National Wildlife Refuge System

Do You Know Where Your Friends Group is Headed?

by Mark Musaus
White Pelecans
This squadron of American white pelicans is flying in tight formation over Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, NC. Friends boards are likely to be more successful if they have a clear mission and goals.
Credit: Jeff Lemons

I have been reading lately about mission, vision and core values. I believe these three key terms that are universal in their application to business, government or civic organizations also apply to Friends boards. With a clear mission, vision statement and defined core values, boards will find it is much easier to attract new members. More importantly, they enable a board to make important decisions.

I wonder how many Friends boards have a set of mission/vision/values that everyone can easily articulate. When I was the manager at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, our Friends had a mission statement aligned with the National Wildlife Refuge System and the refuge mission.. I used all three in presentations I gave during mentoring visits around the country.

So where are you going with this Mark? I’m glad you asked.

Mission, Customers, Value, Results, Plan

I recently read a chapter in the book Power Questions, by Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas, about an interview with Peter Drucker, the legendary pioneer and guru on management theory and practice. Drucker has also done much work in the area of non-profit boards. One of his principles is that board members must consider five questions focused upon mission, customers, value, results and a plan:

  1. What is your mission?
    • A mission statement helps determine who you are and then challenges you to do what you say.
  2. Which are the most important relationships (customers)?
    • For a refuge Friends group, I would think this is pretty obvious, but this kind of question might help identify potential partnering organizations.
  3. What are the essential priorities and goals of those closest to you?
    • I suggest you need to consider the refuge/refuge staff as well as refuge visitors as customers. What are their goals and priorities? The authors ask, “What do they treasure in their relationship with you?”
  4. What results are you expecting from the people around you and what do they expect of you?
    • I hope refuge managers and Friends boards communicate often and easily, but does the board know what the manager expects of them, and vice versa?
  5. What is your plan?
    • Refuge managers have 15-year comprehensive conservation plans, often stepped down to five-year plans, and then annual work plans based on budget and staffing realities. Does the board know what they are? Does the board have its own short, medium and long-term plans? Many Friends groups are small, but others may have more people and resources and potentially more requests and expectations for assistance or participation. This is where I think planning can be most helpful.

How would you and your board answer these questions? Let the conversations begin!

Mark Musaus retired in 2012 as deputy regional director in the Southeast Region. During his long Service career, he served as Refuge System Headquarters director of the Division of Visitor Services and Communications and refuge manager at several locations.

Last updated: June 13, 2014