Cathie Anderson

Cathie Anderson: Placer SPCA chief takes page from for-profit companies to get animals into good homes

The evolution of the Placer SPCA and its chief executive, Leilani Fratis, reflects thechanges that have occurred at nonprofits over the last two decades.

When Fratis took the reins of the Roseville animal welfare organization in 2002, she told her board: “It doesn’t matter if it’s a kitten or a cat or a dog or a puppy, we should charge the same fee for each and every one of them because they all have equal value.”

Since then, Fratis has observed consumer behavior and reviewed scientific research from the Koret Shelter Medicine Program at the University of California, Davis. While she has the same desire to find every animal a good home, Fratis now recognizes that consumers will pay a premium for certain animals. That premium buys time to find homes for the difficult-to-place pets.

“We now have pets that could be free to a great home if we find the right home,” Fratis said, “and we have a puppy up front right now that we know is highly adoptable. It’s $250.”

Fratis found the UC Davis suggestions uncomfortable at first, but the results showed that they gave all animals greater hope: “We’ve learned from them that the quickest way to adopt animals in our current situation in our community is to have no more than 23 adult cats and 44 kittens on our adoption floor at any one time. When we have that number, ... we will adopt out those animals more quickly than if we had more inventory or stock on the floor.”

Nonprofits everywhere are adopting the strategies and language of business as they strive to sustain and grow their operations amid economic uncertainty. The Placer SPCA’s budget has grown to $2.3 million, compared with roughly $600,000 when Fratis took over. The organization has opened a thrift store and added new locations, all of which bring in new revenue. It recently acquired 2.2 acres of land where it will build a new shelter. A legion of volunteers put in 96,696 hours of work last year, up 42 percent from 2008. Charity Navigator has given the nonprofit its highest rating, four stars, for eight years in a row. Only 1 percent of all nonprofits in the Navigator database receive this rating.

These achievements got the attention of the Roseville Chamber of Commerce, which recently named Fratis its Business Person of the Year.