The Value of Professional Development

By: Amy Duskiewicz, Board Member

As a manager, I’ve often heard that our people are our best assets. And, it’s true. Think of an organization, a period of time, when goals were being checked off, communication flowed easily, everything worked like a well-oiled machine. Now, think of a time riddled with barriers, stress and frustration. What was the difference? Likely, it has something to do with the individuals on your team.

Although many of us realize the importance of investing in our staff, seeking out continuing education opportunities often becomes a low priority when faced with the day-to-day demands of sheltering. However, in a field with high turnover rates and a need for highly-skilled staff, it is vital that we prioritize sending staff to training and professional development opportunities. In fact, research indicates that by offering professional development, employee engagement increases by 15% and retention rates increase by 34%.1

Fortunately, regardless of your resources, there are a variety of options available to those seeking learning opportunities. Following is a list of a few of the many resources available to animal welfare professionals in the Northeast:

New England Federation of Humane Societies: Hosts an annual 3-day conference in the Spring with a variety of engaging topics available to all levels of experience. During the Fall and Winter, shorter 1-day workshops are offered through the Animal Welfare 101 series. Follow NEFHS on Facebook to learn about upcoming trainings and other opportunities in the region. P.S. scholarships for the conference are available!

Massachusetts Animal Coalition: Hosts a “Whole Cat Workshop” and “Whole Dog Workshop” separately each year focused on relevant topics to the region. If you’re close enough for a day trip, it is worth checking these workshops out, even if you aren’t in Massachusetts. Follow MAC on Facebook as well for additional resources and information on local trainings.

Maine Federation of Humane Societies: Offers quarterly meetings open to all; trainings and workshops on topics such as grant writing, disaster planning, and managing community cats; and a statewide network dedicated to promoting and advancing the humane care of all animals throughout Maine. Check out their website:, and be sure to follow them on Facebook for updates on upcoming trainings and field related information.

ASPCAPro: Although not local, this is an easy to access resource with free webinars, handouts and learning tools. If you haven’t already signed up for their regular newsletters and updates about upcoming webinars, do it now! Many of these tools are great for helping new staff and volunteers get up-to-speed on some of the fundamentals of working in the animal welfare field!

Maddie’s Fund: They do more than just grants! Visit their website: and explore the ‘Learn’ section. You’ll find free webinars, apprenticeship opportunities and more! There are even RACE. credits available for your shelter veterinarian and “Flash Classes” available for your foster caregivers.

HSUS: Animal Sheltering: If you haven’t discovered go visit it now. There are a slew of resources here for everyone, regardless of experience level. In addition to articles on trending topics, there are webinars available on nearly every issue related to the animal welfare field: volunteers, customer care, community cats and more.

IAABC: Although not shelter specific, the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) is the resource for you if you’re looking for behavior continuing education. Visit to learn about upcoming trainings in your area, details on the IAABC conference, or register for one of their many classes or mentorships. Fees do apply, and members receive discounted rates.

Although not a comprehensive of all the offerings available in our area, hopefully this list will help inspire a few of us to start searching for more opportunities and invest in our team members. According to Kaplan Financial Education, providing professional development offers the following benefits to an organization: Increase retention, build confidence and credibility, makes succession planning easier, re-energizes your staff, and improves efficiency.2 Who couldn’t use a little more of all of this in our organization?

Know of other resources that we can share? Let us know! Contact us at


1 Mazenko, Elizabeth. Professional Development & Your Bottom Line: 9 Stats that Prove Its Value (January 10, 2018) Retrieved from:

2 Kaplan Financial Education. 5 Benefits of Professional Development (July 31, 2017) Retrieved from:

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