Member Spotlight: Blue Mountain Humane Society – How collaboration can strengthen a community

February 14, 2018

For the Blue Mountain Humane Society, an animal shelter is the “happiest place on earth.” It’s where pets and owners are reunited and meet for the first time. Executive Director Sara Archer explains, “It is such a place of hope and possibility.”

How did this one nonprofit turn what for many is a sad “pound” holding lost animals, into a place of love and connection? Sara Archer recounts how revamping their mission statement and then focusing on an articulated vision helped her to clearly and boldly engage with the community. Her organization loves to collaborate with nonprofits in their Walla Walla community, whether that means partnering with the local hospice to let patients interact with shelter animals or joining forces with the symphony for their fundraiser Mares, Mutts, and Music (a horse and dog show choreographed to orchestral music).

Sara also sees the nonprofit sector as being a place of hope and possibility. The nonprofit community of Walla Walla talks often about resilience and what it means to model it. They do everything to build each other up— to collaborate and not compete. By staying positive, they are able to promote the hope and possibility of how nonprofits affect the world.

Walking the talk of your mission allows to you take the risk of working in partnership. Instead of begrudging another organization’s resources, Sara finds ways to connect with them so both organizations can succeed. When Sara sees another nonprofit making progress, she sees an opportunity for a fruitful partnership. And she asserts, “That’s possible when you’re really sure who you are.”

Sara reminds us that sometimes collaboration requires a reframing of your mindset in order to cross over what might seem a boundary. She invites us to look for where we can find common ground with others.

Sara’s tips for collaboration, sustainability, and engagement:

  1. Sustained passion is the key to changing the world. If you don’t temper your passion with reason, you’ll burn out, and there will be no long-term change.
  2. If nonprofit leaders don’t embody the joy of the work, then it’s not contagious. Challenges are real and can feel overwhelming in the nonprofit world. Finding the joy of the work and connecting with it daily is so important.
  3. Be creative! Find a way to connect with the community that isn’t necessarily traditional. In Sara’s work, this means partnering with Meals on Wheels to bring pet food to the homes they visit or collaborating with a local winery for a fundraiser.
  4. There’s no such thing as a stupid question. Sara shares, “I will ask anybody anything if it means moving the mission forward.” Not sure how to start? Try: “Would you brainstorm with me? Can you share this policy with my organization?” Don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself—it’s worth it.

Sara is a proud Washington Nonprofits member. “[Washington Nonprofits] convenes us so those connections can happen. We can share without fear or competition.” By making those connections, the community better understands the importance of nonprofits and sees access to nonprofit services as more approachable.

The mission of the Blue Mountain Humane Society is to prevent cruelty and promote kindness to companion animals in our community. Blue Mountain Humane Society was founded in 1967 by a group of local residents committed to creating positive outcomes for animals in the Walla Walla Valley. Over the years, the Society has grown and evolved to include a humane, state-of-the-art no-kill shelter facility designed to serve companion animals. 

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