Sunday, June 08, 2008
I am a survivor!
A lot has changed for me the past 18 months. I have gone from being the ‘take charge’ leader of The Herd to a very scared blind horse dependent on Blaise for comfort and protection. Yet an interesting thing has happened. Just when people thought that it was all over, my new life at THE FARM has begun. The actual move was so simple but the impact so great!
About two weeks ago, Sandy moved Blaise and I into the Helen Keller pasture with PONY! and Gracie. At first, I was so confused and frightened that I broke through the fence and got into the neighbor’s corn field. If I couldn’t find Blaise, I would bray and Sandy would have to come out and walk me to where Blaise was. Would I be able to adapt? The answer is yes!
I had to take some tentative first steps – I couldn’t stay where I was -- but I have learned to trust PONY! and Gracie. I expanded my horizons and have learned that the new environment is great. Sometimes when you drive by you will see me with PONY!, other times with Gracie, and at other times I am by myself or with my best friend Blaise. I go into the barn by myself and I wait for my mates to come out. The change was scary and took work, but I have made the transition. I am enjoying my journey each and every day! Look for ‘new’ me the next time you come to THE FARM.
--- Sweet Lady Grey
Like Sweet Lady Grey, Refuge Farms is in transition. Not its first and certainly not its last. The first transition was opening the barns to the public in 2001 followed by the creation of The Declaration of Purpose in August 2002. Another major transition was to a 501(c)3 charitable organization. We have come a long way in just seven years. The mission of Refuge Farms [Ezekiel 34:16] is powerful: “I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the crippled, and I will strengthen the weak…I will watch over. I will feed them in justice.” We live our mission each day through the care that we give to the horses, through how we interact with our guests, through our outreach activities, and through how we care for each other. We now must live our mission by strengthening and watching over Refuge Farms, the organization.
To accomplish this, Refuge Farms must think about what and where we want the organization to be in 2012. Does the organization remain as it is? Does the organization become smaller both in terms of the horses it cares far and the outreach it engages in? Does the organization grow in terms of the services it provides? Does Refuge Farms remain a regionally known charity or does it, like Sweet Lady Grey, expand its horizons? Part of answering these questions also involves answering questions about how Refuge Farms governs, manages, and funds itself so that it is sustainable.
To guide our discussions about these important issues, in April an Executive Committee was formed by the Executive Director. The committee members are Robin U. (Vice President of the Board of Directors), Kathy M., Craig N., Sally D. and Joy B. Each member of the committee will be assuming a ‘lead’ facilitation role for Refuge Farms. These will be finalized in June. The committee is charged with engaging in strategic planning activities to help identify our vision and the strengths that we have to achieve that vision. The committee will also provide direction for how to resolve the current ‘crisis’ management issues related to THE FARM's operations. The committee will be making recommendations for how to stabilize Refuge Farms, what transition activities need to be taken, what new revenue streams need to be developed, and how we move forward to a sustainable organization that is positioned for growth. The committee will not be working in isolation. There will be conversations at many levels throughout Refuge Farms, including the committee’s reports at each Board of Directors meeting. Your ideas, concerns, inspirations and insights about what we are becoming are welcome! Please share!
Transitions are scary – roles change, relationships change, new structures and revenue structures are needed, and commitment [work] goes up not down – at least in the short term! Transitions require taking risks, making new investments, managing what exists while changing, and, yes, even conflict. Yet, as Sweet Lady Grey learned, the rewards are tremendous! The timing is right for Refuge Farms. We have a new Board of Directors, we have added management talent to our volunteer pool, and we have ‘hit the wall’ financially. Taken together, these provide great opportunities for change! To support the change and allow time for Refuge Farms to become self-sufficient, short-term steps must be taken so the Board of Directors, the Executive Committee, and The ‘Other’ Herd can engage in repositioning Refuge Farms.
The most pressing of the ‘short-term’ actions is to generate revenue NOW that will carry us through 2008. We cannot continue to move from one money crisis to another. This takes time and energy away from developing new revenue streams, external networking for grants and corporate sponsorships, and developing services that carry our mission into the community. As we move forward, our challenge is to spread our message about the magic of Refuge Farms through educational programs, outreach, and to more effectively use technology. Through these, we must seek events and publicity that yields greater rewards both for the people we impact as well as the revenues earned. We need breathing room to allow these development activities to take place. This means we have to eliminate the day-to-day stress of paying for the basic care of the horses and of our operations.
At the present rate, it costs $180 A DAY to maintain Refuge Farms. From January 1, 2008 through May 31, 2008, there have been thirteen events and public hours. From these approximately $9,083 has been generated for general operating expenses. This covers our needs for just over 7 weeks. Volunteers engaged in yard work to earn feed which offset part of our costs for one pallet of forty bags [we go through a pallet – or 2,000 pounds - of feed every two to three weeks depending on the temperature]. We have received checks and in-kind donations that have helped to cover some our operating costs [i.e. feed, deworming medication, medical care for three horses, alfalfa cubes, salt blocks, and leather collars]. The Hay Fund Balance is $4,417. This includes $1850 through May 31 for the 2nd Annual Hay Challenge, and $430 net for the hay fund raised by Wakanda School’s Penny Wars [this will be matched by Barb G.]. The Webb Family has raised $700 for the Hay Fund by selling Home & Garden products. In addition 25% of most fund raising events goes to the Hay Fund.
All of the donations are very important to Refuge Farms and are greatly appreciated. Yet, the reality is that our revenues do not equal our costs. We ended May with a $7,512 shortfall. In addition, our basic costs are going up. SafeChoice™ feed seems to increase each time a pallet is purchased. Last year we paid $38 a round bale and this year the projection is $70 per bale for a projected total cost of $15,000 for the 2008-2009 feeding cycle. When the hay is delivered this summer, the supplier will expect payment in full – we do not pay as we drop the bales in the pastures! We need to have our revenue stay in front of our expenses not behind them. [Watch for Hay Challenge updates on the new Bulletin Board being started.]
From July 1 through the December 31, Refuge Farms needs a minimum of $33,150. There is only one major fund raising event scheduled during this period – the Open Barn. Based on last year, it is projected that the Open Barn and Auction will generate $6700. If achieved, this will leave an operating shortfall of $26,4250 – with no money in reserve for emergencies, the operational needs of Refuge Farms, the capital needs Refuge Farms, or to pay bills in early 2009. What can you do?
· First, reflect on The Three Promises we have given to Addie-Girl, Miss April, Babee-Joy, Beauty, Blaise, Cole, Gracie, Handsomer, Jeri-Ann, Josephina, Lanna, Miss Bette, PONY!, Spirit, Star, Sweet Lady Grey, Unit, and Windsor. How will you help Refuge Farms fulfill our promises to them?
· Second, think about what Refuge Farms means to you. At its best, how have you been positively affected by the mission of Refuge Farms, its activities, and your interactions with the horses and members of The ‘Other’ Herd?’
· Third, take action! Commit to giving an amount equal to a $1 a day for July through December. Share your story of Refuge Farms with your family and friends and ask them to commit to $1 a day. And send your money now.
· Fourth, share your ideas for sustaining Refuge Farms and its future outreach and growth.
We have challenges and we are learning from our successes and our failures. We have a rich and vibrant history. WE HAVE TREMENDOUS POTENTIAL! For me, this was confirmed May 30th. Twelve MBA students from the University of Wisconsin – River Falls visited THE FARM. Several work for larger corporations in the Twin Cities, two have experience with not-for-profit organizations, some work in local business, and one works with start-up companies. All have considerable management experience. With one voice, it was ‘the opportunity’ they spoke of. They looked past the unmowed grounds and listened to the message. They had read our webpage and could see it lived in the horses, the volunteers hard at working cleaning stock tanks, and listening to the stories. The magic was present! They moved beyond my expectation for their learning – they are making recommendations to help us transition to our next phase for Refuge Farms.
Please join us in our transition!
Member of The ‘Other’ Herd