Good afternoon, everyone,
I've been reading this thread today, and have seen responses from a goodly cross-section of the IMOM community - clients and former clients, Angels and Donors, IMOM volunteers, and IMOM supporters. What a lot of us there are!
I've been attached to IMOM as a blogger (Mr. Bear Says Hello!), and as a client. As a client, I'm still astounded at the generosity and outpouring of affection and concern I experienced. You all literally saved Mr. Bear's life, and supported me with your good thoughts and good wishes when he was recovering from what was a life-altering change. Now I call him my Kinky Transexual Kitty Bear, since his surgery was that which reduced his urethra, essencially changing his outward gender. He's well and happy, not to mention adventurous and playful, thanks to you. He improves and catches up every day. While this change was slow, he's now at the point where a 4 year old cat should be: playful, resting comfortably, affectionate, and active. Thank you all, once again.
I was recently allowed to come into IMOM as a volunteer. Training was pretty intense, and incredibly eye-opening. Some of our volunteers have been at it for ten years, and yet they are still graceful under fire, compassionate, patient, and supportive.
So, the big question seems to be, what goes on behind the scenes? Well, I'm new, and willing to take a spanking for tattling, so I'll tell you.
The first thing we usually see with a case is an inquiry from the site, which tells us the client name, pet name, and some little bit about the pet's condition. If the client follows directions, we then see a lot of faxed paperwork, which includes bank statements, tax returns, detailed description by the client of the pet's condition and why they need financial help at this time. We also see, again, if the client has followed directions, an estimate from the vet, which describes the condition, and breaks down each expense, sometimes with the most urgent being highlighted. (Jacki, do I get the spanking yet?)
If the client hasn't bothered to read the directions, they send in the initial inquiry several times, expecting a worker to walk them through each and every step, or even to call them and walk them through it over the phone. Often, we receive the same initial inquiry, ver batim, as the info was cut and pasted from one email to the next. If they actually go back and read the information, some clients have to be given a numbered checklist of things to do, all of which is stated on the website. Some have to be sent this checklist many times in order to get the required items to us, and the volunteers have to cull away each step as it's accomplished, then resend the list. At each stage, the client is reminded that it's required they stay in touch with us, by email, at least every 24 hours, and that all emails from us must be answered within 24 hours. Many don't get this, and even scold our volunteers for reminding them. Some are insulted at the reminders.. 48-72 hours after their last email to us.
At this point, we also find that some of our clients have to shop around for a new vet, as their vet doesn't want to work with IMOM for one reason or another. I had this same thing happen during my application, and I can tell you it's the most disheartening thing to be told by a vet that their money up front is more important than the health of the pet.
If I haven't qualified for the spanking yet, this is sure to do it!
Once the paperwork and the actual application has gone through, the caseworker reviews the case file again, and makes sure all paperwork is in. If something needs to be clarified, the volunteer tries to get the info at this time, either by email with the client, by phone or fax to the vet, etc. The committee then reviews it, and, based on our funds available, among other things, a thread is added to the proper forum, and the client, who should have been posting in the Introductions forum by this time, is moved to the financial aid forum, where they are required to post at least once every three days. Yes, you read that right, every three days. We try to remind clients to post every day, as many times as they can, since the donors like to know how the pet is doing, how the client is doing, how things are going with the vet, and, like everyone else, they like to be thanked for their efforts and generosity.
Now comes the real weirdness. Some people resent having to post to the forums, and turn very nasty when told to post. Some have an amazing sense of entitlement, and think the volunteers should be doing all the work, posting for them, etc. Some scold us for reminding them that they have to be active in helping to raise funds for their pets. Some simply disappear.
And then, there are the people that it just wrenches our hearts to have to turn down. People who have had service from IMOM in the past, who are coming back to us again with the same desperation that drove them to us in the first place. Some are outraged when we follow our own rules about only being able to fund a pet once. Some are outraged that they have to apply again, if we decide to break our rules and try to find funding for a second time. But, the most heartbreaking cases are those when we have to stop the process because they didn't apply, didn't communicate with us or their thread for funding, or because they've become abusive with us. In one case, I saw that the worker wrote over 100 emails, begging the client to post, answer an email, anything. The client had just disapeared. The worker had to close the case for non-compliance after putting in hours, sometimes hundreds of hours, on a case, and is now devastated for the pet. Sometimes when a volunteer has to go through that, we don't see a post from them for several days, as they have to recover from the emotional bomb they just took.
Sometimes, we hear from the vet that the case is pretty hopeless, with or without treatment, or that they've been trying to tell the client that it's time to let go, but that the client isn't hearing it, or ready to hear it. We cannot advise the client on treatment or nontreatment, or even mention "other" options, we are not vets, or veterinary personnel. We're just volunteers. We've never met each other in real life, we've never met you, at least not for most of us. Sometimes, in the committee, we all just have a collective electronic hug'n'cry together.
So, there you have it. Jacki isn't the only one making decisions, but she gets more than her share of flame email, because she's the director here. Jacki, most often, doesn't even make the first suggestion of closing a case, for noncompliance or whatever reason, but she's often the one to get blamed.
If blame has to be assigned, let's make sure it's properly assigned, and not set on IMOM's shoulders because a disgruntled client doesn't want to comply with our policies, which, by the way, are all clearly stated.
Again, thank you to all of you, and brightest blessings,