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Interim Executive Team Transforms Struggling Charity

2 August 2011


TORONTO - Faced with a need to completely re-build its reputation, membership and donor base, with a demoralized staff and no leadership, the Toronto Humane Society (THS) turned to a team of interim executives experienced in implementing organizational change.

Interim executives are extremely popular in Europe and quickly gaining ground in Canada. Many businesses bring in experienced interim executives when faced with a situation requiring an immediate and drastic corporate turn-around, but charities have not been as quick to turn to this leadership model.

The THS was required to close its doors for a period of one year following the raid by the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) and the charges of animal cruelty made against some of the former leadership. When it re-opened in June 2010, THS needed to re-build from the ground up - not only its staff and daily operations, but also its reputation and credibility with the former members, donors and the public.

Looking for a seasoned executive experienced in change management, THS turned to the interim executive search practise at Odgers Berndtson and recruited an executive skilled in corporate turn-around as their interim CEO. A business leader, with no prior experience in managing an animal welfare organization, Christopher Barry exemplifies the most sought-after qualities of interim executives: an ability to apply years of related experience quickly and effectively to realize short-term gains and position the organization for long term success.

Barry began his six month interim assignment by examining every aspect of the $10 million dollar a year charity and the myriad of business processes involved in running the 25,000 square foot facility. He brought in a team of other experienced interim executives to take the lead in critical functional areas such as communications, fundraising and human resources. In Barry's words, this team re-aligned every aspect of the organization, achieved significant short-terms results and is now in the process of helping to recruit and train the team that will lead THS into the future.

"My mandate was to stop the loss of reputation, membership and morale that was the result of the negativity surrounding the previous administration," said Barry. "I was there to fix things in the short run in a way that set the organization up to face the future."

According to Barry, all change is ultimately accomplished through people. "You can change the way in which work is done - the processes and work flow. You can change the tools people use - the infrastructure and physical plant. But people change is at the core," said Barry.

Barry and his change team of interim executives have changed the tools and the processes and are helping THS staff and the shelter's key stakeholders accept and embrace change at all levels of the organization. The results? The "new" THS has received the support of its membership, staff morale is on the rise and the shelter's reputation and credibility are gaining ground with its partners and with the public.