A Day in the Life of an Executive Director at an Animal Protection Think Tank

Ivy Collier

Ivy Collier is the Executive Director for the Animals and Society Institute where she is responsible for the mission, vision, strategy and fund-raising efforts for the organization. Under Ivy's leadership the organization is focused on creating safer and more compassionate communities for all. Additionally', as an independent researcher, she studies animal ethics as well as animals and public policy.

It was a dark, stormy night when my' life was transformed. I wasn’t planning on such a dramatic event, only a warm bowl of soup and watching my favorite TV show. But life had a different idea when I found a stray' dog wandering in the rain. I stopped, put him in the car and took him home. He was a black chow-mix, very matted and thin. He was alone, soaking wet and afraid. I called my local animal shelter, and they advised me to search for the owner. I put up lost dog signs in the area and continued to contact the shelter to see if the owner called. Nobody called. I couldn’t keep him as it was a violation to my lease and thus had no choice but to take him to the shelter. I’d never been inside a shelter before, and I was horrified. It was dark, damp and noisy'. I was riddled with guilt, but the staff assured me they’d find him a loving home. But the truth is, they' didn’t, they euthanized him. They' told me they simply' did not have the space, that it was a hard decision to make, but one they' must make on a regular basis. This was an eye-opening experience for me and led to my' interest in learning about the plight of pet animals as well as farm animals and wildlife. I had found my' calling—animal protection—and have never looked back.

I started volunteering with multiple animal shelters and activist groups. I completed my' bachelor’s degree in social psychology and then my' master’s degree in public affairs. Throughout my' early career, I worked for conservation and animal welfare organizations, but I wanted a deeper understanding of the human-animal relationship. An internet search led me to the Animals & Society' Institute (ASI), and I became a volunteer. A few years later I joined the ASI board, and in January of 2019 I became the Executive Director.

While my education helped prepare me for this position, my volunteer experience gave me hands-on knowledge needed to build the strong skillset necessary to work in the nonprofit world. As my career evolved, I learned that I needed specialized experience in nonprofit boards and fundraising. I sought out specific learning opportunities through professional Facebook groups, Joan Garry’s blog, the Board Source and the Council of Nonprofits. I also joined the Association of Fundraising Professionals and took advantage of their continuing education opportunities. I subscribed to the Get Fully Funded program, an excellent source to learn new fundraising skills and planning, as well as the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

I am grateful that ASI is a leader in the human-animal interaction field and publishes two academic journals. I keep abreast of the field by reading these journals along with other research produced by Faunalytics. I subscribe to numerous HAI newsletters and Facebook pages and set up keyword alerts in Google and Academia.edu. Lastly, I connect with HAI professionals on Linkedln. I recognize that keeping up with new research and nonprofit news can be overwhelming, so to help with this issue, I set a certain amount of time aside each day to scroll through alerts, newsletters and new information.

My position as Executive Director is to oversee the strategic plan, programs and governance for ASI. A few key responsibilities that I am responsible for include the organization budget, fundraising, marketing and community outreach. While my day-to-day activities are never the same, here’s an example:

9:00am Quiet time. Review my to-do list. Read and reply to emails.

Review donation list. Write thank you notes.

  • 10:00 Make phone calls to donors, funders and vendors. Work on upcoming fundraising campaign strategy'.
  • 11:00 Meet with Board fundraising committee.

Noon Lunch.

  • 1:00 Staff meeting.
  • 2:00-4:00 Work on proposal draft for prospective foundation.
  • 4:00-5:00 Prepare board report.
  • 5:00-5:15 Review calendar and task list for tomorrow.

While ASI has standard office hours, donor meetings or phone conferences may warrant working evenings and weekends. Once or twice a week, I work additional hours in the evenings. The most rewarding part of my job is knowing that I am helping animals and people. When I turn on my computer each morning, I know that I am working to create a safer and more compassionate community' for animals and people alike. I am lucky and blessed to work with the best team, individuals who share the same vision and are always ready to help and encourage each other to be the best they can be.

A Day in the Life of an HAI Executive 103

Human-animal studies (HAS) is a rapidly growing interdisciplinary field with a bright future. There are more HAS courses and majors than ever before. Countless HAS resources are being produced and are now interwoven throughout our society. My hope is that as the HAS field continues to evolve, it becomes more diverse in every sense; race, ethnicity, gender and thought. We have so much to learn from each other, the field will benefit from becoming as diverse and inclusive as possible.

The nonprofit sector has been growing over the past 30 years and is expected to continue to grow. I encourage anyone who wants a career that is rewarding and meaningful to strongly consider joining the nonprofit community.

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