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Nonprofits Learn from the Secret Life of Pets

nonprofits learn013: What You Can Learn From The Secret Life of Pets with Ellen Jefferson






Click to tweet: IMPACT Listeners, Ellen Jefferson chats about what you can learn from the secret life of pets on FaithFactorIMPACT click here:


Highlights from the interview

Ellen's Journey:


  • Moved around a lot growing up in a military family 
  • Had a passion for animals very early on in her childhood and had every pet imaginable that "her parents weren't allergic too"
  • New early on that she wanted to be a veterinarian
  • After completing her education, she took her first job in the moonshine capital of the world, Rocky Mount, Virginia
  • Turns out this was the perfect first job.  It taught her a ton about doing a lot with little and has been a great asset for her cause today  
  • Moved to Austin and discovered that 85% of animals in Austin city shelters were being killed
  • Having no need for her at the shelter, she turns to the community and looks to turn the tide by starting a mobile neuter clinic to slow the pace on the number of animals being killed 
  • After a decade of service, Ellen realized this wasn't enough and approached Austin Pets Alive about becoming a rescue organization
  • No funds, no staff, no building and 20 people.  They set up to increase the save rate in Austin, Texas
  • Chipping away and demonstrating progress. The City of Austin reaches the 97% save rate


Valley Moment:


  • A breakout of Feline panleukopenia, a condition that attacks the the digestive tract in kittens, took place in their shelter 
  • Loss a significant number of kittens which rocked the staff, volunteers and other supporters
  • Learned from this and took actions to reduce the possibility of this ever happening again
  • In an effort to extend their system to San Antonio, Texas,ran into some legal issues that made them question whether they were doing the right thing    


IMPACT Nonprofit Leadership:


  • Greatest influence on her leadership was listening to Nathan Winograd, the father of no kill, during a conference where he challenged the audience to figure out how to save animals 
  • For nonprofit leaders to be great they should be authentic, true to themselves, and vulnerable
  • The don'ts of leadership:
    • Don't focus on trying to please everyone 
    • Don't get caught in the social media trap and being overly consumed with the negative noise that can be on these platforms
  • Must have nonprofit leadership skill: Being able to clearly hear what the problem is.  Weed through what is being said and understand the real problem. 
  • Ellen's genius talent: Focus.  Has a knack for drowning out the noise


Strategic Partnership and Community Work:

  • You can't make a difference alone.  Develop strategic alliances that count
  • Only spend time with organizations and individuals that support and believe in the organizations mission 
  • Figure out how to leverage the volunteers that believe in your work to create an army of force


Ellen's FaithFactor 

Listening to her heart. This is what she was called to do. 


2 week sprint to action 


Other IMPACT Resources & References


Link to Books mentioned:

All Things Wise and Wonderful


Links to Resources mentioned:

Google docs


Link to find Chelsea:



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