May 14, 2024

Setting Priorities for Sustainable Growth: ANCA’s Goals for the Year

DSC00035 webWith over 700 members throughout North America, ANCA’s network of nature center professionals is extensive. Our work is also substantial: we offer regular programs (virtual and in-person), two unique Summits, a mentoring program, two discussion forums, annual leadership awards, peer-based consults, publications like the Directions journal, a job board, two email newsletters, and more.

We currently accomplish this work with a staff of three: Membership & Programs Coordinator Dan Auer, Director of Marketing & Communications Asa Duffee, and Executive Director Jen Levy. With this team we achieve significant results, and we have goals for growing our capacity and adding new projects — but we also want to ensure that our workload and growth are sustainable.

This aim informed an ANCA Staff and Board retreat in early March, where we met to review progress on our strategic plan, ANCA 2025, and set strategic priorities for the next year. In setting these priorities, we sought to work toward growth while staying grounded in our current capacity.

Here, we share the twelve priorities from the retreat. These priorities complement our strategic plan and current operations.

As we share here, ANCA aims to continue its growth and further support the nature center profession. We are a nonprofit organization and rely on the generous support of donors. If you believe in our work and the impact of the nature center profession, please consider giving to ANCA here.

Strategic Priorities for 2024-2025

1. Assess and find support for new positions

In order to expand our services, we need to grow staff capacity. As ANCA Executive Director Jen Levy shares in this issue of Directions, McKenzie Achatz left her position as Office Assistant at the end of February, and we are currently transitioning the Office Assistant responsibilities to other staff and an outsourced bookkeeping service. Our goal is to add a new full-time staff position in 2026. This new position will be dedicated to ANCA’s membership and donor management, allowing us to support the nature center profession further.

2. Develop and update staff compensation, benefits, and new personnel policies

ANCA has grown significantly in recent years, and we need to update our personnel policies and benefits accordingly. As ANCA Director of Marketing & Communications Asa Duffee writes in Directions, many in the nature center profession are working to advance increased pay for professionals in the field, which supports social equity in addition to providing organizational benefits like increased retention and recruitment. As an organization, we need to ensure that we are paying staff equitably as a way to support inclusion in our field and to retain talented staff.

3. Grow prospects and set new goals for Annual Fund

We will need to expand and increase our fundraising efforts to achieve our strategic goals — including many of the priorities enumerated here. This will include reaching new prospective donors, and increasing goals for our Annual Fund, which supports ANCA’s operations throughout the year.

4. Review and update, as needed, current fee structures and timelines for programs

Our programs have significantly evolved in recent years. In particular, the ANCA CONNECTS program continues to grow, and we’ve been thrilled with the overwhelmingly positive response to these programs. To ensure that these programs are sustainable for our operations, we will evaluate program pricing and how we plan these programs for the nature center profession.

5. Plan for and fund a strategic planning process

We set our current strategic plan in 2018 and designed the plan to extend through 2025. As we approach next year, we will evaluate working with a facilitator/consultant to help us with our next strategic planning process.

6. Determine priorities for organizational relationships

We maintain connections with other national and regional organizations adjacent to the nature center profession. We also see growth opportunities in this area, and will outline how we can best intentionally cultivate relationships with other organizations.

7. Develop a new leadership transition plan

Planning for leadership transition is important for any organization. Our current leadership transition plan was established before ANCA hired remote staff across the US, and we have since changed significantly in our operations.

8. Develop programming about ANCA member organizations partnering with marginalized groups in successful ways

Many ANCA member organizations have partnered with groups or organizations from marginalized communities and identities (e.g., BIPOC, LGBTQ+, disabled communities). We want to elevate these partnerships and share how other ANCA members may learn from them.

9. Review the ANCA Equity Audit and accordingly develop resources for ANCA members

In 2022 ANCA conducted an audit of equitable practices and policies at nature centers and outdoor schools throughout North America. We have previously shared data from the ANCA Culture Survey & Equity Audit, and we now aim to develop resources for ANCA members specifically based on the findings from the Equity Audit.

10. Determine capacity for ANCA Peer Consults

A unique service in our profession, ANCA Peer Consults allow client organizations to receive expert guidance from ANCA members in the field. Demand for ANCA Peer Consults has increased since 2021, and this service requires a significant time investment from our small team. Moving forward, we will establish our capacity for how many Peer Consults we can provide within a year.

11. Develop new resources for Peer Consult team leaders and members

As Peer Consults have increased in number and more ANCA members are volunteering to contribute, we see a need to standardize and strengthen resources for team leaders and members.

12. Assess the costs and feasibility of updating the ANCA website

We built the current ANCA website in 2018. While the site remains strong for users, we need to update the technology on the back-end of the website. Our goal is to update the website this upcoming fiscal year, which begins on July 1.


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