“I am constantly surprised by the number of people who volunteer to help Dogs for the Deaf and the depth of their commitment,” says Vaughn Maurice, General Manager of the Oregon-based non-profit.
The fact that Dogs for the Deaf strikes a chord with compassionate people is actually not that surprising when you consider that the charity adopts unwanted dogs of all breeds and sizes from high-kill shelters, trains them to become service animals and then delivers the dogs – free of charge – to assist in the lives of people with disabilities.
But it was not always straightforward for this 35-year-old organization to get the support they need. Dogs for the Deaf runs their operation on a 63-acre facility in Central Point, Oregon (population less than 20,000), and they don’t receive a dollar of government support.
Maurice explains, “In the past, it was hard for us to get the word out about our work. Most charity organizations are based in Washington, DC, or other large metropolitan areas. However, being in rural Oregon is essential for us to have the space necessary for our training program and to be able to run at a cost that allows us to spend the funds we raise very efficiently.”
Now, by harnessing social media and Skype, the rural non-profit is able to connect with donors around the world. They have been able to expand their work into nearly all fifty states, Puerto Rico and Canada.
While social media has been a good way for Dogs for the Deaf to network new donors, Skype has allowed them to build and maintain relationships with donors and volunteers in a way that was once impossible due to their far-flung location.
And Maurice has come up with some Skype-specific fundraisers too. For example, everyone who donated at least $35.35 to Dogs for the Deaf through the end of September was eligible to win a 10-minute Skype call with theater, TV, film actress Kristin Chenoweth.
“I love being part of Dogs for the Deaf,” Emmy and Tony Award winner Chenoweth says. “I also love that I get the chance to help them promote their important work.”
When Maurice had the idea of the Skype fundraiser, Chenoweth jumped at the chance. She says, “For me, doing a fundraiser event over Skype is an easy way to really interact with fans and those who support Dogs for the Deaf. And because it’s a video call, it’s also a safe way for me to meet with new people.”
Maurice says, “We are really excited that Kristin is doing the Skype fundraiser and we’re already planning to do more fundraisers like this with other celebrities. But it also shows how technology is helping to decentralize non-profits and allow Dogs for the Deaf to flourish in the location that is ideal for our own specific mission. Can you imagine training dogs in DC?”