We still don’t know what will happen to Wings Over the Rainbow Rescue. No details have been released and as far as I know, no decisions have been made. What has become very clear is that the supporters of WOTR are a scrappy and proud group. While small in number relative to many other rescues, their loyalty and dedication to this rescue runs deep. They truly seem committed to bringing the rescue back from the precipice and on to success.

In my book, this is huge. Enormous. And it plays extensively into the potential future of this organization. When you have people that passionate about anything, I believe there is an enormous chance of survival and the opportunity to breathe life back into this organization.

In business, when you have a company that is down in the dumps or in bankruptcy, what can and will bring it back are its employees or in this case, the volunteers and supporters. If you do not have them on your side, you’ve lost the battle before you’ve ever begun.

This is the advantage WOTR has sitting in its back pocket: The enthusiasm, loyalty and complete devotion of these people. They want this rescue to not only survive, but to thrive.

If those who end up running the rescue can direct that energy into forward movement, I think they might come out the other side traveling hopefully, but with purpose. These people absolutely love WOTR and what it was trying to accomplish. This is rare in any organization and for them to have that drive and passion for  the organization is priceless. Most big businesses would absolutely kill to have that kind of loyalty from its staff.

However, there are a few things they should consider in order to get there.

As far as I’m concerned, here are some basic tenets in running a business. One is that there has to be a need for your product or service. And another is the passion and the desire to make it happen.

I see both of these features in Wings Over the Rainbow. Obviously there is an enormous need for this local non-profit. If there wasn’t, there wouldn’t be any birds in residence.

Another thing I see is the incredible potential this rescue has because it has at its doorstep something very unique and very promising: The chance for a fresh start.

If you think about it, these smaller local rescues are crucial. They serve the community in which they are a part of, as well as being supported by that very same community. However it has to be a two-way street with strong traffic moving in both directions. Strong interaction between the organization and those in the community is vital. They need to be seen, to be viewed as a robust contributor to the area. I would think they would want to become a member of the community that the area is proud of for their humane and caring efforts.

In this potential opportunity to begin fresh, there are things to be considered. While a non-profit is not out to make money per se, it still is indeed a business, not simply a charity. The people involved should view it as such.

I think WOTR can come back. And I’d love to see this. But it is my opinion that some basic changes in the structure of the rescue should be addressed. These are my suggestions:

A solid business plan based on a sustainable model is crucial for the survival of this rescue.

A heavily involved Board of Directors with the help and backing of a larger, more established, stronger rescue and a professional manager to oversee operations on a daily basis ensuring not only its sustainability, but its growth.

Ensure its profitability with infusions of actual income other than charitable donations by promoting mission-driven products and services to the public.

Invest in the future of the rescue by ensuring cash flow.

Total transparency.

There are other things any rescue and adoption non-profit can do to raise the profile as well as the interest and therefore the profitability of the organization.

I don’t know how engaged in the community they were, but creating public interest in their work through involvement with local schools, scout troops, bird clubs, senior citizen centers and local festivals, and celebrations can engage the community and capture their interest thereby raising awareness and enthusiasm about their work and their mission. This in turn drives the business, which drives the organization as a whole. This can be done both within the brick and mortar structure as well as out in the community at large.

Aggressively apply for grants.

Send out regular press releases to local papers and other media outlets about their work and accomplishments. Develop an email list and send out newsletters.

Set up educational seminars, book appearances to local outlets and organizations for children, senior citizens and other special interest groups.

Develop an educational program that can be applied to schools and other organizations such as the scouts and boys and girls clubs where certificates of merit or badges for “community service” and various levels of aviculture education can be earned.

This ensures that not only will you be ensuring volunteers, you are further spreading the word to the community, raising interest and awareness and possibly placing birds in homes. You are also infusing the business with volunteer “learn by doing” students as well as possible cash donations.

The Cincinnati Zoo has an actual academy in place on the grounds of the zoo for high school students and they are required to “learn by doing” a certain number of hours each week. A program like this in conjunction with the public school system would be invaluable to WOTR.

Host open houses for the community, inviting them in to visit the birds see the premises and have booths that can be rented by local artisans to display their work, bird related or not.

Develop a line of mission-driven products that can be promoted and sold. The usual “logo-ware” is always welcome as well as unique, craft and art products. A commission can be taken for these sales.

Consider a line of “fresh product” that can be sold along with other needed and desirable products.

These are just some thoughts off the top of my head. But I really believe that with the enthusiasm and zeal shown by those who support WOTR, this little rescue might be able to come back, albeit in a different and improved form. I do not know how much of these activities I’ve suggested have already been attempted by WOTR, but it is something worth exploring if they want to come back in a new format.

I really believe they are needed in the area. And I am of course concerned about the birds they had in residence. While they are currently being cared for, it is a temporary situation. Wouldn’t it be better that they remain with WOTR under its new format and adopted out from there rather than be transferred to other organizations? It seems to me that if WOTR came back in better shape, the birds would be better off with the people who love them in the newly reorganized rescue.

The supporters of WOTR are a strong and willing group. If they can shore up what remains, regroup and begin fresh, I see incredible potential. They have the desire and they have the strength to do it. And of course the need is there. With the support of local businesses, other rescue and adoption organizations and the avian community at large, this once ailing organization could turn into “The Little Rescue That Could.”

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