Cynthia Kopec speaking at #sawacon

21st Century Animal Welfare: Using Technology to Save Lives

In her session, “21st Century Animal Welfare: Using Technology to Save Lives,” Cynthia Kopec, V.P. Marketing & Communications from the San Francisco SPCA, shared a detailed look into her organization’s technology transformation.

“Good data leads to good programs.”

Kopec listed the three goals of animal welfare technology:

  • Save money
  • Save time
  • Save lives

She talked about the pain points many feel in industry, including:

  • Multiple databases
  • Staff knowledge level
  • Poor data quality
  • Mobile
  • Legacy systems
  • Cloud vs. on site
  • Security and access issues
  • Lack of functionality
  • Cost
  • Resources

To illustrate the San Francisco SPCA’s database transformation, Kopec started with a slide of technology set up from a few years back. The slide showed 8+ different apps the organization used to manage online fundraising, donors, program management, veterinary care, volunteer management, payment processing and more. The problem was, she pointed out, they were using too many apps, and few of them were “talking” to each other.

Kopec then jumped to a “future” slide and shared the dream of where the San Francisco SPCA is heading: a robust, central Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system (in their case, Salesforce) along with a few other specialty products; however, arrows connected everything.

Kopec said they started the overhaul four years ago. It took over two years to research, plan, budget, get board approval and begin implementing their vision.

Now, four years into the process, she proudly shared six outcomes the organization has achieved:

  • Preventing surrenders with a cloud-based customer service approach to track calls, open cases, manage and improve scripts
  • Tracking community cats with a map-based system to watch cats and colonies throughout the city
  • Tracking volunteer visits and building a clear picture of supporters with a journal-style, easy-to-use database
  • Electronic kennel cards that pull all pet data directly into a central database that populates a customer-facing website
  • Program management through a custom database that allows staff to do their jobs rather than focus on administrative tasks

Tips and Notes of Caution

  • Make sure you have buy-in from the board and the executive team
  • Start small
  • Hire the right consultant
  • Be very careful what you do with volunteers- while wonderful, their time and skills can be limited

“One of the things that’s most frustrating in animal welfare is how fragmented we are and how we are all spending so much energy solving the same problems.”

Kopec ended the session by offering her organization’s custom technology to others in the industry.

Speaker: Cynthia Kopec, V.P. Marketing & Communications, San Francisco SPCA
Ms. Kopec has spent over 25 years wrangling technology to make life better; she specializes in financial leadership, and was named the Financial Women’s Association of San Francisco’s Distinguished Woman of the Year in 2006. For the past three years, she has been working on a implementation at the San Francisco SPCA. You can read more about Ms. Kopec here.


This article was written live during the 2015 Annual Society of Animal Welfare Administrators Conference. This post reflects our bloggers’ understanding of the session and the materials shared by presenters.


The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement is a community of professionals committed to excellence in the management and operation of animal welfare and control organizations.

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