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How an entrepreneurial mindset shifted the York County SPCA’s narrative 

How an entrepreneurial mindset shifted the York County SPCA’s narrative 

  • Steven Martinez, Executive Director of the York County SPCA, led a team of dedicated leaders who increased the organization’s animal save rate from 53% to an unprecedented 95% in just three years.
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Every year in York County, thousands of pets are abused, abandoned, or turned over to the York County SPCA. In years past, only 53% of those animals could be saved.  

Since becoming Executive Director of the YCSPCA in 2019, Steven Martinez has pushed that save rate to 95%. The key? Applying the principles he used to build companies in Chicago to save pets in South Central Pennsylvania.  

“I wanted to get into nonprofit management and apply those entrepreneurial kind of startup skills to a nonprofit setting,” he says. “That was my leadership approach to running this organization.” 

Rebuilding from the ground up 

When Steven began his tenure at the YCSPCA, he quickly discovered a slew of challenges in every facet of the organization.  

“The easiest way to address our challenges was just to wipe the slate clean and try again,” he says, “so we basically rebuilt the organization from the ground up.” 

The first step was to track the data. The YCSPCA’s information technology infrastructure was nearly nonexistent. Steven oversaw the creation and integration of a database for each department so staff across the 60-employee organization could track the number of adoptions, spay and neuter surgeries, and vaccinations. This also helped staff connect with each animal that came through the door.  

“Data saves lives,” Steven says. “Once we got a handle on our data, we were able to identify ‘lifesaving gaps’ which allowed us to be strategic leaders by allocating our limited resources to where it would have the greatest impact–that’s a very entrepreneurial maneuver.” 

Shifting the narrative 

After extensive research, the YCSPCA team identified the save rate as the overarching metric to prioritize. The save rate measures the percentage of animals entering the facility that have a positive outcome. This metric allowed the YCSPCA to gauge progress, compare itself to other organizations, and develop a strategic plan based on it. 

With a metric and a goal in mind, the team got to work on a three-year strategic plan called the Best Practices Transformation. Through relentless effort and innovation, the team increased the save rate year by year.  

Steven focused on strategically educating the community and shifting the narrative around the YCSPCA’s purpose. Rather than a shelter where people drop off pets with no questions asked, the YCSPCA became an animal resource center focused on helping people keep their beloved pets as part of their family even through the most difficult circumstances.  

As an animal resource center, the YCSPCA transformed into a place where people facing eviction, homelessness, or poverty can turn for support, whether they need free pet food, help with a life-saving pet surgery, or a short-term stay for their pet as they get back on their feet.  

‘Solving big community problems’ 

The YCSPCA opens its doors for public tours. 

“When people come on this tour, they all expect the same thing. They all expect to see puppies and kittens and for me to talk about adoption,” Steven says. “We’re not going to talk a lot about that. At the end of the tour, I want you to think in a more sophisticated and nuanced way about what an animal resource center is and our place in the community in terms of solving big community problems.” 

In Steven’s first three years at the YCSPCA, not only did the save rate nearly double but a complete culture shift saved thousands of animals from needless euthanasia as it helped the community address much deeper issues.  

Steven hopes he can help spread that operational model to other shelters while continuing to hone the YCSPCA’s impact.  

“I believe that pets are the medicine that America needs now for individuals and communities to feel better and to do better,” Steven says. “Pets are like social glue. They’re the common bond between people with little else in common.”