Students, consulting organization look to help Humane Society

Monday, October 13, 2008 | 9:09 p.m. CDT; updated 10:27 a.m. CST, Wednesday, December 10, 2008

COLUMBIA — MU business students and a local consulting organization are helping the Central Missouri Humane Society by taking a look at the shelter operations, facility and funding.

Students are comparing Columbia's Humane Society to those in similar cities. The students began by choosing 20 cities, including State College, Penn.; Kalamazoo, Mich.; and Champaign, Ill. The cities were chosen based on their population, proximity to major metropolitan areas, economic base, average income and level of education.

Students will analyze the business models and budgets at shelters in those chosen cities, Greg Martin, an MU business professor, said. Students also will look at hours of operation, staff patterns and daily expenditures. They will also be researching the perceptions of the Humane Society within Columbia.

The students will finish in December and will present conclusions to the Humane Society Board of Directors.

In the meantime, volunteer consultants from SCORE, a local nonprofit consulting association for small businesses, will work on "big picture planning" for the Humane Society, lead consultant John Dean said.

"It is no surprise that the Humane Society was having problems," he said. "There is a bottleneck of activity with the amount of animals and people going in and out of the door every day."

One of the main issues the consulting organization will look at is the revenue sources at the Humane Society.

"With most of the funding coming from the private sector, a good marketing plan to expand the donor base will be developed," Dean said.

The lack of space is another major issue facing the Humane Society, Dean said. 

"They end up having to euthanize way too many animals. If they had more space, they could accommodate more animals and run the shelter more efficiently," he said.

The group is also evaluating personnel.

"We are looking at the roles and responsibilities of everyone from the board of directors to the volunteers," Dean said.

The organization will draw from information found by the MU students and will present an improved business model to the Humane Society.

"Everyone at the Humane Society is curious and open-minded about our help," Martin said. "There is a sincere attempt to cooperate on this and find ways to improve the situation. It's unlike any other project we've worked on over the last 10 years."

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