Michael Linke – CEO, RSPCA – ACT

This week on Ideas Hoist we’re finding out how Michael Linke, CEO of the RSPCA in Canberra pushes through barriers to make ideas happen.

Michael Linke was born in 1965 in Sydney’s inner city area. He relocated to Canberra in 1999 to pursue a career in the not for profit sector.

Michael is an innovator, he is always looking for ways to improve and enrich the lives of others.  As the head of RSPCA ACT in Canberra he has been doing this for the last seven years and has saved thousands of animals as a result.

I push through barriers and remove people’s excuses.”

His philosophy is simple…barriers, obstacles and impediments need to be pushed through or gone over. You see, Michael was born with no sight in one eye and 5% vision in the other so he refuses to accept that barriers are in his way and that there is always a way to achieve an outcome that enriches a life.

Saving animals is no different and using a combination of modern technology, critical thinking and innovative out of the box strategies, more lives are being saved than ever before at Canberra’s RSPCA.

What are you working on right now?

Development of a new income stream for RSPCA ACT. People love animals and worry about their animals when they travel and people love what  the RSPCA does.  So I thought why not combine the two and offer commercial cat boarding with proceeds being invested into our welfare work to help animals in need.  Our brand carries with it a mark of trust, so offering this service will be a winner for us and allow us to do so much more for needy animals.

How do you make ideas happen?

I push through barriers and remove people’s excuses.  Often the only reason something doesn’t happen is one person in a room objects or puts a negative spin on an idea.  I see my role as removing that barrier, often I just punch on through it, but either way the barrier ceases to exist and we move on.  I think too often we are concerned or restricted by the reasons we can’t or shouldn’t do something, when we should always say, how can we do this? How can we make it happen?

What does your typical day look like?

I’m up by 6.30 and Dahlia (our dog) is walked for 4kms. I then check out the daily news as it relates to animal welfare and do some technology reading – I love keeping an eye on technological advances.  Arriving at the office by 8.30, emails, correspondence and all that office stuff is done first thing.  I often then walk around the animal care facility and chat to staff, volunteers and the animals on site – sometimes up to 800 of them at any one time.

Meetings, engaging with volunteers, donors, stakeholders also form a large part of my day – as a community group I see us having a huge responsibility to remain connected with the local community so I will also visit community groups, schools and businesses and talk about the role RSPCA plays and how we can all work together to achieve better outcomes for animals.

What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a non-profit in Australia?

Finding people who share your vision, share your passion, share your drive is a challenge.”

There are two big challenges – cash flow is the first.  Having the money to do what you want to do.  Sadly most grand plans are stripped back to ensure they can be delivered.  But this doesn’t stop the grand plans.  There is always a way through, but lack of cash is a real challenge.

The second challenge is getting the right people. Finding people who share your vision, share your passion, share your drive is a challenge.  Working with animals is hard work, and I think some people enter the not for profit sector with their eyes shut as to the realities of what working in this sector is about.

What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?

Life can only improve if we freely share ideas.”

All of them.  Life can only improve if we freely share ideas. Something we do at RSPCA is always talk to our donors about where to invest their donations.  I think a lot of charities don’t engage effectively with willing donors.  People love to be wanted, to be needed and to be informed.  Invest donations where donors want.

What organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia, at the moment? 

Animals Australia are doing some fantastic work in social media and online.

What about Internationally?

Nevada Humane Society have got it right.

What role do you think business should play in affecting social change?

I think business can play a major role.  Look at the real estate private rental market – the main reason for the surrender of pets in Canberra (if not Australia) is the inability of the pet owner to locate a new rental property. Imagine how many pets could be saved if the real estate industry worked with RSPCA and we developed some positive guidelines about renting and pet ownership.

Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers?

  • Engadget – latest technology products from around the world – always something interesting and some great ideas.
  • Linke Animal Welfare Trust – I practice what I preach – financial sustainability for not for profits is the biggest barrier to success, so I created our own trust to remove this barrier for future generations.
  • No Kill Advocacy Centre – where more animals could be saved if more people adopted these simple philosophies.

Name 3 Australians we should follow on Twitter? 

  • Alicia Coutts – five time medal winning Olympic athlete from London 2012 and also an employee of RSPCA ACT who loves cats.
  • Mia Mckenzie – founder of the Paw Project, doing some really cool work promoting the way to save lives in Australia.
  • Joel Meares – editor of Time Out magazine and a really cool dude who understands Pit Bull Terriers, just like I do.

Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?

Refer to our challenges – I am always looking for funding.  Limited cash flow slows us down, so having some support would help us out and help save so many more animals.  We are also always looking for volunteers.

Our readers are smart, creative, talented and good looking. Here’s your chance to ask them anything.

Why as a society do we largely still accept that it is OK to kill healthy animals when there are other solutions?

What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?

Pod Food at Pialligo in Canberra east near the airport.  Quite simply the best food I have ever eaten.

And for my sweet tooth, Koko Black in Canberra City.

We thought it would be cool to crowdsource an annual prize to award to the interviewee’s choice (each person interviewed gets one vote) winner for the year’s best interview. Are you willing to kick in a prize?

Sure. Lunch at POD food with me, my wife and Dahlia the Pit Bull shooting the breeze.

Make sure you sign-up to join our amazing community for Australians making ideas happen.

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