Safe Humane Chicago is an alliance of non-traditional partners that recognize the connections between animal abuse and interpersonal violence and the benefits of the human-animal bond. We believe that providing the community with a variety of innovative, collaborative and hands-on programs focused on the welfare of animals will help reduce all forms of violence and create safer, more compassionate neighborhoods.
Safe Humane Chicagoâ€™s comprehensive model includes programs for children, including at-risk teenage boys; adults; law enforcement / criminal justice professionals; and abused and neglected companion animals, particularly dogs. Our focus is on four key areas that are essential to safe and humane communities: education, experience with animals, advocacy and second chances. We have built these components into each of our three flagship programs:
(1) Collaborative Justice programming has three integral pieces:
(a) "Court Case Dogs" -- abused animals associated with court cases -- are exercised, socialized and trained by volunteers and placed in good homes by partnering rescue groups. Before our program began in partnership with Chicago Animal Care &Control in January 2010, dogs associated with court cases were routinely euthanized when relinquished or after a guilty outcome in their ownersâ€™ court cases. These dogs often languished in their cages for months, even years. Now, because of the partnerships formed, volunteer commitment and funding engaged, SHC is able to help dogs who have â€œdone the time but not the crime,â€ to shorten the time of their impoundment, and to help get them into adoptive homes.
(b) Volunteer Court Advocates follow and report on court cases involving animal abuse of all kinds and advocate for the victimized animals and people. This is a program that was implemented by the original D.A.W.G. organization, and the advocates are well-known as D.A.W.G. Court Advocates. It depends on extensive partnerships with government agencies and considerable volunteer commitment.
(c) Police, prosecutors and judges are trained about enforcing animal-related laws, effective sentencing and humanely treating animals trapped in the judicial system.
(2) Lifetime Bonds programming focuses on incarcerated teens who bond with, socialize, and train shelter dogs (including our Court Case Dogs) for adoption. In turn, they develop skills needed to re-enter the community and are offered internships with Safe Humane Chicago in a safe, compassionate environment. Community members' dogs (including therapy dogs) with their handlers provide the initial training of program participants. In addition, in separate dog-training classes in disadvantaged communities, youth develop skills with their own dogs to build positive relationships with companion animals.
(3) Youth Leaders for Safe Humane Chicago is an elective offered through the Chicago Public Schools, which trains high school students to give presentations on the humane treatment of animals to elementary school children in disadvantaged communities. Topics include the importance of compassion for both animals and people, how to be safe with dogs, why dog fighting and animal abuse are wrong, and how to set good examples. Youth Leaders also participate in other community outreach.
We implement these programs by engaging community members and organizations of all types, including a Safe Humane Ambassador Dog program in which community members and their dogs work with program participants on safe and humane interaction with dogs. We participate in events in neighborhoods, schools, Chicago Park District facilities, faith-based organizations and other community venues; and we help Chicago Animal Care & Control beyond our Court Case Dog program. We also consult with interested organizations from all over the United States.
What new functionality we are looking for
As it currently stands, our website has limited functionality and a lengthy process for increasing any functionality (due to the outdated and proprietary content management system and lack of expertise on our staff). Resources are being directed to maintain a clunky, lifeless and ineffective website that could otherwise be spent growing our already successful life-saving programs.
In addition, our websiteâ€™s design is unclear and unfocused when our mission is actually quite direct and our programs strategic and focused. We fear that no potential donor or volunteer can tell from the scattered and outmoded homepage what it is that we do and how they could get involved. Itâ€™s unsophisticated and doesnâ€™t â€œfeelâ€ trustworthy or credible. We need and want a clearly focused and DYNAMIC website! Thatâ€™s who we are.
Functionality that could greatly streamline and enhance our organizationâ€™s efforts includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- An intuitive CMS (which would also allow board members and volunteers to help with maintenance)
- A dynamic homepage that has a stable and focused format/structure but allows for weekly updates and special-attention posts
- An accurate and easy navigation function
- Phone compatibility
- Cross-browser compatibility (and computer type: weâ€™ve had problems with different browsers on Macs vs. PCs)
- Capability to upload and use media (easily) in site content (images, video, PDFs, etc.)
- A database of all website users with filter and report-generating capability (compatible with Microsoft Excel)
- Multiple calendar spaces for volunteers and Court Advocates
- Flexibility for adding reporting functions and forms for volunteers
- Flexibility in adding/changing donation opportunities using (at least for now) PayPal
- Optional: an online and editable â€œstoreâ€
- Capability or flexibility to add at a later time a dynamic forum
How the new functionality will help
A new website is crucial to fulfilling our mission because our website must convey who we are and what we do. It must be inspiring, educational, informative, focused, and dynamic. It must be user-friendly for the general public (animal lovers or not), volunteers and potential volunteers, program participants (including law enforcement and criminal justice professionals as well as young people), donors, media, board members, and other organizations interested in implementing Safe Humane programming. A new website is also a key element in our strategic plan to build a robust communications program that meets the needs of donors, grantors, and the media and uses local media to keep our messages and work before the public.
In contrast, our current website is almost a disaster for conveying what we do, how we do it, how we are moving forward and why we need an even larger pool of volunteers and a broader community for spreading safe, humane messages -- it's difficult to navigate, not easy to update (based on a proprietary content management system), unfocused and not engaging â€“ and we need all of those functions working well. And to make matters worse, we currently have two websites, the primary safehumanechicago.org and another, www.dawgsite.org, where we mainly update Court Advocacy information, especially www.dawgsite.org/court_cases.txt where we maintain a record of criminal case proceedings involving animals. And we have no consistent connections between these two sites and a Yahoo group for reaching out to certain volunteers or our social media presence on FaceBook and Twitter.
The increasing expectations of consumers, donors and the media for charities to be sophisticated in the use of the internet will continue as they become accustomed to the technologies introduced by corporate America. They will expect readily available and current information on-line 24/7. They expect instant responses to their donations, just as they expect an email receipt from a transaction. Some donors will expect us to keep them informed about what weâ€™re doing but will resent excessive emails. And our volunteers need easily accessible information and places to report their many accomplishments. It almost goes without saying that technology and social media provide opportunities to market to volunteers and funders as well as to provide creative and still-unexplored avenues for getting the work of our organization done.
How our organization will use the technology
Who will use the technology
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