Patricia Deshong of Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Lead A Nonprofit Organization
Covid changed the fundraising landscape — you need to be ready and willing to pivot and change direction at any given time. Hiring employees and recruiting volunteers is difficult during these challenging times
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Patricia Deshong.
Please meet Patricia Deshong, Executive Director of Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation. Pat comes to us with decades of impressive, demonstrated leadership results, having transformed animal rescue nonprofits into revenue-generating, mission-focused entities. Her immediate past position as President of Florida’s Furry Friends Adoption, Clinic & Ranch, has distinguished her as a nationally recognized leader, strategist, and media spokesperson capable of implementing lasting change in a community.
Thank you so much for doing this with us. Before we begin our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? Can you tell us the story behind why you decided to start or join your non nonprofit?
I joined SASF in December 2021. The job offer was quite serendipitous, as I was looking for a fresh start and to be closer to family. I have family who live only three miles from the shelter! I have always had a tendency and passion to protect and stand up for the voiceless. In my early years I worked with abused children and became involved and passionate about animals. Coupled with the fact that giving back is in my DNA, the animal advocacy was a no brainer for me.
I have always had rescues as part of my family since I was a child. Today I am blessed with two dogs I rescued while living in Florida.
I do everything in my power to help animals near and far. Earlier this year, I received a call that 20 dogs were about to be executed at an animal sanctuary in Mexico as a result of an extortion threat by a drug cartel. The person who reached out to me said other rescues had turned them down for fear of their own safety if they were to get involved. How could I deny these 20 dogs the gift of life and loving homes? I had experience with international rescues and, without hesitation, I mobilized a rescue operation in three days. The dogs were all brought to the United States safely, where they are working with trainers to prepare them for forever homes. Out of all I have accomplished in the rescue world, this is my crowning achievement that I am most proud of.
Can you describe how you or your organization aims to make a significant social impact?
My goal is to educate the community and change the perception of peoples idea of what a shelter environment is like. We are often complimented by visitors to our facility how we have created a homey space where the animals get to spend most of their time outside of their kennels as we rehabilitate and rehome. At the core of Southampton Animal Shelter foundation is education. SASF is so different from other organizations in that we are an open admission, no kill shelter. We do not turn any animal away, and even after the adoption process, we welcome back any adopted pet should a home life situation change. SASF relies on the generosity of our donors and volunteers to care for the homeless animals in the Southampton Township, comprising of 140.2 square miles (90k acres), and to place them in loving “forever homes.” The number of animals in need of help is growing every day, as the overpopulation of pets on Long Island is a major issue. Whether caring for strays found wandering the streets, rescuing neglected and abandoned animals, or saving dogs from the horrors of the puppy mill industry, the shelter is a safe haven for all animals and for some, a last resort. Without SASF, these animals would not be able to survive. We do everything in our power to set up our rescues for a successful rehoming and are proud of our high adoption rate. We treat them as our own and provide housing, food, medical treatment, training, and rehabilitation when necessary. Our life saving work is not restricted solely to our Township, but when a dire need presents itself, the team at SASF steps up and steps in to assist. We operate 365 days a year regardless of the weather, holidays, etc. The recent Covid pandemic hit us hard as well as the new challenge of inflation. Both of these factors spread throughout all aspects of the shelter affecting every department from the cost of food, medical supplies, employee gas cost, and more. You can see how important our community support is critical for us to continue our mission in saving lives.
Without saying any names, can you share a story about an individual who was helped by your idea so far?
While at Furry Friends, we saved a Pitbull named Phoenix from getting euthanized in Broward County Shelter. He had been tied to a tree and set on fire. After hip surgeries required as the result of abuse and hyperbaric chamber for his burns, he went into service dog training. He graduated and was placed with Corporal Butler that was suicidal with PTSD. Phoenix prevented him from committing suicide and gave him a reason to live.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Politicians can urge their constituents to get involved and get to know their local shelters. There are so many ways the community not only can help us but receive assistance from us. Whether it be a monetary donation, in kind donation, a donation of time in volunteering and socializing our animals — every gesture is greatly appreciated. We offer an outlet for stress by spending time socializing our cats or walking our dogs, and we also offer families that are struggling with food insecurities, food from our Pet Pantry to feed their furry family members and keep them in homes and out of shelters.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Qualities of a successful leader include being accessible to your employees. Being present and listening with compassion to problem solve, trouble shoot or create new programs is monumental is creating camaraderie and pride in your team. I am always available to lend an ear to anyone I work with.
Based on your experience, what are the “5 things a person should know before they decide to start a non profit”. Please share a story or example for each.
- Raising money is not easy, it is an extremely competitive space.
- Important to have a presence and be knowledgeable about social media.
- Covid changed the fundraising landscape — you need to be ready and willing to pivot and change direction at any given time. Hiring employees and recruiting volunteers is difficult during these challenging times.
- Good customer service is essential to your reputation. Be cognizant on how you are perceived.
- Work hard and enjoy what you do and have fun!
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world who you would like to talk to, to share the idea behind your non profit? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
As we just launched our partnership with Operation Warrior Shield, we are excited to match trained rescue dogs with deserving Veterans. We would love Gary Sinise or Jon Stewart’s advocacy expertise and voices to back our Canine Companion program.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson” Quote? How is that relevant to you in your life?
Never dwell on your mistakes or failures but rather learn from them. Don’t look back, keep moving forward. The most influential business leaders have failed and went on with their experience to thrive and succeed.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!
Patricia Deshong of Southampton animal shelter: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Lead A… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.