A letter from the founder, Our Financial Future
As an important part of The Wildcat Sanctuary, I wanted you to know that you may hear some criticism of me and The Wildcat Sanctuary in the near future.
This last year has been one of the most difficult of the 15 years I’ve been running The Wildcat Sanctuary. During these years, I have acted as executive director, animal care director, keeper, construction manager, fundraiser, financial manager, and overnight caretaker of the facility. Often all at the same time. Anybody who has started a business understands the commitment and sacrifice it takes. Starting a sanctuary is no different, except there are 100+ animals whose lives depend on us.
When I started the sanctuary, for the first several years, I worked both a full-time job and also ran the sanctuary. I received no salary from the sanctuary and invested tens of thousands of dollars of my own money to build habitats and care for the animals. I also paid to build a home on property so there was always overnight coverage at the sanctuary during the build-out of the new site. This is because it was, and still is, a labor of love.
The sanctuary grew from nine cats housed on ten acres to having a population of more than 100 on a well-run facility on almost 40 acres. Because of our high standards, devotion, great volunteers and donors, we have become an industry leader. During this growth, the priority was the best possible care for the animals and free-roaming habitats. The support for our mission by all of you has been wonderful! Thank you to each and every one of you.
As we strived to be the best at animal care, our operations quickly outpaced the business infrastructure. It left us without adequate policies or dedicated staff to manage administration. We are not alone in these challenges, many in the animal rescue field have faced similar scenarios.
A year ago, complaints surfaced from some staff that I was using funds to purchase personal items. These items ranged from lip gloss, cell phone bills, to a dog run at my home that sits within the Sanctuary property. Some items may have appeared to have been personal, but were actually for business use. Others were board approved, but with inadequate documentation. And there were errors that were recently brought to my attention. Please know that I would never do anything to put the Sanctuary and our animals in harm’s way. I deeply regret any mistakes I have made, but please know they were never intentional. I, along with many of you, have dedicated myself to TWS and will continue to do so.
The media coverage and negative comments are hard to hear, but I am not concerned about myself. Instead, I remain focused on what is right for The Wildcat Sanctuary and its residents. I am willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of the sanctuary and its residents. I am committed to you, our supporters, and above all the cats that call The Wildcat Sanctuary home.
Both the board of directors and I are committed to learning from these lessons and are taking every step necessary to ensure we keep your trust. You deserve nothing less. We have already made headway in several areas to professionalize our processes:
- Engaging industry experts to provide recommendations on human resources and financial policy
- Outsourcing our accounts payable and other bookkeeping duties
- Hiring a new independent audit firm
- Added oversight of expenditures by the board
- Upgrading our overall financial policies, including petty cash
- Upgrading our overall human resources policies
- Creating an office manager position that will support financial and human resources functions
- Professionalizing our volunteer program and engaging dozens of our volunteers
The board of directors and I sincerely believe The Wildcat Sanctuary will come out a stronger organization. Each of you has stood by us and our mission and we cannot express our appreciation enough. Our donor support has been steadfast. The animals continue to depend on us all to stay focused on our mission and vision and provide them a safe home where they can be wild at heart.
If you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
With deepest gratitude,
Founder & Executive Director