By: NEFHS Advisory Council Members Kerry Garofano and Elizabeth Merow of the Connecticut Humane Society
It all started with an email, as so many things do. It was Summer 2016 and our Executive Director at the Connecticut Humane Society had just forwarded us an email from the New England Federation of Humane Societies about the call to submit 2017 conference proposals.
We were both relatively new to the organization, having joined in the past year. We quickly became quite the team, recruiting funding and partners and then launching a community pet clinic in southeastern Connecticut. With the conference themed “Collaborations,” presenting on this pilot program seemed like a great fit, so we submitted a proposal and it was accepted.
Fast forward a few months to April 2017, and we’re at our first New England Fed Annual Conference. Presenting at the conference quickly proved to be highly rewarding and meaningful. There were networking opportunities galore and as self-identified introverts, we say this honestly. Immediately after our session, a newly found colleague from Rhode Island approached us about our pilot program. In the months that followed, we pursued ways for our programs to mutually benefit and leverage available resources to advance local spay/neuter and animal control initiatives in southeastern CT.
It didn’t stop there… reflecting on our conference experience, how friendly everyone was, and the benefits we’d already derived in just a few weeks, we decided to take our engagement a step further and apply to be members of the Fed’s Advisory Council. When we were selected for the Advisory Council, we learned Connecticut had a limited presence with the Fed and networking outside our home state and we quickly jumped in to make progress on this. Thanks to all the networking opportunities afforded to us, we’re now in regular communication with a large neighboring shelter in Massachusetts, networking not just on animal care and outreach related components but on fundraising, volunteer management, and more. And eager to bring other Connecticut organizations into the fold through exposure to the Fed, CT Humane will host the Fed’s Animal Welfare 101 workshop in January 2018.
As the animal welfare field continues to evolve, and knowing there’s ever increasingly limited resources available, it is as important to listen and learn and bring each other along. Whether it’s through a formal program, or in the informal networking opportunities that occur before, during and after the conference, participation in New England Fed builds awareness of what other organizations are up to, identifies synergies between groups and allows for growth, whether it’s bringing home a new best practice to your organization or developing a new program that capitalizes on the strengths of partners and fills a community need. That’s what makes us excited and eager to recruit our colleagues – both at CT Humane and elsewhere in CT – to attend the 2018 New England Fed Annual Conference.
The new partnerships, joint programming, referral relationships, and even just the fact that there are friendly faces (yes, many faces!) whenever we walk into an animal welfare conference, info session, or meeting make it all worth it. The 2018 Annual Conference theme, “A New Frontier: Listening, Learning, Evolving” applies to us right here at the Connecticut Humane Society, and to us as a state and a field as a whole. We invite you to join us at the New England Federation of Humane Societies 2018 Annual Conference, and we’re sharing some of our favorite networking tips so you’re prepared. See you there!
Conference Networking Tips:
- Arrive early
- Look for organizations and specific people you are interested in talking to
- Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers . . . and the speakers too!
- Be personable and approachable.
- Watch your body language (put your phone away!)
- Bring business cards
- Be interested and ask questions
- Use social media to stay connected with conference participants (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn Twitter)
- Follow up with an email thank you and/or message when networking on social media