this, and this is the result. A few years ago I would be involved in “do’s” that would help raise 3-5K a year for PAWS. Infighting between volunteers meant that the money was gradually ear-marked for “projects”, then eventually politics did away with the organisers and now – nothing. The old hard core band of volunteers have been diluted with a series of part-timers. Just look at their shop! The stories I have heard about that place from people who have walked away swearing never to return, or deal with them again!

Charities are built on volunteers. They are the main source of inspiration and labour without which no charity can function. But, they are volunteers. A charity must be run as a business, with clearly defined aims, budgets, priorities and management structures. And at the core of the organisation must be the professional hard core management team, a team able to control the volunteers, direct their energies to a common good. Personalities in a business structure can be controlled and directed, and clashes managed. Personalities in a group of volunteers, each of whom is feeling sanctimonious for helping and feeling that they know better than the team leader, will cause fissions, cracks, fights and even abandonment of tasks.

And so we are in a position where, once the main income stream was cut off (the Dutch cash), then PAWS was left with nothing to fall back on. No integrated local structure as used to exist. No local revenue stream, even from volunteers. They are in a cash strapped pinch. In short, they are back to the very beginning, and must start from scratch.

Hopefully, PAWS will weather this storm. Hopefully, the core management team can make the decisions necessary to remove the chaff and start again, building on the basis of the old PAWS to create a new, leaner but stronger and more professional organisation that will continue to carry on the good work that they are known for, and push forwards into a new prosperity.

Hopefully.

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