Mission Drift

By Andrea Rundell, YWCA of the University of Illinois

kittens_puppiesRosalie tried to concentrate on the proposal before her, but the blank signature line kept tugging at her eyes.  There it sat. Pristine. Begging for an inky flourish to make the contract—and the new program, the new money—come to life. 

“How are the cats? The shelter has been a model pilot. Highly replicable!” Across the desk, the enthusiastic Foundation officer, Jack, was beaming.

The board had been a little uneasy about the new direction when the Foundation first approached them. The meeting had been a messy one until Roger bellowed, “We’re a shelter, dammit! Of course we do it!” Motion: Roger. Second: Sally. Ayes: 8. Nays: 0. Abstained: 0. Not present: 6.

“They’re great! 240 spay/neuters this year, we exceeded our goal by 20%, so proud of our staff, building community partnerships, we’ll be able to really expand next year…” Rosalie realized she was babbling the report she had just submitted and cut herself off.

Jack nodded. “Exactly! Our investors are truly impressed with how you’ve taken the bull by the horns. Looks good in the old annual report, too, eh?” He flashed a conspiratorial grin, and Rosalie felt guilty relief wash over her. Being in the black at the end of the year had looked very good, for once.

“Partners like you are not easy to come by, Rose. We see so many people with ideas, but they no business sense. Big hearts, bless them! But working with amateurs is like herding cats; they don’t understand the bottom line. You, on the other hand, you know how to make the analytics pop. When the rubber meets the road at COB, we need better than just BAU. I don’t have to tell you this, you understand.” Jack nodded with satisfaction.

She nodded back, desperately hoping the buzz-mishmash would make sense soon. “So, you’re um, moving away from cats? This proposal…I didn’t realize dogs were,” her panicked brain groped, “… in your wheelhouse?”

“Dogs have social currency, Rose. I’ll tell you, confidentially, we’ve been in negotiations with…a player. She’s putting up the money for this,” he tapped the contract, “and I can’t say who, but she’s a hometown girl who made it big and now she wants to give back.” 

Rosalie was racking her brains. Maybe that teen wonder from the suburbs…? Serious media exposure…

Jack was still in his own money-scented world. “And an animal lover—oh my! You probably saw her at Fashion Week, with her designer Teacup Pom-Tzu?”

Rosalie ventured a smile in return. Was Fashion Week that benefit the All-American Dog Lovers did?

“But shush! If you did recognize her, you didn’t hear it from me, right?” Jack gave another conspiratorial wink.

Rosalie put on her best donor-confidentiality face. “Of course not. I’d never–”

“Never a doubt, my dear! We are—oh so gently—nudging her towards a—shall we say—a sustained commitment. A hometown girl needs a hometown charity to promote, don’t you think?”

That sounded good. But, “She’s set on…?” Rosalie ventured.

“Dogs, yes. But you showed that you can adapt with the cats, right? We can hardly let such low-hanging fruit go to waste, so we turn to Rose.” Jack leaned forward. “Who else can we trust with this?”

Rosalie nodded. The administrative percentage was generous and would cover a lot of personnel costs—you didn’t get an offer like this every day.

Rosalie signed the contract with the inky flourish she’d envisioned. After all, she thought as she hurried back to the office, once they’d made that initial decision to expand the shelter to cats, it hadn’t been hard. They’d rearranged living quarters and made room for them on the first floor. Adding dogs couldn’t be that different. Maybe they could turn the second floor bedrooms over to the dogs? Like Roger said, they were a shelter, dammit! The homeless people could probably be moved to the basement.


I work for the YWCA of the University of Illinois. We are astonishgly awesome because (1) we have this killer mission of “eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.” It’s like a superhero oath and we get to kick any butts we want. (2) All two of us full-time staff people are less than 9 months in our positions, so we get to decide just HOW we are going to kick butt to take down racism, sexism and all associated injustices. Maybe with capes. Definitely with balls. An awesome mission and an open field? It doesn’t get much better than that!