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Featured Non-Profit Interview: Shelley Center

Interview by George Williams, Communications Specialist - Planned Legacy Inc.

Director of Marketing and Development, PETsMART Charities

Shelley Center and Murphy Brown

About Shelley Center

Shelley Center brings more than 25 years of business marketing experience to her position as Director of Marketing and Development at PETsMART Charities.

Born and raised in Hawaii, Center graduated from the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. She began her professional career as a corporate trainer with IBM Corporation, providing installation and training support for IBM customers. After 10 years with IBM, she joined Mead Data Central as a marketing representative, and subsequently served in a similar position with Data General Corporation.

In 1990, Center joined Bank of Hawaii as a product manager for debit cards. During her tenure with Bank of Hawaii she implemented enhancements and programs for the debit card that quadrupled that product's revenue. This caught the attention of Bank of America and led to her appointment as the Business Card product manager in Phoenix, Arizona.

After Bank of America's merger with NationsBank, Center decided to remain in Arizona and not to relocate to the bank's headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina. A desire to give something back to the community caused her to seek opportunities with non-profit organizations. This led to her appointment as PETsMART Charities' Director of Marketing and Development in 1999. 

Center has a profound love for the environment and the animals that have a place in it. Shelley and her husband are the proud parents of two grown sons and three very lovable cats.

Learn more about PETsMART Charities...

Planned Legacy: Please tell us a little about your background? Where did you grow up? How did you become involved in working with pets? Do you have pets of your own?

Shelley Center: I was born and raised in beautiful Hawaii, on the island of Oahu. I was always surrounded by animals and especially loved cats and dogs. A career change relocated me to Arizona with Bank of America. As aproduct manager for credit and debit cards, I have been responsible for Petsmart Charitiesprograms that have raised millions of dollars for banks. After a merger with NationsBank, I was given the option of moving to its headquarters in North Carolina, but decided to remain in Arizona. After a job hunt of a few months, I was offered this position with PETsMART Charities. And what a change it has been! I now raise funds to provide a brighter future for homeless pets instead of euthanasia as an option.

I have three cats, Kolohe, which means naughty or rascal, and she does indeed live up to her name.Kalika, which means calico for my very beautiful, elegant and so-very-soft calico cat. Last but not least, is myworking cat, Murphy Brown. Murphy is a brown tabby, who loves people and is very sociable. Murphy comes to work with me quite frequently and has attended over 100 meetings with me. Murphy is a working cat because I use him to illustrate the point that more than five million animals just like Murphy are euthanized every year, simply because they have no home. Murphy was one of those slated for euthanasia and was rescued by a humane society, then adopted by me. Murphy represents what PETsMART Charities is all about.

Planned Legacy: What were the major influences that led you to your career in development with PETsMART Charities?

Shelley Center: Like many development officers, I stumbled into this position with organizational and management skill sets that were remarkably useful for fundraising. That was three years ago, and I have not looked back. I feel that much of my corporate work experience developed skills for this particular position - a position that makes a difference for homeless animals. I feel that I have a job that is so important that failure to succeed is not an option. So many homeless animals' very lives depend on my ability to succeed!

Planned Legacy: What are your responsibilities as the Director of Marketing and Development at PETsMART Charities?

Shelley Center: PETsMART Charities exists today because over five million perfectly adoptable pets are euthanized every year simply because they have no home. Shelters are overcrowded, yet other animals continue to be brought in. PETsMART Charities has a vision of "A lifelong, loving home for every pet." PETsMART Charities has given out over $21 million through the years for lifesaving programs to local animal welfare organizations. I raise millions of dollars each year for the animals, primarily through in-store fundraising activities.

Planned Legacy: What is your typical workday like? What different hats do you wear, with respect to your charity work?

Shelley Center: My typical workday starts at 6:30 a.m. and ends at 6:30 p.m. My most important job is to ensure that fundraising programs are planned and executed well, along with proofing all marketing materials that support our fundraising efforts and create awareness.

Planned Legacy: What do you like best about PETsMART Charities? What do you find most rewarding about your job? From a business point of view, how important is PETsMART Charities to the PETsMART business? How do the two entities work together to help each other?

Shelley Center: When the doors of the first PETsMART store was opened, the founding fathers decided to NOT sell cats and dogs due to pet overpopulation. Instead, they decided that each store would have an in-store adoption center…the PETsMART Charities' Adoption Center. This was a major corporate commitment by our company - to give up valuable retail space that could be used to sell product or services. The space donated by the PETsMART is valued at about $5 million annually.

Animal welfare organizations are invited to bring their homeless animals to our adoption centers with hopes that they will find a new home. Most of the animals are rescued from the euthanasia list, and given a second chance in our PETsMART Charities Adoption Center.

So far, we have found homes for over 1.4 million pets. The adoption space is free to the animal welfare organizations. Supplies required for a healthy environment, such as food, litter, toys and cleaning materials, are also donated by PETsMART. Each organization charges an adoption fee to cover the cost of inoculations, spaying or neutering and they keep that fee. It does not go to PETsMART or PETsMART Charities.

PETsMART Charities fundraises for the benefit of more than 2,000 animal welfare groups that need financial support for their lifesaving work. We have donated over $21 million to animal organizations over the years and are very fortunate that we have the full support of our corporation, which consists of 600 PETsMART stores and over 20,000 associates. Our associates in the stores are the ambassadors for PETsMART Charities; and as such, oversee the adoptions in the stores and do the fundraising for us.Help us lick pet over-population!

Planned Legacy: Can you tell us about any unique work that PETsMART Charities does, that is not commonly known by the public?

Shelley Center: Many people do not realize that when a disaster strikes like wildfire or hurricane, it forces communities to evacuate their homes and head for shelter. Pets are not allowed in these shelters. As a result, many pets are left behind and need help. PETsMART, PETsMART Charities and major national animal organizations all work together to rescue the pets, get them in a safe environment until they can be reunited with their families.

It takes truckloads of supplies of crates, collars, leashes, bowls, food, and litter to care for displaced animals. We supply whatever the animal organizations need. We have done this time and again with the disasters, such as Hurricane Floyd, September 11, Western Wildfires to name just a few. We were there ensuring that the animals were taken care of.

Planned Legacy: Can you tell us any special stories that have really touched your heart during your time with PETsMART Charities?

Shelley Center: One particular story that touched my heart was a story told by a domestic abuse victim. She tried to find her way to a safe shelter for her daughter and her dog but she was told repeatedly that domestic abuse shelters could not care for her dog. Her husband also threatened that if she ever left him that he would kill her beloved dog - so she remained in her abusive situation. One day she met a woman who told her that her local humane society had a special program where her dog would be taken care of in a wonderful foster home until she could not only escape from her situation, but be able to get on her own two feet however long it took. PETsMART Charities funded this special program. She and her daughter left for a shelter and her dog was cared for by the foster home along with the humane society. It has a wonderful, happy ending because mom, daughter and dog and now reunited and living in a safer situation.

Planned Legacy: Does PETsMART Charities have an annual fund campaign? Can you describe the specifics of what makes it work? What does PETsMART do to create and maintain donor relationships? Are there any specific techniques that have worked especially well for you?

Shelley Center: PETsMART Charities has done most of its fundraising through the stores' fundraising efforts. Our associates are our chief fundraisers. Twice a year, for three weeks, all of the stores will participate in "Just A Buck, Change Their Luck". Associates ask customers for a dollar or more to help save the lives of homeless animals. The customers are also incented to donated $10 and get a free "Just A Buck" T-shirt. These annual efforts have raised millions over the years, through a donor base that is primarily anonymous. Next year we will put into place some traditional fundraising programs such as major gifts and planned giving.

Our associates also personally support the cause through our payroll deduction program. This past year, our associates pledged an all time high of $1 million.

Planned Legacy: Is PETsMART Charities run out of a central office separate from the corporation?

Shelley Center: PETsMART Charities is housed at PETsMART Inc.'s headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona. We have a staff of nine people. However, we have the advantage of relying on the knowledge and expertise of the entire corporation.Make a donation

Planned Legacy: Does PETsMART Charities have a Board of Directors that you report too? How is it set up?

Shelley Center: The PETsMART Charities' Board is made up of eight individuals. Four are executives of PETsMART Inc. and the other four are renowned individuals in their field.

Planned Legacy: Does PETsMART Charities produce a newsletter? If so, can you tell us what is involved and how people sign up to receive it?

Shelley Center: PETsMART Charities produces a quarterly newsletter targeted to the animal welfare organizations that we've either funded or that are our partners in the in-store adoption centers. PETsMART associates also receive a copy of this newsletter.

Planned Legacy: When someone gives a donation to PETsMART Charities how is it used?

Shelley Center: Our funds are "locally-based", in that they go back to the state from which they were raised. For example, if a store in Michigan raises $1,000, that money is earmarked for the homeless animals of Michigan. Even though we're a national charity, the funds do go back to the state from which they were raised.

More pets, more friends, more lives saved.About PETsMART Charities

PETsMART Charities was established in 1994 as a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit charity to save the lives of homeless pets. Their mission is to improve the quality of life for all companion animals.

PETsMART Charities creates and supports programs that save lives of homeless pets and promote healthy relationships between people and pets. Their vision is a lifelong, loving home for EVERY pet. PETsMART Charities does this by:

  • Raising awareness of companion animal welfare issues 
  • Funding programs to further individual animal welfare society missions, and 
  • Facilitating adoptions through in-store programs.

Since 1994 PETsMART Charities has:

  • Saved the lives of over 1.3 million homeless pets through the PETsMART Charities' Adoption Centers. 
  • Become a leading funder of animal welfare organizations by donating over $21 million dollars to humane and rescue groups across North America. 
  • PETsMART Charities of Canada became an Official Registered Charity in Canada in 1999 to expand our mission of saving lives.

PETsMART Charities is a non-profit organization which donates over five million dollars annually in space and supplies for the adoption centers. Every effort is made to see that all money collected within a state or province goes right to work in that state or province saving the lives of pets locally. In addition, PETsMART, Inc. provides valuable in-store space, supplies and food for PETsMART Charities' Adoptions Centers located in over 550 stores, free of charge to adoption partners. Our adoption partners keep 100% of their adoption fees and there is no cost to them to use the PETsMART Charities' in-store Adoption Centers. This helps to keep these animal welfare organizations financially viable and able to continue their missions.

All donations received from customers are returned to their local humane groups through two ways:

  • Grants - Financial support in the form of a grant is given to non-profit humane organizations, governmental animal control facilities and educational institutions. 
  • Sponsorships - Given to PETsMART Charities' Adoption Partners only. The amount of the sponsorship dollars given corresponds with the number of days per month the group does adoptions through the PETsMART Charities' Adoption Center. The amount of funds given to the adoption partner also depends on how much their fundraising event will raise. The animal welfare group must raise ten times the amount that the group is given by PETsMART Charities in sponsorship dollars. This way PETsMART is able to really stretch customers' donations.

PETsMART Charities is a national organization with opportunities, through the grant process, to support organizations throughout the country, including areas not serviced by a PETsMART store. 

Learn more...

For more information please contact: 

PETsMART Charities
19601 N. 27th Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85027 
Phone: (800) 423-PETS (7387)
Web: or visit and click on PETsMART Charities link.
E-Mail: [email protected]

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