ABOVE: Deb Fair. // Photo by Mandy Whitley Photography
By TRESA HALBROOKS
Deb Fair is the Executive Director of PEDIGREE Foundation, a 501(c)3 grant-making organization dedicated to helping dogs in need find their forever homes.
She is responsible for leading the development and strategic planning with the board of directors, focusing on donor recruitment, building shelter and rescue relationships, and fundraising.
In 2008, Deb helped launch the PEDIGREE Foundation, in partnership with the PEDIGREE Brand, to make a meaningful difference for shelters and rescues all over the United States and help more dogs get adopted.
Deb has extensive leadership experience in corporate communications, corporate affairs and community outreach with Mars, Incorporated, Mars Petcare U.S., Nissan North America and Toyota USA. She also served on the Nissan and Toyota Foundations as board and staff. While at Mars, she focused on increasing participation and impact of its Mars Volunteer Program and Mars Ambassador Program.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, Deb has a passion for pets and people. She is on the National Board of American Humane, serving on its Governance and Finance Committee, and volunteers for Hearts to Honduras and as a home visitor for The Cavalier Rescue. When she is not volunteering, Deb enjoys running at Percy Warner Park, hiking at Radnor Lake, and spending time with her family, which includes her three adopted rescue Cavalier King Charles Spaniels – Bonnie Hunt Fair, Lily James Fair and Chloe Stella McCartney Fair.
I recently spent some time with Deb Fair and asked her to share some insight about her work and life.
Q: Can you tell us more about the PEDIGREE Foundation and the work you do?
A: PEDIGREE Foundation is a 501c3 grant-making organization dedicated to supporting other organizations that help more dogs get adopted into loving homes. We’ve been supporting shelters and rescues through our grants programs since 2008 and have contributed more than $6.7 million through 5,000 grants. Our biggest donor is the PEDIGREE® Brand along with passionate dog lovers in the U.S. We couldn’t do what we do without the support of our donors and volunteers.
Because of this support and passion for adoptable dogs, we are able to provide three types of grants: our new DOGS RULE Innovation Grant ($50,000 for two years – with one being given out per year), Program Development Grants ($10,000) and Operation Grants (up to $1,000).
Our DOGS RULE Grant was launched as part of our 10 Year Anniversary and is awarded to new creative programs that can increase dog adoption. Program Development Grants are generally capital funds or support for existing programs, and Operation Grants support daily needs to keep a shelter running.
Q: Do you have any upcoming programs or events you’d like the public to know about?
A: We are so excited about our 10-Year Anniversary event! Our PEDIGREE Foundation Pawty: “BBQ, Boots and Bling” will be held on Oct. 11, 2018, at Marathon Music Works. Grammy award-winning artist LeAnn Rimes will be our special musical guest and SiriusXM’s The Highway host, Storme Warren, will serve as our emcee for the “Pawty.” Nashville is our home and we wanted to create a fun casual night with a live and silent auction – all to benefit shelters and rescues. This event will raise funds to provide more shelters and rescues with grants for the work they do to get more dogs adopted. You can follow us on Facebook and Instagram to learn more about our upcoming activities and check our website at www.pedigreefoundation.org to order tickets and learn more about us. 2018 is the year of the dog, so it’s kismet that we are celebrating this milestone this year!
Q: What motivated you to work with the PEDIGREE Foundation?
A: Throughout my career, my most rewarding roles have been when I led the Community Outreach function or a Corporate Private Foundation. I started working as an intern for Hill & Knowlton in public relations. Agency life is high-speed and provides you with many opportunities to experience all facets of the field from non-profit communications and cause-related marketing to product public relations and publicity. I was able to springboard from an agency to a non-profit focus in a corporate environment for both Toyota and Nissan.
Toyota and Nissan had uniquely different focuses for their foundations, but both were built on the principles of offering a better opportunity for those in need, whether creating magnet schools, supporting math and science programs in the city or rebuilding a community. Each gave me an opportunity to see how we can work together to have an impact through partnerships with corporations and other like-minded non-profits. The best part was, and continues to be, connecting with people and hearing their stories of how they are making a difference through their passion.
Q: What’s the biggest difference the PEDIGREE Foundation has made in your life or others?
A: Connecting my passion for dog adoption and seeing the great work shelters and rescues are doing with the support of our grants programs is what it’s all about. I love hearing stories from our shelter partners and seeing their successful adoption stories posted on social media. As an example, Wisconsin Humane Society received two grants from us for their Benchwarmer program, which provides increased marketing for dogs who have been in its shelter more than 14 days and offers reduced adoption fees. Through the years, they’ve been able to reduce the length of stay down from 21 to 14 to 10 days through this initiative with the goal of helping 200-plus dogs yearly. Through our grant support over the last 2 ½ years, they have helped more than 435 dogs find their forever homes. One of my favorite stories from them is about a dog named Cinders.
This story from her human parents is what makes me proud of the work we do, connecting community partners, shelters, people and dogs – saving one more dog, one day at a time: “7 years ago, we rescued you. You were 5 then. A dog that had been abandoned, only to then go through multiple owners who couldn’t commit. You were listed as a ‘benchwarmer.’ I remember that day Mike and I went to the humane society, we actually came to look at a different dog, but there you were… Face pushed up against the glass stall, just staring at us. It was love right then and there. The love, loyalty and laughs you have given us every day since makes me wonder how anyone could have ever turned you away. Their loss completely. Happy Birthday/Adoption day pup pup!”
Q: What advice would you give to young professionals wanting to make a difference in their community, whether they decide to work for a non-profit or not?
A: Whether you are looking to volunteer or work for a non-profit, you should follow your passion. If you are thinking about working for a non-profit, make sure to meet with others in the non-profit sector, intern and get some exposure to how it all works. I’ve always been passionate about pet adoption. My three Cavalier King Charles Spaniels came from rescues and serve as my inspiration for what I do.
Get involved as a volunteer. Give your time to organizations that align with how you want to make a
difference, connecting with a purpose that is true to you. I volunteer for The Cavalier Rescue, conducting home visits in Nashville, and I always find it rewarding when I connect beautiful dogs to their future families. Once you gain experience, look into the possibility of joining a non-profit board. You’ll learn a lot about vision, branding and long-term strategy work that enables a non-profit to serve its community and continue to grow – leaving a legacy of good work.
Q: How do you find work / life balance?
A: Finding balance is always a challenge. We live in a world that is full-on 24/7 with constant demands. For me, it’s all about living intentionally and with purpose. I am passionate about the plight of homeless dogs. So, when I get home, it’s all about my family which includes my three fur babies. There’s nothing better than being greeted by my three crazy rescue pups when I get home. They remind me of why I do what I do. They give me balance.
Tresa Halbrooks is freelance writer and the Founder and President of LEGACY Consulting, PR & Events, a premier public relations and event production company based in Franklin, TN. Tresa Halbrooks has produced some of Nashville’s top celebrity and charity events as well as public relations and branding campaigns over the past 23 years.