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How I Got Here: Raissa Allaire

June 17, 2024, The Association

Welcome to the latest installment of one of our newest features, “How I Got Here,” that digs into the career trajectory of an animal welfare professional and member of The Association. Meet the ED at Tree House Humane, who talks firefighting, icebergs and orange tabbies.

The Association: Describe yourself in three words.
Raissa Allaire: Resourceful, Perceptive, Forward-thinking.

The Association: Describe your current role as Executive Director at Tree House Humane Society. What are some of your day-to-day responsibilities?
Raissa Allaire: My role is diverse, blending leadership, strategy, and hands-on management. I am fortunate to have a fantastic board and leadership team that help shape our future and keep us on track. I’m a better leader because of them. As the chief philanthropy officer, I delegate much to my amazing team but remain personally connected with our donors and stakeholders. Maintaining a macro view of our systems, I ensure they are engaged and informed about our impact, which is key to building and sustaining their trust and support.

In many ways, my job resembles that of a firefighter, dealing with immediate challenges and crises as they arise. Simultaneously, I am a dreamer and strategist, always looking ahead and planning for the future of Tree House. I watch out for icebergs and opportunities, balancing our dual bottom line—mission and money—to ensure we continue to make a meaningful impact while staying financially healthy. It seems that no two days are the same, as we are always learning, adapting, innovating, and growing with each new experience.

The Association: What experiences and professional development helped to shape your career path?
Raissa Allaire: I’ve always been curious and a learner. My comfort with ambiguity and problem-solving, especially when there’s no clear guide, stems from my time at the University of Chicago—famously known as “the school where fun comes to die.” Each step of my career has been a progression of skills, and has served as a masterclass for self-discovery. I’ve been fortunate to be part of different nonprofit causes, and being part of the Kellogg School-Allstate Leadership program was an eye-opening experience. It was incredible to learn about the business perspective and the soft skills needed for leadership.

Throughout my journey, I’ve been fortunate to grow a network of amazing leader-friends. (Shout out to the Chicagoland Humane Coalition!) Their openness, generosity with knowledge, and unwavering support have been invaluable and have kept me going strong.

The Association: How did you find your way to animal welfare and Tree House Humane Society? 
Raissa Allaire: I grew up on an island, where we had a beloved family dog, and there were always cats outside—community cats. My mom and neighbors would feed them our leftovers.

Fast forward to 2016 in Chicago, when my family welcomed a father-son pair of cats. They were our first pets, and we dove into learning everything about cats. It was an obsession! My orange tabbies Sulley and Sal sparked my passion. My kids and I watched every Jackson Galaxy episode and fell in love with these kitties. Today, three orange tabbies (including Tree House kitty Mordecai Brown – named after a Cubs pitcher) fill my days with joy and mischief.

When I saw the job at Tree House, I thought it would be fascinating to combine my nonprofit leadership experience with this newfound love.

The Association: Favorite professional development tip?
Raissa Allaire: I’m a bit of a Harvard Business Review fanatic, always on the lookout for insightful articles. There’s this one gem I keep coming back to; it’s all about how leaders can make the most of their networks, whether personal, strategic, or operational.

The main nugget from the HBR piece titled How Leaders Create and Use Networks is this: great leaders don’t just stumble into great networks—they build them strategically. They use these networks to not only reach their goals but also to sway opinions and spark innovation. And it’s crucial to do this across all aspects of leadership, from the personal connections you nurture to the strategic alliances you forge.

Leadership can sometimes feel like a never-ending firefight. But neglecting these networks? That’s like trying to battle the blaze all on your own. It can leave you feeling isolated and seriously hamper your chances of success and making a greater impact. Finding the time to network is a must.

The Association: Please share a hidden (or not-so-hidden) talent.
Raissa Allaire: One of my not-so-hidden talents is gardening! One of my favorite places on earth is my backyard, and each morning before I start my day when it’s nice out, I sit there with my sunbathing kitties, coffee in hand, and enjoy the peace.

The Association: Last question. Name one of your professional goals for the year ahead.
Raissa Allaire: I’m gearing up to begin my sabbatical, essentially testing out the transition and continuity plan my board and I put together. I’m a big advocate for readiness and making sure organizations can flourish even without their top leaders, while also nurturing the growth of up-and-coming leaders. It’s been quite the ride, and I’m really looking forward to taking this time to reflect, recharge, and come back rejuvenated.

Learn More

Connect with Raissa Allaire on LinkedIn
How I Got Here: Sarah Javier
Member Spotlight: Get to Know Judith Dumont, SHRM-CP
Member Spotlight: Get to Know Anna-Lee Fitzsimmons

About The Association
The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement is a cohort of leaders on a mission to champion, advance, and unify the animal welfare profession.

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