ACES workshop

by gm99 • Posted in: Awareness/ PR

I’m north of  San Diego, in beautiful Rancho Santa Fe, and have just finished the 3-day ACES workshop at the Helen Woodward Animal Center.

I had the pleasure of hearing their president, Mike Arms, speak at the Best Friends No More Homeless Pets Conference in October and was blown away.  He informed us that he holds a free workshop at the center a few times every year.  His big focus is on marketing and he had so many fabulous ideas; since I’m APA!’s Marketing Coordinator, I knew I had to go and learn more.  APA! is volunteer run and we pay for these workshops out of our own pockets, so I came alone to scope it out and bring the materials back to Austin.

We had a big group – there were 35 people in the workshop with me and they come from all over the world.  This time, we had many people from Mexico, people from Puerto Rico, and a woman who works with a group in Greece.  Some were from big organizations and others are just thinking about starting an organization.

One thing Mike repeated many times was how the pets don’t need our hearts (they already have them, of course) – they need our minds.  Conditions in this world for homeless pets are pretty bad and the animals need us to step up and become leaders to affect change.  It’s important to run our animal centers as businesses (the business of saving lives), which is what this workshop teaches (click here for full agenda).

To raise funds to save more homeless pets, they have some pretty amazing programs in place.  They have a dog boarding/grooming facility that brings them $500,000 a year.  They have an education center with a very popular day camp that brings in $400,000 a year.  And they have a vet clinic that brings in $450,000 a year.


I love how they have so creatively found ways to raise more money to save more pets.  And I really love how they want to share everything with other groups and offer these free workshops to teach us.

They were an open book.  Any figure we wanted to know was given to us, although it was probably already included in the mammoth-sized binders they gave us.  We could ask them anything and they were happy to share it.  Anything that would normally be very bad manners to ask about was encouraged (like, How much did you make on this program last year? What kind of salary to do you pay for this position?).

I learned a LOT.  In some areas, like their educational programs, it opened up really exciting ideas I had never even thought of.  In other sessions, I picked up a ton of great ideas and little details that can make what we’re trying to do at APA! so much better.

Mike told us at the end of the workshop today that it’s not actually free.  There are 2 stipulations.  First, we must use what we’ve learned to help animals and second, we need to let him know what we think of his staff.  I will send him an email later, but for now, I’ll let you all know that they are incredibly talented and I can understand why his center is so successful.

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