Northwoods Wildlife Center

The Northwoods Wildlife Center was founded in 1979 by a veterinarian, Dr. Rory Foster. It all started when an injured fawn, which had been hit by a car, was brought to the veterinary clinic. Dr. Foster bottle-fed her, cared for her, and released her back to the wild when she was big enough to survive without her mother. Soon, people began bringing in injured wildlife from all over the region. Dr. Foster passed away in 1987, but his work continues thanks to the Northwoods Wildlife Center, the nonprofit he founded.

Saving 900 Wildlife Patients Each Year

The Northwoods Wildlife Center provides wildlife rescue, rehabilitation, and release services for northern Wisconsin as well as field assessments in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

It has a wildlife nursery that is open to the public at no cost. The organization also offers a robust wildlife education and outreach program for schools and libraries where children learn how to protect wildlife and its habitat and what to do when they encounter wildlife in need.

The organization treats an average of 800 to 900 wildlife patients each year, spanning over 120 species. It treats large mammals like black bears, small ones like chipmunks, and ones unique to the north woods like pine martens, sandhill cranes, and Wisconsin badgers. Animals that are unable to be released become educational residents at the center. Over 10,000 people each year visit the center or attend one of the organization's educational events.

The center also provides internships to 12 to 15 college students from across the country each year. Each of them receives on-site housing and unique wildlife biology and veterinary experience.

The center does all this with four full-time employees, a very active volunteer board, numerous other volunteers, and supporting veterinarians.

The Hub of Operations: Technology

The center maintains a donor database, a veterinary medical records system, an accounting system, and extensive records on wildlife, education programs, and research. Its IT system is also the hub for all communications with its supporters.

All of the center's funding comes from individual donors who believe in its mission. Like so many charities, the organization spends most of these funds on its mission. In this case, the mission requires food, medical supplies and equipment, medications, and facilities maintenance. For instance, it costs approximately $1,500 to rehabilitate a raccoon and $3,000 to rehabilitate a black bear.

As a result, the organization struggles to keep its technology up-to-date. It still has older computers, many of which have different operating systems. Volunteers need to use their personal laptops. It is a struggle to keep such an IT system running well.

Their Worst Nightmare

Three years ago, their worst nightmare happened. They were kicking off their major year-end fundraising campaign, and just before they could hit Send, their database server crashed from a virus infection. It took many hours over a 10-day span, plus considerable money, to get the server back online and the data restored.

Executive Director Geri Miller says that the December campaign is usually 20 percent of their annual budget, and she estimates that the crash caused their annual fundraising to be 25 percent lower than the year before. She says: "We think the majority of the fundraising shortfall was due to being late with the mailing. Many people had already chosen their year-end charity donations by the time we got our IT system working again. The shortfall for us that year was huge!"

Securing the Center's Future

Thanks to the Symantec donation program through TechSoup, the center was able to get the best security and malware protection available. The center replaced the motley collection of security software it had on all its different computers with a consistent version of Norton Internet Security to keep all of its computers secure. Because the expiration date for this donation is the same for all computers, it will also be easier and more efficient for the center to manage license renewals.

Miller sums it up: "Thanks to TechSoup and the generosity of Symantec, we have not had an incident since we installed Norton Internet Security on all our computers! With the help of TechSoup and its donor partners like Symantec, we are moving in the right direction. Quite simply, we could not do our work without you!"