Lizz Whitacre, Pawlytics
You tuned into the community cats podcast ready. Let's go Welcome to the community cats podcast. I'm your host Stacey Lebron. I've been involved helping homeless cats for over twenty years with Merrimack River Feline. Rescue Society. The goal of this podcast is to expose you to amazing people who are improving the lives of cats. I hope these interviews will help you learn how you can turn in your passion for cats into action today. We're speaking with Liz Whitaker. Liz is the founder and CEO of politics and easy to use technology solution. That helps rescues manage their paperwork and gain insights from their data with the push of a button. Politics is expanding into the TR community cat's face in an effort to use technology analogy data and innovation to drive lifesaving efforts for feral cats Liz. I'd like to welcome you to the show a low. Thank you so much for having me on the show. I'm I'm really excited to be here today. So Liz for we take that deep dive into politics we all have to know. How did you get passionate for animals passionate for our cats? Tell us your story that everybody has about all their animals and maybe share with us the animals you currently have if we have time yes absolutely. It's definitely a laundry list of a current zoo that I have but to my story I have always loved animals. The funny thing is I'm actually incredibly allergic to cats and dogs and so growing up I was not allowed to have avenue for a very long time but it started when I when I could pretty much pick up a book and read and go to the library I would rent out books on dogs and cats and knowing that I had to bring them back to the library I would write my own book reports on animals and wanted to soak up as much information as about them as I could since I couldn't really be around them and I just never really lost lost that passion but I got older and so the passion turned into okay. Now everything that I'm learning whether that's in school or at internships or with other jobs that I've had eh adult in the back of my mind. It was always well. How can I take this experience? Or the skills that I'm gathering and apply it to saving more animals and so that's really how so. I arrived at creating politics and getting to work on it. Full time to this day. You're still allergic to cats. Like Cross that bridge. Do you have of any pets at home. I do. I actually have four dogs and three cats. I also have two ferrets. And some salamanders and two horses petting zoo. It was funny when I used to run the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society. Im Luckily not allergic to cats. But one of the requirements for being a board member many people jokingly said whereas that you had to be allergic to cats to be on the board of directors because there were so many people who had cat allergies oh Jeez and had overcome that obstacle to have cats in their lives you know and then they were incredibly committed and they somehow made it onto our board of directors so I think at one point our highest rate rate of allergic board members was like eighty percent of our board was technically allergic to cats so I thought that was we always. That was really funny. It just shows you know how many people are out there that would be labeled allergic rush. But anyway I segue here. So let's talk about politic. So how did you first get into the whole realm of software and then how did you get into this whole thought process around actually creating a new software package when there's so many other software packages out there to answer your first question. I mean politics is is definitely a product of this relentless effort to want to find a way to make saving animals my full time job for the rest of my life and and so politics is actually. I would say the fourth company that I have attempted in order to create a business that is really going to be helping animals in every capacity and so oh about four or five years ago I had started my own foster based rescue through that through studying the data of my region. We recognize that cats was really an area that that needed some massive assistance in terms of of life saving and so from that foster based rescue. I'd turn my attention towards innovation and to me that was trying to create a a cat cafe here in Lincoln. Nebraska and Lincoln just wasn't super ready for a cat cafe at the time and so I started to turn my attention towards technology because because I was working at an e commerce website at the time and I was also working on a custom software development shop and so through. Having those two other jobs I started to recognize. Is that while. There's so much that can be done in technology that has yet to be applied to the animal welfare space and if no one's going to recognize it yet and I will be more than happy to take the lead in that capacity and so I started to look at all the things that were being requested of the customs offer shop and also the data that I was studying to improve improve the ECOMMERCE website and thought about how we could combine that into creating fantastic an easy to use software system that could provide a lot of the same insights for animal rescues news and when I went to look at the available software at the time it appeared to me that most of it was directed towards really large humane societies or the really large large private shelters that did have technical teams and they had paid staff and they had other people to take care of the administrative work for them and being that my background. What is more in foster based rescues? I mean I remember running my own rescue. I remember being on the leadership team of a number of rescues in the Midwest and we did not have access to powerful or updated technology and so I saw a really large gap in the software space for Animal Welfare and because foster based has such a special place in my heart because I see the value. You in the work that is done in that area. I wanted to create a system that was more tailored towards the demographic of people who are running the foster based rescues so what were the key metrics metrics are. What were the obstacles that you saw when you look at these other software packages just before we hit the record? I was talking about how you know. They're still so many a small organizations out. There and Trappers Tan are trappers that really still live in the excel spreadsheet world because they just are are afraid of making that leap. You get the sense that it's just so daunting just was there a lot in the shelter. The shelter information was different than the foster care information. And maybe how do those parameters differ from one another. What are the key elements in the foster package in politics? That you have that you know. Are there it but yet the shelter packages may have had a lot of unnecessary stuff. Yeah so that's exactly right so when we went out and decided that we wanted to apply technology. He in some capacity to the foster based space. We went on interviewed a little over four hundred organizations and just asked. Why haven't you switched to a system or if you are using a system and you have already gotten yourself of paper and spreadsheets? What do you like? What do you dislike and continuously? What we're finding is that for the ones that are on spreadsheets? Eighth which was about forty percent of everyone had interviewed We discovered that they had usually already tried to switch into a database at that point in time a lot all of these organizations had been around five to ten years and are really wanting to get off the spreadsheets to create this legacy of their organization that can be passed on to the next team or next generation ration- that's going to be running that rescue on a lot of the rescues. We spoke to had no intent of winding down the organization when they were going to retire from it and so all these people are becoming Ansi NC in wanting to get their records and data and processes into a database that can be easily packaged and passed on to the next group of leaders on what we were finding thing is that when they were trying to get into existing databases that they were incredibly hard to use. It was incredibly hard to move your data into the database and then on the top of that they had to take the time to train all of their team members into using the software. And when you're talking to a demographic or generation of people that generally don't feel less competent on computers we kept hearing the phrase that well we decided not to use the databases because we all felt that we had to have a master's degree in computer science to use it and that was really disheartening. To hear when we're in danger when you know it's twenty nineteen we have access to technology like facebook and Uber and lift all these APPs that work literally at the push of a button. And there's absolutely no reason that animal rescue software cannot come to the table in that capacity as well and so from day one. We wanted to really specialize in thinking talking about who the end user was our software and that tends to be an older generation that is focused on saving cats and so we said well. Let's focus on who's going to a using the software and let's make giant buttons that are easy to use and do the heavy lifting because we didn't want to recreate a spreadsheet that was just online we want on to create something. That's going to actually streamline your workflow that's not going to give you too many data points on the screen that you're not really using and I think that we're in a day and age animal welfare where you know. We don't need every data point under the sun necessarily. We're still trying to understand if it's black dogs or brown dogs that are getting euthanized. More at the shelter alter or is it black cats or only kittens. That are getting euthanize more. And I don't think it's necessary to have data points like does this dog have loppy ears or does it have pointy ears because we're just not there yet in terms of running that detailed reports to understand where the gaps in our life saving is and so we wanted to strip down all the parts the current existing databases that were making incredibly complicated and hard to us. Because it's important to collect even a small amount of accurate data that is going to be useful useful and so we kind of went the opposite direction and stripping down as much as we could to simplify the platform so that it could be accessible to anyone and used by anyone. Whether other that's someone in there who's maybe used a computer twice or a millennial grew up using computers with the software able to calculate things like live release rate the things that we often need for grant applications. Yes exactly right. What's special about politics? We're able to run all the typical reports that you're running now based on your Outcomes and your various intake types and to understand what you're live releases and then what kind of live release that is or what types of non live outcomes you're having as well and and what types of pets those are and where they're coming from so we're able to run all of those types of powerful reports even with the slimmed-down data set because again at the end of the day we're not necessarily running reports orthon floppy eared pets versus non floppy eared pets. Because we know that we're not really at that. Point were not as a nation above that ninety percent save rate to be able to start digging into those really refined data points. Hey Everybody Stacey here with the community cats podcast and I just wanted to let everybody know that early bird. Ticketing ticketing is open for our twenty twenty online cat conference which will be on January. Twenty four th through the twenty six so we will get together on the evening of the twenty four as with Chelsea White. Who has a youtube show? That's perfectly awesome and then we will be getting together on the twenty fifth and the twenty sixth for two full days of jam packed information all about community cats and community kept programs so this is a virtual convention for anyone who liked to help community. Cats tsk please go to on line. CAT CONFERENCE DOT COM to sign up today. Also if you'd like to become an affiliate as a fundraiser for your organization the information nations right there on the website as well as sponsorship opportunities so I hope you'll check it out go to. WWW DOT online conference dot com. And we look forward to seeing you then. Hey everyone who tonight are here today to talk about Dr L. C.'s cat litter. Dr Elsie Cat Litter is known to be the best litter on the market and agrees. Many of you know that hooch was a foster cat of mine that I adopted while at the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society. We did use the touch of outdoors litter as we transition transition him from being an indoor outdoor kitty to an indoor only kitty. I'm thrilled. That hooch found his home with me but there were many times when folks would call me saying they're kitty didn't use the LITTERBOX I. It was also thrilled. That Dr Elsie cat attract litter came out as it gave me a resource to share with others that was affordable and in most cases successful in keeping this kitty in their home as a special benefit to community cats podcast listeners. Dr Elsie is offering a rebate up to twenty dollars off your first bag of any doctor elsies litter just visit Dr L. Sees Dot com forward slash community cats podcast to pitcher rebate or. Fill out the online form. Try Dr Elsie today. And you won't regret it. ooh I know that politics at this point in time is really a operational software package for foster care for animals tracking your cats and dogs that are coming in and out in in my Roldan's about the cats but I'm going to hop up on my soapbox of angst. which is I have a very a bad relationship with all the multiple software packages? That are out there that handle your fundraising right if you have a spay neuter clinic or mobile clinic neck which Iran that. He's got another software package for that. Then you have your shelter software package then. You have your volunteer software package that is popular out there too. You so do you have advice for those of us out there like how to manage this software bombardment inefficient ineffective way are are. We still sort of very primitive. It is a tough time in terms of technology in the sense that there is such an abundance of technology that it actually creates a very very overwhelming atmosphere of trying to figure out what you need what you don't need and then if you are able to identify that while our organization desperately needs needs donation management software and we need volunteer software and then we need our shelter software then on top of deciding that you even need these various outwear packages. You'RE GONNA have to go through all the different competitors within each of those spaces and try to understand which ones are going to fit into your systems and processes as well and as well as your budget and and figure out if hopefully any of them will be able to speak to each other now or eventually. It's a very daunting process. And so I think in terms of how politics politics is trying to solve that problem as we talked all these organizations that are using these very separate systems. That's where we see a lot of the human error coming into play because there's absolutely. Yeah no reason that your vet clinic. Software should not be speaking to your animal shelter. Software considering ninety percent of those data points are going to be identical. You're right we're just tracking gang basic information on the animal and as well as their medical records and so politics is trying to create what we're calling these expansion packs that you would kind of purchase as you go and as you grow and so if you're an organization that started as a foster based rescue you might just be using our regular software and then let's say one day you expand into to having a privately held shelter with facility and you open up a spay neuter clinic than you would purchase honor spay neuter software and that would expand your data set of information and features and then. Let's say you're a cat rescue. That's been doing intake an adoption. And now you want to focus in on trap. neuter return focusing on feral and community cats than you would purchase purchase in our trap. NEUTER return expansion pack. And that's the same that we're planning for volunteer and donation management when we talk to organizations that are using a multitude of software packages. We find is that often. These volunteer donation management softwares have every feature under the sun again and are not really really tailored towards animal welfare. So I think that's where politics has an opportunity to come in and say well. We might not offer every feature under the sun as a typical typical volunteer management software or as a typical donation management software. But we're able to do is specialize in the very specific needs of these animal welfare welfare organizations and so if you are looking at separate software packages I would say that you should be reaching out to the support. Teams be suffered companies and really ask them you know our other animal welfare organizations using this and how are they using it. Are they happy using it because you might have talked to one software company. That's like oh well we don't have have anybody in animal welfare. That's using this and that's probably not a software package that you're going to want to go with them if they have no experience in the area because oftentimes these animal welfare groups are having to Jerry rig these platforms to fit their needs. And so they've not ever dealt with that before you don't WanNa be the Guinea pig definitely agreed because it's a huge leap to make this change range so yeah with politics. How do you make money with politics? How do you get paid? Yeah how do I feed my zoo. Basically being that I come from the foster bass background. I have a full understanding that in animal rescue. We are never ever making money off of animals right. We're always putting in more vetting and the cost of at work than we will ever see on an adoption fee. That is true for dogs and not as specially true for cats and so we wanted to make sure that we would be very accessible to organizations of any size no matter the resources and so we charge solely based on the number of adoptions and we charge only one dollar for every successful adoption. And so if you are an organization that's may be doing. Twenty adoptions in December then on January first that we would charge you twenty dollars how this grows to fit both our needs and the organizations that are going to be using politics needs is that you can buy the most limited feature set if if that's all you need but if you are an organization that's looking to grow and expand you can still use politics because you know as we build out the expansion packs we will continue to be a good fit for all of your needs so as I use the example. The floor if you're a cat. Rescue just doing adoptions and intake right now politics is a fantastic fit for you because we're getting off off of spreadsheets and paper and we're making the information centralized and very accessible to the rest of your team and then if you decide to get into trap neuter return you don't have to go back to spreadsheets now or you don't have to go find a separate offer system it will all be in one centralized location meaning that you don't have to worry about making another leap in the future when you do grow zero to that point of your organization now is politics only based on the computer. There's no APP that goes along with it. Is that correct correct. Yep We're solely web base right now so say a foster based organization is doing adoptions at one of the pet food chains that they do adoption day events they would would bring a laptop with them to input out the necessary data do the forms and all that stuff right then and there yet they can bring any device that has wi if I were an ability to access data from their phone or tablet or desktop computer or laptop anything that has access to the Internet they will be able to use. Politics would exxon most of the market based on what I know for folks listening to my show. Many people listen to my show. It's over fifty percent still listen to it either on a laptop or desktop up computer so interesting yes for podcasting Ramat. It shows that are crowd isn't super technologically savvy from that standpoint Ryan. Don't get me wrong everybody over there you guys are all superstars. You're focused on getting the drop drop. said that he the cat kittens the cats adds to the vet and getting everybody where they need to go. And so it's really hard to make time for technology well and that brings me to a good point to and I. I'm sorry to interrupt you but I often. When I talked to these smaller organizations they always tell me A? We're not a good fit for using technology because we're so small or we're not a good fit because you know our processes aren't broken and and I just want to everyone out there that it's not about having a broken process where all here to maximize our life saving potential for the animals and so if using spreadsheets red sheets is getting you the highest return on your time so that you can go out and save more animals than by all means continue spreadsheet but if there's technology out there that can help hope you save even a little bit of time on the administrative side of work or even on the side of creating your report so that you can show your donors or your board and go out and get grant funding then you should absolutely do it. The return on your investment for making the leap and they return on your investment for having to input that data at all is going to be so much larger if you're using a technology solution versus using spreadsheets and so I really hope to get everybody out of the mindset that while we're so small that we only want to save ten cats a year her lo why not maximize your life saving potential knowing that there are so many out there that need our help. I have two questions there that just sprung when you were talking does politics work with social media and also if you have back information so you've got information from US five or ten years. Are you able to upload in any past information mation or do you have to start from scratch so we do not work with facebook or twitter or any social media yet. We do integrate with a lot of the typical frontward facing adoption websites such as pet finder and adopt a pet and rescue groups. And no you do not have to start from scratch. We definitely are able to upload previous data into the database we. Actually they have worked with a number of people we've actually gotten people off of paper into a spreadsheet that can actually be uploaded into the database. And so no you never have to worry about starting from scratch with US list. We understand the value of your previous data and so we will absolutely work with you to get that input it accurately into the system to save you time. You don't have just sit there and do it from scratch or you don't have to sit there and start with nothing because we want you to be able to start gaining insights from even your old data. I don't know if you can expand even farther are a little bit your community cat project that you have a wonder some of the components around that that you think would be important to have to leave so there's a number of pieces that we're really excited about for the trap neuter return expansion And I think at the top of what the excitement is really all about is the ability to share a lot of these resources. That trappers are dealing with right now and so we talked to so many organizations and one trappers that have their own traps they have their own education system that they're introducing more people into the TR in community cat space. They have their vet clinic appointments and they have you know their human resources sources and we talked to so many people that are like well if we could partner with so and so and Fine Maurice Resources that are just walks away from us. We have an even bigger impact. And so we thought while we're already creating a map to show where these colonies are located or where individual cats are located and we're traps are being placed. There's absolutely no reason. We cannot add ad in there the resources that each organization is inputting so whether that is a clinic that's willing to work with you know in a welfare organizations and offer low cost spay neuter her whether that is a human resource such as a caretaker or a trapper or whether those are Vet Clinic appointments that need to be shared between one another so that organization organization takes up ten slots but was only able to capture eight cats. They might WANNA share those last two slots with another close by trapper or t in our organization. Relation to make sure that we're again maximizing our return on the time that we're putting into create these appointments and the time that the vets are going to spend as well doing doing this work for us us and so we're really excited about the ability to share these resources so that as a community we can have a much bigger impact on the feral cat community I think we're also really excited. Ended about being able to run reports and tidies reports back to typical intake. Numbers that we can see in in various regions And then we're really excited to save. Leave time for the trappers that are having to you know. Pardon my French. But they're really in logistics. Hell between figuring out. WHO's laying the traps? Who's going going to check on the traps? Who is bringing him to the vet? Who's WHO's figuring out recovery? And then who's dropping them back off so we were creating processes that can help streamline a lot of the current processes excessive that are happening manually today or happening over facebook or Yahoo Groups. That's excellent. Well you'll have to keep us updated on how is developed. I'm sure that there'd be quite a few organizations out there in interested in checking out the software as it gets developed in a Beta test mode or anything like that. Yeah Liz a folks are interested stood in finding out more about politics or signing up. How would they do that? So you can visit our website at politics. P. A. W. L. Y. T. I. C. S. DOT COM COM and. You can actually sign up for a free trial from our website. We also do have a chat bubble right on the website. So if you're interested in talking to one of us right away you can just start a chat and we'll be air to answer any of your questions. If you are a cat rescue or an organization that does trap neuter return. I would absolutely love to speak to you as we build out this. Tr expansion expansion and get more feedback and advice on how we're building it because we really are passionate about making sure that we have the highest impact with our technology as possible and so the more input put the more brains. We can put together to create this. I think the more powerful piece of software will be able to create to help out the trappers out there anything else. You'd like to share with our listeners. Today I know I think we covered everything so I'm just really excited to be part of the community and really find my little space where I can help and save as many animals as possible bowl and so I just cannot thank the rescuers enough that are on. You know boots on the ground doing it. Because I remember being the one doing it I remember having to be the decision and maker for these animals lives. And it is absolutely a thankless job and so I do WANNA thank everybody that has had their hands in the community and has helped save any number of animals else. That's great and we'll also. I think that we really want to encourage folks to take a look at software options out there and I do think that it'll be a time saver. Especially where the grant. If you're going to do any grant writing you need something that's GonNa come up with reports easily and I think anyone ization that's out there should be doing grant writing being for those of you that haven't done any grant work. We do have the community. Cats grants program and you can check that out at the community cats PODCAST DOT com website. And it's a great way to you get started in the beginning process of just trying to get that first grant getting comfortable that grant process the application process the information that you might need so I highly highly recommend folks. You can certainly reach out to me if you have any questions at Stacey community has podcast dot com. Because it's really important to have have grants Sandy really he said that every group should have ten grants a year even a small organization. It's good to do easy to do. And it's healthy for the organization to do it too. So the Liz I wanna what a thank you so very much for agreeing to be a guest on my show today and I hope we'll have you on again in the future. I'm sure we will. Once the software is up for the community cats and TR. Yes absolutely thank you so much for having me. Thank you for letting me share more about politics and it was great getting a talk to you today. Thank you for listening to community cats podcasts. I really appreciate it if you would go. Titans leave a review of the show. It will help spread the word to help more community cats.