Since our founding in 1989, Canine Partners for Life (CPL) has professionally trained, provided, and supported service and companion dogs for individuals with physical, developmental, and cognitive disabilities. Our small but highly-skilled and dedicated staff, along with a large and enthusiastic community of volunteers, has earned us recognition as a leader in the service dog industry.
Of particular note is our trainers’ thoughtful approach to matching the “right” dog to the “right” recipient. The team’s bond is firmly established during CPL’s rigorous Team Training program, where dogs and recipients work together to ensure a strong and healthy partnership. The CPL trainers’ comprehensive follow-up support system then ensures the continued success of each team.
CPL’s program is recognized as meeting (and oftentimes, exceeding) the highest standards in the service-dog industry. This acknowledgement includes compliments of the highest order from the principal accrediting organization in the field, Assistance Dogs International, as well as an “exceptional” rating from Charity Navigator, indicating both the efficiency of CPL’s day-to-day operations and its ability to sustain its mission over time.
CPL’s Board of Directors, staff, and volunteers have identified several key strategic initiatives to explore and/or implement within the next five years in the following areas:
- Programming: Ensure consistency between the community and the prison puppy raising programs; investigate the possibility of expanding the population of recipients that we serve
- Facilities: Implement substantial improvements to our physical facilities
- Finance and development: Provide a more robust and secure financial base for our operations
- Marketing and public relations: Formulate a comprehensive marketing plan to expand public knowledge about the service dog industry
- Board development and governance: Expand the size and skill set of the Board of Directors
What are our strategic initiatives?
We have conducted a year of self-assessment to determine our strengths and opportunities for improvement. Recognizing the constraints imposed by financial realities, we have sought to identify the most important and achievable strategic initiatives on which we must concentrate our efforts in the coming years, which are as follows:
Two goals: To streamline our community and puppy-raising programs and to identify new recipient populations to serve.
We will make improvements in the monitoring and supervision of our prison and community puppy-raising programs. In addition, we need to provide a more thorough integration of both programs. At present, they run independently in both management and operation, with the end result that trainers are seeing inconsistent levels of skills in the dogs entering their second year of formal training.
Second, we will identify new populations and environments in which our service and companion dogs might provide benefit. We see particular opportunities in an expanded use of companion dogs among autistic children. All of our decisions about expanding the range of populations will be conditional upon our ability to guarantee the continuing high quality of our operations.
We are looking to build a new training facility and complete a significant expansion of the existing office space.
CPL’s campus, including its administrative offices, kennel, and training facility, is located on a 45-acre site in a beautiful rural setting in southeastern Chester County, Pennsylvania. The property is relatively level, with single-story dwellings, facilitating ease of access for people using wheelchairs. The kennel facility, built on the site in 2000, is spacious and attractive, and was constructed in a way that maximizes the organization’s ability to maintain the good health of its animals.
By contrast, the inadequacy of our existing training facility constitutes a major impediment to progress: the building lacks running water, and its heating and cooling systems are inadequate. Virtually all of those most closely associated with CPL’s operations have identified the construction of a new training facility as the organization’s most important strategic priority.
CPL’s office building, a small converted farmhouse, serves many needs and is rapidly outgrowing its usefulness. The reception waiting room, where applicants or potential donors view the introductory CPL video, is also the location for the copying machine and office supply closet, and is connected to the kitchen (where staff members gather for lunch). At any given time, volunteers might be working at the kitchen table on large mailings, potential applicants might be waiting to meet with the trainers, visitors may be trying to watch the video, and staff members might be heating lunch in the microwave—all in the same general area. Additional office space would enhance our ability to ensure greater privacy for applicant interviews, provide conference space for meetings, and allow additional room for scooters and wheel chairs.
Finance and development
We will ensure a more robust and secure financial base for our operations.
CPL has been consistently successful in raising 100% of its annual operating budget, currently at $1.7 million, through a combination of annual giving, special events, and foundation grants. Moreover, the organization has operated in a financially prudent and sustainable manner, regularly meeting its budget targets on both the revenue and expense side of the ledger.
To strengthen CPL’s position, it must develop a comprehensive and well-integrated development strategy for its fund raising program. In particular, CPL needs to develop a formalized planned giving and endowment program. To do justice to each program, staffing needs must be evaluated closely.
Marketing and Public Relations
We will develop a comprehensive marketing and public relations plan to increase the public’s awareness of our purpose and service.
For an organization of its size, CPL has generated positive media coverage in newspapers, magazines, and on television. Much of this coverage has been local, but CPL has also been covered in major media outlets: the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, People magazine, and Fox News. CPL has also achieved widespread recognition as a quality organization within the field of assistance dogs and has received high marks in the evaluations of those foundations and charities that have donated monies to its operations. CPL has regularly been designated a Four-Star Charity, the highest rating, by Charity Navigator. Finally, CPL’s very active program of special events has earned the organization enthusiastic support within the immediate geographic area in which CPL carries out its operations.
Nonetheless, it is an important part of CPL’s mission to expand public knowledge about the service dog industry in general, as well as the services that CPL can provide. The plan should focus on the strategic use of various media and technology in it marketing materials.
Board Development and Governance
We will increase the number and the competencies of people serving on the Board and secure a leadership succession plan.
The number of individuals serving on CPL’s Board of Directors may be insufficient given the future tasks confronting the organization. Perhaps more important than numbers, the organization needs to recruit individuals with key competencies—e.g., development, public relations, and marketing—to the Board.
Mobilization of a committed, talented, and task-oriented Board in the execution of key aspects of this Strategic Plan is essential to the success of the plan. Toward that end, members of the CPL staff and Board will work together on the following goals:
- Build an expanded Board of Directors, with special attention to adding members with key competencies that are presently not adequately represented on the Board. Develop a committee structure within the board in which all Board members are able to contribute to the well-being of the organization in accordance with their particular talents and expertise.
- Develop within the Board a stronger collective sense of responsibility for fund raising.
- Create a comprehensive orientation program aimed at educating new board members about the operations of CPL as well as their responsibilities as board members.
- Develop a recruitment and succession plan which enables the Board to revitalize itself continually.
- Develop a succession plan for the Executive Director