May 11, 2023

Evaluating ANCA’s Strategic Plan and Priorities

by Asa Duffee, ANCA Director of Marketing & Communications
and Jen Levy, ANCA Executive Director

In late February, the ANCA board of directors and full-time staff met virtually for two days of organizational reflection and planning — part of an annual ANCA retreat. This practice importantly allows us the time to evaluate the past year’s progress on our strategic plan, ANCA 2025, and how our work is aligning with our values.

We always have much to reflect on, but 2022 felt replete with change and undertakings. ANCA resumed in-person programming for the first time since the beginning of 2020, including the 2022 ANCA Annual Summit at Irvine Nature Center in Owings Mills, Md., as well as our in-person Peer Consults. We also expanded our virtual programming through ANCA CONNECTS, reaching more professionals and organizations. We launched the ANCA Culture Survey, and more than 600 professionals participated providing the critical data we need to determine our next steps. Most importantly, we continued to provide community for our members.

Of course, much has been happening for ANCA members as well. The past year brought with it higher operating costs due to inflation and hiring challenges due to a changing workforce. These operational aspects have been major obstacles for many organizations, and on top of this, we still see lingering fatigue from the pandemic. This combination of challenges makes it yet more important to support each other professionally, and to take care of ourselves in order to reduce burnout.

ANCA members have also seen a backlash toward diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, in particular against the LGBTQ community. While this backlash comes from small groups of people, it can have a significantly harmful impact on our organizations and the LGBTQ professionals at those organizations. In some instances, ANCA members have had to cancel programs due to threats of violence. This is unacceptable, and ANCA stands with the LGBTQ members of our community, as well as the organizations that provide safe spaces for LGBTQ people.

ANCA is now developing programs around all of these challenges — keep an eye out for new ANCA CONNECTS, as well as sessions at the 2023 ANCA Annual Summit at The Ecology School in Saco, Maine. We will of course continue to support nature centers, outdoor schools, and other environmental organizations achieve their missions through best practices, in addition to celebrating our collective successes along the way.

Top Priorities

In addition to continuing our standard programs and services, we have identified certain priorities for the next year, all of which are rooted in our strategic plan. These include:

Help ANCA member organizations develop policies and procedures that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Recognizing that social inequities are systemic, we see a need to focus on policies and procedures. Our work will include sharing examples of equitable policies, as well as creating programming around this topic.

Support people who are part of marginalized groups within ANCA, with specific focus on people of color, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities.

As we discuss in the ANCA Culture Survey Overview, last year we found that people of color, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities all have lower workplace satisfaction scores than their counterparts. We are currently exploring how we can best support these three groups.

Increase diversity across our membership, with a focus on racial diversity, LGBTQIA+ diversity, and ability diversity.

As the Culture Survey demonstrated, our profession is demographically homogeneous, particularly in race — the field is overwhelmingly (87.5%) White. While we believe that it is important to begin DEI work with creating equitable and inclusive spaces, we must also be intentional with growing our membership through recruitment tactics and organizational partnerships. As such, we want to prioritize these three types of diversity when reaching out to prospective members and partners.

Develop programs for ANCA member organizations’ boards of directors/trustees.

Best management and leadership practices includes developing an active and engaged board. Now that we have three full-time staff and a growing network, we want to elevate our focus on boards.

Build ANCA’s capacity with grants and national funding.

While we have significantly grown our capacity in recent years, we want to further pursue sources of funding from foundations and federal programs.

Review ANCA’s investment policies.

Update ANCA's investment policies and ensure that investment return is aligned with the policy.

Assess our partnerships and relationships with other national organizations in the environmental field.

Recognizing that ANCA now has more capacity, we want to evaluate how we can best work with other national organizations — asking not only how a relationship can benefit us, but also how we can contribute to other networks.

The retreat allowed us the opportunity to celebrate our successes, reflect on what has changed for our members, and review and revise our priorities. In asking ourselves, “What will success look like at the end of 2023?” we identified the need to maintain a strong foundation as well as continue to move forward with our strategic priorities. The priorities we identified include shoring up our policies and procedures to ensure we have the capacity to continue our work toward a desired future. 

ANCA is a strong community thanks to our staff, our board, and our members. We understand that our peer network is our greatest resource, and through this process, we will continue to listen to our members and respond with the programs and resources they need. 


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