On the Shoulders of Giants

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Volunteers for Wildlife Inc.
City & State:
New York
Organization's Mission Statement

To promote public awareness of wildlife needs and preservation of Long Island's natural habitat through wildlife rehabilitation, education programs, community outreach, and wildlife advisory services."

Submission Information

Impact Essay

Volunteers for Wildlife is a non-profit, volunteer organization, founded in 1982 and dedicated to preserving wildlife and natural habitat on Long Island. For 27 years it has followed the vision of our founder with an unwavering focus on its mission.

In Chartres cathedral a stained glass window with the image of a dwarf sitting on the shoulders of a giant captures the idea expressed by 12th century cleric Bernard of Chartres.

"We are like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, so that we can see more clearly and at a greater distance, not by virtue of any sharpness of sight on our part, but because we are raised up by their giant stature".

This is a story of two such giants: The first, Sallie Rupert, an idealistic giant who shared with us her vision of nature.

For Sallie, it all started with a little book, "The Restless Robin" by Marjorie Flack. This book was the spark that ignited her interest in wildlife. She went on to become a co-founder of Volunteers for Wildlife and over the next 20 years, as Executive Director, Sallie recruited and trained a cadre of animal care volunteers and cooperating veterinarians to implement the mission through three specific activities:

· Rehabilitation Hospital – treatment for injured, sick or displaced birds, mammals and reptiles in a facility licensed by both State and Federal agencies.

· Education – wildlife programs and events for schools and community groups giving an opportunity to meet real live specimens of local wildlife. The animals used are permanent residents at our facility. For various reasons, such as loss of an eye or a wing, they cannot be released.

· Wildlife Advisory Telephone (WAT) – a community hotline for wildlife emergencies.
Volunteers for Wildlife established the first comprehensive Wildlife Advisory Telephone network in the East. The network has proven to be a successful method for helping the public deal with wildlife problems, and has been used as a model for similar groups around the country.

As a state and federally licensed facility, detailed records of every animal treated in the wildlife hospital must be reported to state and federal agencies annually. The not-for-profit status brings its own record keeping requirements. For years, all of those records were typed and hand written and the focus of attention, on the idealistic vision, was being challenged by more pragmatic business demands.

With donated equipment the transition from paper records to a digital system started. After several years, although some gains had been made, overall progress was slow. We needed a different vision, one that could control our administrative chores and set us free to follow the "Restless Robin".

Enter the second giant, Microsoft, a digital technology giant willing to offer us shoulder from which we could view a pragmatic solution to our data management problems.

Through TechSoup we obtained licenses for Windows XP operating system on 5 computers and set up a wireless network. Later we upgraded our business software to Microsoft Office Professional 2007 using it as follows.

Microsoft Access was used to create five databases:

1. Rehabilitation database : Prior to this database all hospital records were handwritten or typed on State forms. US Fish and Wildlife and NY State DEC require extensive annual reports.


· Annual production of hospital reports followed by copying and mailing 150 to 200 pages is reduced from an 80 hour effort to 8 hours with the data transmitted electronically

· The state of wildlife and its habitat is a leading indicator of human quality of life. Rehabilitation records from the past ten years give an opportunity to examine wildlife patient trends from an historical perspective. Analysis is a work in progress.

2. Education database : tracks all bookings for Education Programs and Events.
When a program is booked an invoice is created, educational docents are assigned and the resident animals to be used are noted.


· 3 yr growth - number of programs 25%/yr, income 20%/yr.

· Frequency of use is tracked for each animal to guard against over exposure

· Flags overdue payments for programs

3. Membership : The first database we developed. A workhorse for our business operations containing records of all member types, it includes payment and donation history, consolidates many stand alone mailing lists.


· Consolidates data from many sources avoiding duplicates and conflicts in prior lists.

· Tracks individual member preferences for e-newsletter, no solicitation, etc.

· Bulk mailing, reduced preparation time by 48hrs for each of mailing, 8 times per year.

· Simplifies tracking annual dues collection. Dues payments up 6% over 3 years

4. Volunteer Hours database : is used to enter volunteer hours worked, all other information is obtained via a link to "Membership" table.


· Simplicity of the form saves 2 hours weekly entering hours worked by volunteers.

· Ability to edit records linked to "Membership" saves additional time.

· Reports summarizing volunteer activity for any period, support grant applications, etc.

5. WAT database : a log of calls to our Wildlife Advisory Telephone. Links provide lookup lists of rehabilitators, rescue transport volunteers and supporting veterinarians.


· All messages responded to on same day. In past could be several days.

· Replaces paper lists and speeds lookups

Microsoft Publisher is used to create:

1 Newsletter : produced in full color and e-mailed, or mailed if necessary, to members, schools and libraries. It is uploaded to the website, available to the public.

2 Web Pages :

· Fact Sheets

· Help Topics – Birds, Mammals, Reptiles


· Gives the community instant answers to wildlife questions

· Improves WAT level of service by reducing the number of WAT line messages

2 Brochures :

· Education Programs – increased variety

· Spring Fundraising Appeal - donations up 28% over 3 years

· Walk for Wildlife Event – participants up 67%, donations up 200% over 3 years


· Designing in house saves time and costs and improves service

Microsoft Excel is used for bookkeeping spreadsheets and gift shop inventory. Reports are exported from the accounting program to Excel for formatting and printing. Because Excel is a standard, data can be downloaded from websites, online banking, etc.

Microsoft Power Point is used, in training volunteers, for presentations and slideshows to community groups and in to supplement education programs.

Miscrosoft Word is used for all correspondence and manuals.

Thanks to TechSoup and Microsoft, we are now better able to maintain our mission focus.

Submission Category
Optimize Mission Delivery