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El dorado dog park. — Flickr
The idea for this project grew from thoughts I have had for a few years. I wanted to do something different, but I had no idea what. Then, while hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains on a foggy morning, I saw a dog in the middle of a stream that looked like it was about to jump off a dam, with his eyes closed, as if dreaming of water. It is a metaphor for our life, and our relationship with water, our life-sustaining elements. This dream led me to the idea of how our relationship with water influences our health and well-being. I researched the connection of human and dog health, and the impact of dog parks on human health, and found no scientific studies that showed they were better than, or worse than, the human parks, and they all had an impact on people. Many, if not most, human studies showed that walking and socializing were beneficial to mental and physical health.
I knew I wanted to make a unique community experience, a park in the middle of nowhere, with its own unique and diverse fauna and flora, that would benefit the dogs, the human health, and of course, the environment. After I researched the water resources of Southern California, I learned about the importance of springs and water flowing into the ocean, as well as the impact of water on the environment. All these concepts led me to a place in the Santa Monica Mountains. The site had amazing landscape, and a beautiful, diverse fauna and flora.
So how does this get started? How did I go from an idea to this beautiful, diverse, urban dog park in the middle of nowhere? It took a lot of planning. First, I found out how much money I had to invest, so I could get it started and sustain it. Next, I found a contractor and architect to design it, and I had to find the funding to pay for it. While I was researching potential sources of funding, I learned about local government grants, and how grants can be obtained. I also got interested in how nonprofits run and what they need in order to start and keep up with running their organization.
I found some funding sources, got a grant, worked out the details with the architect, the contractor, and the city and county, and hired two of my friends who were both into dogs and were not going to be working, to be the park’s first staff. With their assistance, I created the official dog park name. We also did a fundraiser with some friends, and raised enough money to get the park started. I hired another person to be the park’s first manager.
One of the things I learned about nonprofits is how they are not necessarily the best people to be hired by the park manager. I chose an employee who had experience with an organization that did not have any employees, and she ran the business very well. She helped me plan the park for the first year, so I knew what the park needed, and it was easier to get the park up and running when it was just me and her. The park manager is there to support me, but she is not as capable as I am. The managers after that were hired because I had a lot of experience managing nonprofit operations, and the park worked better with more planning.
As I was managing it, I realized that one of the keys to making the park work was my own involvement and responsibility. I made the majority of the decisions regarding the park, but there were still some that I did not make myself. I am not sure if everyone needs to run their own nonprofit, but it has been very helpful for me. I also am learning a lot from it, and I plan to incorporate what I have learned in my next nonprofit venture. I think that it would be wonderful to do the same thing for a second organization, but I may be a bit more hesitant.
**Lillian D.** **Toth:** It is very difficult to transition from the public to nonprofit sector. My public sector experience is great, but I am missing so much in the nonprofit sector. It is the nonprofit sector that makes me want to go back to the public sector. I really enjoy being able to plan a project and being able to do everything, as opposed to waiting for someone to tell me what to do. I am enjoying the challenges of nonprofit management, but it is much more difficult than the public sector. I would love to go back to the public sector, but I also want to continue to give back to the nonprofit sector, especially those who need it.
For my future nonprofit organization, I would like to find those organizations who are working in the field that I want to work in, whether they are for-profit or nonprofit. There are so many issues facing people and nonprofit organizations that need support. It is difficult to figure out who you can help and who needs it most. I have worked on very small projects and large projects and all kinds of projects. I have learned from all of them. For my future nonprofit organization, I would like to find those organizations who are working in the field that I want to work in, whether they are for-profit or nonprofit. There are so many issues facing people and nonprofit organizations that need support. I have worked on very small projects and large projects and all kinds of projects. I have learned from all of them. The thing I like most about nonprofit management is being able to work with people and make a difference. I would love to be involved with that in my own right.
**Cheryl W.** **Kilpatrick:** I am still struggling, trying to make sense of my own future. I am in my early 40s, married, and have no children. I want to finish my career with some kind of nonprofit experience, and do it in a way that makes me the most happy and well-compensated. I am trying to figure out the mix of personal/intellectual and financial/professional satisfaction, and the way in which I want to structure the future to get to the things I want to do. I will be happy and satisfied if I find something that has a bit of both and some kind of public accountability, but am also able to stay focused on my family. For me, it is important to have a good combination of work and personal life. If I find something like that, I will be happy.
**Lisa M.** **Harker:** This is a personal choice and I think will likely change over time. I have so many choices and it is so hard to know what's the best choice for me, and it can change. I am looking for the nonprofit I will be involved with that most closely aligns with my long-term vision and short-term goals and with whom I