Nature Center Issues & Solutions: A roundtable of ideas & answers
Thursday, November 7, 2013
An informative and collaborative roundtable discussion about issues, trends, and problem solving at nature centers and visitor centers.
NCDA Roundtable Topics 11/7/13
We divided the following topics into four categories: 1. Being a small part of a larger organization… 2. Revenue building opportunities 3.Training for Managers-What skills do you need; what skills/training do you wish you had before being promoted? How can NAI help provide needed training for current and future leaders? 4. Involving volunteers/getting cooperation between multiple agencies and partners
Staff issues-not playing nicely, keeping them motivated, lessen turnover
How to serve nature centers (research, get funding, give help) Rob Bixler’s consulting offer
Creative Ways to raise revenue- Kohl’s Dept. Store-Go Green Events, Nancy Bernard
Problems with Partnerships-making partnerships work
Volunteers-getting out accurate information, how they can help connect community & site, staffing for right times-Heather Stapleton email@example.com
Exhibits-how to make hands-on but not have vandalism occur
Ideas for existing facilities and new facilities Heather Stapleton firstname.lastname@example.org
Marketing-visitation, outreach, getting under-served groups
Communicating your part to a larger organization, getting recognition
Interpretive Planning Help-no time to research different strategies
Evaluation with no time and no money
1. Being a small part of a larger organization…
Outdoor Rec department is trying to convey info-but not done well or correctly.
Cross train employees
Help leadership look at the kids and make sure to meet all their learning needs
Look for nature centers in your area who you could partner with to help you train
Make sure the managers (if they do support your programs) come to the training to say they support, send letter to staff, give certificates to highlight it
Help them use gorilla interpretation for example: if someone asks where the bathroom is, answer “It’s over there next to the 300 year old Douglas Fir”-sneaky, but it helps get info out there
Connect with a local official who can write recommendations to help you
Get in front of other department heads to tell them what you do
Get in front of different staff trainings with your mission
Do some case studies and write it up so it becomes part of your organization’s literature
2. Budget and Revenue issues
Kohls Community-Go Green Events-send Kohls help and give money
25 parties at affluent homes: This involves less staff time, but more coordination. A ticket fee is charged for each of the events.
Hold Golf tournaments
Create special evening events-something that happens outside the normal park hours
Create special winter activities-lit up the mangrove trail and people could canoe through the path
Contact the Title 1 coordinators in school districts to see if there is money
Get item donations to then sell. One site had rain Barrels donated to the Foundation/Friends group and were selling those. Paid extra to get the local high school to paint them.
Hold holiday themed, fee based events such as Pumpkin carving and a jack-o-lantern trail
A group was starting a nature center with interpretation in inner city Annapolis: A Foundation started it and ½ of all their funds went into the account and couldn’t be spent. Built in phases so could afford it.
Begin with programming that uses few materials and maximizes your time.
3. Training for Managers
Develop partnerships with Harvard business Review folks
Seek training grants to offer members
Hand out resource guide of blogs, list serves that send out weekly leadership tips (Example…HBR, Jon Gordon, Mark Sanborn, Great Leadership Carnival, Employee from Hell)
Use Epply Institute Resources
Define what resources are already out there (ANCA, Duke Non Profit Management Module, community college models)
Topics such as: HR training, how to develop boards, friends groups, budgeting, performance issues, marketing, budgeting, how to negotiate, risk management, how to price programs, mediation, how to write a business plan.
Management Book Club
Find Peer Mentors for check ins
4. Involving volunteers/getting cooperation between multiple agencies and partners Threads & concerns:
communication between agencies and volunteers (sometimes competing for resources)
diminishing availability of volunteers when needed (ex. mornings with school groups)
reliance on “volunteer” volunteer coordination vs. FT/paid positions to manage volunteers
retention of volunteers and support of volunteer resources
interagency coordination of goals & objectives (can often be different and not on same page)
Items asked for:
place to post successful agency/volunteer experiences and outcomes
resource list for volunteer/agency standards or best practices