The following is a summary of a conversation that took place as part of our evaluation of The Humane League. Rachel Huff-Wagenborg is the Director of Operations at THL. Rachel spoke with Jon Bockman, ACE’s Executive Director, on October 1, 2015.
Rachel’s Role at The Humane League
Rachel is the Director of Operations at THL, a position closely connected with a number of different teams at the organization. She works with senior leadership and regional office Directors to maintain the daily operations of THL. She is responsible for human resources, bookkeeping, tax information and reporting, corporate filings with the IRS or state offices, merchandising, and registration as a charitable organization in the states where THL operates or has donors (almost all 50 states). She also works with the development team to keep the donor database updated and communicates acknowledgments and tax receipts to donors. Bookkeeping, donor management, and HR work occupy the majority of her time, while state registrations, preparing the budget and filing the 990 tax information is often the most challenging work, due to the amount of detail and information involved.
The operations Director is a salaried position with no overtime pay. This amount of work sometimes pushes her past a 40-hour work week, though she is able to do some from home and is often happy to put in extra work for the organization.
Prior Experience at THL
Before taking on her current position, Rachel opened THL’s first west coast office in Seattle. After some time off for maternity leave, she moved from her position as Seattle Office Director into her new role as Director of Operations. The transition was smooth, with plenty of communication beforehand about what the operations position would require.
Work Culture at THL
Rachel has a huge amount of respect for the Executive Director, David Coman-Hidy, and his leadership abilities, and judges the board to be supportive and to share the same goals as the staff. Communication between Rachel and the leadership team is frequent—often once a day or multiple times per week—by email and phone, as well as during weekly management meetings on Google Hangouts every Friday. The staff culture at THL is comparable to that of a family: communication is open and healthy, and teamwork is the norm. It is the best work culture Rachel has seen.
The General Operation of THL
Rachel maintains THL’s multiple employee handbooks to ensure effective and consistent operations across the organization, to provide support to THL staff, and to facilitate seamless teamwork. She is working to expand their policy library to support the quickly growing organization.
THL provides some benefits to its employees, which include 2 weeks of paid time-off for all of its staff. While THL does not currently provide employee support for continuing education (such as tuition reimbursement), they attempt to provide training sessions using volunteer help from subject matter experts.
Donor Operations at THL
THL uses Salesforce as their donor database, which is provided to nonprofits free-of-charge, interfaced with Network for Good and other donation collection platforms. Network for Good is ideal for collecting donations because it is customizable to fit THL’s webpage aesthetic, it automatically feeds information into Salesforce, and it allows THL to track the specific origin pages of donations. They also receive donations through Paypal and occasionally mailed-in donations. THL strives to promptly acknowledge all gifts, sending donors thank you letters on a rolling basis throughout the week.
Grant Requesting at THL
Rachel supports the teams working on grant requests and reports, which brings in a small percentage of THL’s budget.
Cases Where THL has Changed Its Operations
Rachel has coordinated efforts to increase THL’s efficiency by utilizing, optimizing, and interfacing data systems. Switching to Salesforce and Network for Good will allow for streamlined donation management and ongoing assessment of the effectiveness of campaigns and other strategies in line with THL’s mission to work as efficiently as possible to reduce the most animal suffering.
THL also responded to merchandise requests by undertaking a fundraising campaign using Custom Ink to provide THL t-shirts and tanks. The tremendous response to the limited THL merchandise provided through this and other campaigns has prompted them to design an online store currently in development.
Strengths of THL
The fact that THL saves animals and reduces animal suffering is a massive strength of the organization, along with their mindfulness about whether they are working in the most effective way possible. They strive to put animals first, while also creating a positive and supporting work culture.
Areas of Improvement for THL
Rachel would like to see THL venture into new areas, broaden their international work and continue to grow the grassroots outreach at college campuses. THL is also looking to expand the senior staff at THL with legal counsel to support their operational and campaign work.