North Star Therapy Animals
In April 2008, a small group of volunteers decided they wanted to create a new organization exclusively aimed at providing therapy animal teams and services to facilities in the Twin Cities area, one that would be run solely by its members. Shortly thereafter, North Star Therapy Animals (NSTA) was formed. NSTA is a 100% volunteer organization that has grown to nearly 70 members, 90% percent of whom have one or more registered therapy animal partners. All of our members are passionate about providing therapy animal services and the benefits these services bring to individuals throughout our communities.
WHAT ARE THERAPY ANIMAL SERVICES?
Therapy animal services consist of therapeutic and other activities facilitated by a specially trained animal and their handler, that are provided to people at no cost. Dogs are the most common therapy animals, however, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, horses and birds can also be therapy animals. Whether assisting with a goal-directed therapy session, helping a child learn to read, or simply visiting residents of a senior-housing facility, animals have been shown to be instrumental in improving the physical, emotional, social, and cognitive functioning of people.
The animals of North Star Therapy Animals are specially trained and work in a variety of facilities such as hospitals, schools, libraries, nursing homes, hospice units, physical therapy centers, assisted living facilities, and more. Facilities are increasingly recognizing the benefits of therapy animal services and, thus, the demand for registered therapy animal teams is growing.
The animals of NSTA are the personal pets of their handlers. All of our teams are tested and registered through Delta Society's Pet PartnersÂ® program, which requires a re-evaluation every two years for continued registration. Delta Society is a national non-profit organization that helps people live healthier and happier lives by incorporating therapy, service, and companion animals into their lives.
What new functionality we are looking for
We'd like our website to do the following:
1. Provide our organization with a more professional, yet still friendly and approachable 'face' to new recruits, facilities, potential donors, and the general public.
2. Provide our members with a password-protected 'members-only' section for a volunteer calendar of events, document and form storage, event sign-up, reporting and tracking of volunteer hours, managing email lists, and databases for managing member information, facilities seeking therapy animal services, and a possible communications archive.
3. Provide our members and the general public a way to easily and securely pay dues and make donations online.
4. Provide our members and the general public with a list of articles, books, etc. on therapy animal services and other relevant pet-related topics.
5. Provide us with an online store for selling NSTA logo merchandise.
6. Provide us with an easy way to display and update photos.
7. Provide us with the ability to embed news articles, videos, and news feeds.
8. Provide integration with social networking.
9. Provide full access for users of mobile devices.
10. Provide easy maintenance for our member volunteers.
Our current website is very minimalistic and very utilitarian. We want it to be eye-catching and for the focus to be on the true 'stars' of our organization â€“ our therapy animals â€“ and the work they do.
How the new functionality will help
1. A more professional look to our website would more accurately convey the professionalism of our organization and provide us with added credibility. In turn, this would help us be more successful at recruiting new teams, establishing relationships and partnering with facilities, and fundraising.
2. As our membership continues to grow, organizing our efforts and streamlining our operations is becoming more critical. Many of our members are uncomfortable navigating through our current Yahoo groups for information, so a more transparent, user-friendly way of interacting with our online tools will help immensely.
3. A big part of promoting therapy animal services is being able to show people just how beneficial and rewarding therapy animal interactions are. By being able to post photos, videos, and stories on our website, we can more easily show prospective members, potential donors, facility administrators, and the like what a positive impact therapy animals have on those they visit.
4. Much of the general public is either completely unaware that NSTA exists, or is unfamiliar with what we do and why. By devising a social media strategy, and having a website that supports it, our visibility would increase dramatically, and we would be able to educate more of the public about NSTA's mission. Side benefits to the increased visibility would be attracting a larger recruiting pool and increasing fundraising opportunities.
How our organization will use the technology
Who will use the technology
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