Meet a CAWA: Sean Hawkins, CFRE

Introducing Sean Hawkins, animal welfare lifer. As a college student, Hawkins was hired by Cleveland Amory and the Fund for Animals to establish spay/neuter clinics nationwide, and he is also responsible for creating and producing the 2012 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards national television special. Among many achievements in his current role as Chief Advancement Officer at Charleston Animal Society, Hawkins established the Lifesaver’s Club multi-year giving society, raising $550,000 in unrestricted operating funds its first year. And we’re guessing he throws a great dinner party, too.

Certified Animal Welfare Administrator (CAWA) Since: 2017

The Association: Describe yourself in 3 words.
Sean Hawkins: Pets, Planet, People

The Association: Describe being a CAWA in 3 words.
Sean Hawkins: Connection, Confidence, Credibility

The Association: What was the most surprising or unexpected thing you learned as you prepared for the CAWA exam? 
Sean Hawkins: I was pleasantly surprised to see the materials that you are required to be familiar with are far beyond basic animal welfare and sheltering.  Topics included non-profit organization management, human resources, leadership, and fundraising.  Achieving the credential is a well-rounded accomplishment.

The Association: What is one example of how you have applied the knowledge gained from the CAWA program in your role at CAS?
Sean Hawkins: The answer to this question can be summed up in two words: confidence and credibility.  When I run into an obstacle or am seeking new information in my role at CAS, I go to CAWAs first for help and advice. I know the information shared is based in best practices, based on knowledge and experience. I also know when organizations prioritize hiring CAWAs that they are leaders in our field.

The Association: Who is a current CAWA you look up to, and why?
Sean Hawkins:
I admire Jodi Lytle Buckman, CAWA, and her dedication to elevating the professionalism of those dedicated to the cause of animal welfare.  Having known Jodi professionally in our various roles with different organization for many years, I was thrilled to land in Arizona, where she lived for a couple of years.  During that time Jodi showed up, time and time again, for the shelter where I was serving as an interim director. She provided advice, wisdom and resources to help my shelter succeed.  That time with Jodi was inspirational and a motivating factor for me to become a CAWA.

The Association: What’s one small victory you had this week – personally or professionally? 
Sean Hawkins: The philanthropy and marketing team at CAS celebrated success this week as we wrapped up our 31 Days to End Cruelty fundraising campaign last Monday, raising just over $130,000. Thanks to our friends at Humane Rescue Alliance for the great peer-to-peer campaign idea. It worked!. 

The Association: Last book you read? 
Sean Hawkins: I just finished reading Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food by Gene Baur.  (I also recommend Esther the Wonder Pig if you have not read that one!)  I just started the audio-book Good to Great by Jim Collins.

The Association: You can invite 5 people from all of history to dinner. Who’s at the table?
Sean Hawkins:

  1. Jane Goodall
  2. Cleveland Amory
  3. Ann Richards
  4. Betty White
  5. Barack Obama

The Association: What’s your favorite two-sentence leadership tip?  
Sean Hawkins: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”
 —Margaret Mead

The Association: Last year Dr. Steve Hansen at Arizona Humane Society put out a challenge to CAS as to which organization has the most CAWAs. As the Great CAWA Throwdown stands now, the score is AHS-5, & CAS-6. Would you like to comment on this?
Sean Hawkins: As an individual who works for one of these two organizations, and knowing both Dr. Hansen and Joe Elmore personally, I can say that I am honored to be among this group!  Making credentialing and continuing education a priority at an organization attracts top-tier talent and says to the world, “We’re only interested in doing the best for animals and our communities.”  Better catch up, Steve!

Learn More

More from Sean: Tip of the Week: Can I See You in My Office?
Making the Case for CAWA: Getting buy-in from your supervisor
Quiz: Am I Eligible for the CAWA Exam?
Quiz: Take a Mini CAWA Exam


Photo: Sean Hawkins and his best friend/rescued dog Oh Be Joyful, whom he adopted after her first family passed away.


The Association is the only international society of leaders actively leading and managing community animal shelters/animal control agencies.


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