As prairie enthusiasts, why do we do what we do? This is one of the challenging questions that was discussed at the recent leadership retreat.
This is a good question for you to look at as well. Knowing the answer helps to inspire and focus your efforts to protect and restore prairies and savannas.
With this question, we are looking towards the future of The Prairie Enthusiasts (TPE) and the next strategic planning process. Where does TPE want to go over the next five years… and longer? Knowing why we do this work, and why we are inspired by it, helps us to achieve our long term goals. As prairie enthusiasts, we are lucky our name is right on target. We have a good idea of where we are going and how we want to get there. A lot of it is about our enthusiasm for all that prairies provide.
The retreat took place at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve Visitor Center, near La Farge, Wisconsin on Saturday September 28. We were lucky to be in such a beautiful place and fortunately had missed all the flooding. It was a facilitated process by the Conservation Consulting Group and Nancy Moore did a great job facilitating and keeping us on target.
About 36 chapter members attended the retreat and much enthusiasm was generated throughout the day. Each participant was appreciated for their input and ideas. There were two to three people from each chapter, some with titles such as Senior Ecologist, Chapter Ecologist, Communication Liaison, Board Representative and President. Another attendee had great notoriety after having given 8 prairie tours last summer. Some participants attended simply as landowners and were not affiliated directly with any chapter. Given the interest in pursuing landowner services by TPE members and some chapters, their input was also greatly appreciated.
The retreat started with someone from each chapter delegated to answer three questions: What does complete success look like for your chapter? What is one big obstacle standing in your way? What might be your next move to address this obstacle? This provided input that was used to draft questions for further strategic discussion later in the day. Some emerging themes involved recruiting the next generation of organizational leadership, how do we distinguish ourselves from other land trusts, and how to we foster great communication amongst chapters.
It is clear that we do a lot of these things very well already. This was supported by our recent Land Trust Accreditation, which is a form of rigorous proof that we are using best practices to achieve our land protection, financial management, good governance, and conservation excellence. Even the way we engage volunteers across our three states in prairie conservation work has been given commendations by LTA.
During lunch, Scott Fulton, TPE's President, gave a presentation highlighting the financial portrait of TPE and our accomplishments over the past three years. The presentation include information on how our financial system allocates income and expense between the Chapters and the Chapter Support portion of TPE. Many participants were impressed to see in graph form how and where the organization spends it time and dollars. We are doing amazing work with land protection, land management, communication, education and outreach given our budget. We are always striving to be professional and yet maintain our Grassroots Conservation in Action. There is much more we want to do in the future.
The afternoon started with an overview of what strategic planning looks like and the typical steps and process for successfully creating a new strategic plan. Then using the work of the attendees input, 6 strategic questions were posed by Nancy Moore with the Conservation Consulting Group. The attendees then gathered in small groups from different chapters to select two of the six questions and brainstorm about all the possibilities of how to address the questions.
The top two questions, which the small groups focused on, were how to engage the next generation of organizational leadership, and how to help foster greater communication and collaboration between TPE Chapters. Once each group's comments were shared, everyone had a final opportunity to share their personal commitments, which each participant intends to carry on following the retreat.
The next steps are for the participants to report back to their chapters about their experience at the retreat. During the same time TPE's Executive Committee will continue this process by supporting TPE Board Chair Scott Fulton and Executive Director Chris Kirkpatrick's annual round of chapter visits this winter. The vision is to take the results of the retreat and have follow-up meetings to start our strategic planning process. Thanks to everyone who attended and for all you do for TPE's mission.