By Stacy Mozisek, DVM
Small business can have a huge impact on communities!
When I joined Austin-founded Firehouse Animal Health Centers in 2013, the company was already one year into making a difference for local pets. Word of mouth had spread about Dr. John Faught and Dr. Jed Rogers who were bringing the highest quality of care to the pets of Central Texas while also offering their people top notch client service.
From day one, Dr Faught also treated shelter pets for free, helping them be well enough for adoption.
Although the company’s giving structure was already in place when I accepted my role as Medical Director of the Westlake location, I felt empowered to add my touch to the program. Over the last seven years, my team and I have helped expand and improve Firehouse’s philanthropy while also coaching the four newer Firehouse locations on our process.
I am genuinely proud of Firehouse’s philanthropy, which my team and I think about 365 days a year. I am eager to share our learnings with Impact Austin.
Think big, start small
The kernel of the idea was that no service was too big when it came to shelter animals.
Drs. Faught and Rogers never put limits on the kinds of free healthcare we would offer to nonprofit partners. From wellness check-ups and vaccines, to dental care and surgery, the sky is the limit for pets seeking their forever home.
This gives me and my team the latitude to make our hospital’s giving back program our own. Ownership of the project brings me significant pride!
I enjoy seeking input from my team of veterinarians, veterinary technicians and managers about organizations, schools, and community events they’d like to support.
Each time a new hospital opens, we partner with new nonprofits. We now have locations in Westlake, Kyle, Dripping Springs, Round Rock and Leander and support 12 Austin shelters. By the end of 2020, we’ll have donated almost $1M in free medical care to pets seeking their forever families.
It’s amazing to see how much Firehouse has expanded its philanthropy over eight years in business. Starting small and growing organically made it manageable and I highly recommend that practice if you’re just implementing a program into your business.
A team building tool
Volunteering together is a wonderful team building tool.
Supporting one another within the hospital walls to help a pet in need helps us feel like a team with a larger purpose!
At the same time, leaving the building to volunteer in the community helps gel our group. Spending time together to host an “ask the vet” booth, enjoying a fun run, or being a judge at the annual Buda Lions Club Wiener Dog Races helps us return to Firehouse more excited to work together. I’ve observed new connections and a more bonded group on many Monday mornings after a shared weekend afternoon.
In non-COVID times, the Firehouse team was out and about meeting the people and pets of Austin about 32 weekends a year! We look forward to these experiences again soon.
Whether inside or out in the community, it’s clear that volunteering bonds us in ways that working together cannot.
A recruitment tool
Philanthropy can and should be a recruitment tool since young people entering the workforce desire an employer whose mission and actions support a cause they believe in.
We never set out to attract Millennials or Gen Zs when we created Firehouse’s philanthropy program in 2012. However, we knew giving back to our local communities was the right thing to do and these generations' values are aligning with our values.
We also didn’t set out to impress clients, but it’s been nice to hear that clients notice our nonprofit work. We’ve attracted people eager to support companies whose values they align with.
Giving all year long
Finally, I love that Firehouse has built its philanthropy program so that we give back to shelters and community partners all year long.
For us, volunteering isn’t relegated to the holiday season, since pets need free medical care all year long, and civic events occur January-December.
For me, helping people and pets who cannot afford care is everything.
Giving back all year long brings me intense happiness each day. I also feel pride at the end of each year when I acknowledge that we’ve helped hundreds of pets be healthy enough for adoption.
Four Tips To Setting Up Your Company’s Giving Program:
Pick one specific cause to focus donations and time commitments. Firehouse works with Austin-based pet shelters.
Your cause should align with your company mission. Firehouse’s mission is to provide comprehensive care, unparalleled service, and a collaborative experience to the people and pets of Central Texas. It made sense to extend this to shelter pets.
Start small. We began with the manageable amount of three nonprofits: Austin Pets Alive!, Austin Animal Center and the Austin Humane Society. We added Emancipet a few years later. We now support 12 shelters! As we gained confidence in our process, we also added community events including school science fairs, July 4th parades, and large civic gatherings like PRIDE.
Be flexible. It’s ok to support causes in areas other than your focus every once in a while! As they say, “variety spice of life!”
This post was sponsored by Stacy Mozisek, Medical Director at Firehouse Westlake.
For more information about Firehouse Animal Health Centers, please visit firehouse.vet.