Taking a Look at Your Friends
Friends Forward April 2014
Is your Friends organization brand new? Going strong and growing? Or fading and losing its way? Understanding and managing the life cycles of a nonprofit organization was a key topic in the new “Reinvigorating Your Friends Partnership” webinar held in February. Other sessions included outreach, strategic planning, communications and motivating volunteers.
“Understanding life cycles is extremely relevant to our Friends right now,” says national Friends coordinator Joanna Webb. “Many have been established for a long time and aren’t aware that periods of growth and decline are part of a normal process that can be managed.”
If your Friends group is unproductive, there are steps you can take. A life cycle pattern tailored for Friends organizations (click here) includes seven stages – originating idea, start-up, growth, maturity, decline, turnaround, terminal.
Using the Life Cycle Road Map
Hart says Friends of Tualatin River was in a state of decline about six years ago. “I didn’t know if we would survive.” The demands of a new visitor center and a decision to expand environmental education and habitat restoration projects helped turn the group around. A new refuge manager and new board members have brought new ideas and vision.
“We are in the mature stage again,” says Hart. “We have developed goals and objectives with individual board members responsible for each goal. Now we need more resources to continue expanding.”
We’re Not Alone
“We have a problem recruiting new board members and some of our members thought that was unique to us,” said Price. Although Price feared his group might be in danger of decline, he says this year’s 75th anniversary and a new auto tour should “help us loop back into the growth stage.” One key to reinvigorating the Friends of Little Pend Oreille was developing a partnership with the local Rotary Club, which has a focus on bike safety. A special event is planned this summer for a family bike ride on the new auto route with Rotary promoting bike safety and providing some helmets.
Staff and Friends at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin also see themselves at a crossroads, says visitor services manager Katie Goodwin. “There is no shortfall of passion or dedication, but the working board is maxed out on time and commitment.” As a result of the Reinvigorating Friends webinar, Friends and staff scheduled a retreat to step away from day-to-day needs to focus on the future. “Everyone agrees on our current state and is willing to talk about the options for moving forward.”
The Friends of Las Vegas Refuge felt stretched after the refuge became a complex with the addition of Rio Mora and Maxwell National Wildlife Refuges. Refuge park ranger Debbie Pike said the Friends used a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis to help a “struggling group of people discover their potential as a reinvigorated Friends group” – and then discovered that this type of analysis was taught during the webinar. “That further equipped our Friends to put the pieces together to make a model Friends group for the Refuge System.”