President's Letter - December - "There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stai



"There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs," according to Zig Ziglar. A plainer version of the same idea is the axiom, "you gotta crawl before you walk." Twenty-five years of experience running nonprofits makes me believe this is as true for organizations as it is for individuals. Certain fundamentals need to be in place before any organization can achieve and make sustainable increasingly complex undertakings.

This is especially true for an organization like ours that exists to serve its members through fellowship, advocacy, communication and education. (There is a great mnemonic here about the breadth of our mission: FACE). That's a really broad mission given our current annual budget of about $60,000 and a staff person who is hired for 10 hours of work per week. By almost any standard, we are still an all-volunteer organization and the volunteers are stretched thin, juggling busy professional lives and family responsibilities. Fundamentally, we still have some steps to climb and that fact was revealed in a membership survey about our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that was circulated about this time last year.

That survey, which was quite complimentary about our lectures and this newsletter, among other things, also indicated a need for us to streamline and focus our activities, to better engage our members and to improve our website. These ideas found their way into our strategic plan along with some things that, for some, might not seem all that strategic, but to me, seemed fundamental: better integrating the use of cloud technology into our work, most importantly, implementing software that will allow us to better manage sponsorship and membership, the proceeds from which comprise 75% of our revenues.

The main elements of the 2016 Strategic Plan, which I reviewed at the Annual Awards Gala, and their current status, along with updated objectives for 2017, are shown in the table below. We’ve made good progress on most of our 2016 objectives. In January, we will tie the 2017 objectives to a new budget and calendar, which we will circulate for your review. In the meantime, I'd welcome your thoughts about this statement of progress and plans:

Goal 1 - Manage Responsibly

  • Streamline the number of programs & events:

  • Eliminated Orioles game, several happy hours

  • New policy on ad hoc requests for event support

  • 2017 Objective- Calendar of proposed 2017 activities to be circulated to membership for feedback in Jan. 2017

  • ​Better-integrate the use of cloud technology into our work

  • ​Adopted Wave, free-online accounting software

  • Purchased Akubo, online sponsorship, membership, event & communications software

  • ​​2017 Objective - Develop customized help materials & train new ED, committee chairs on use

  • Continue to provide value for our sponsor

  • Looked at ways of enhancing ROI, relationships, visibility

  • Continued sponsor recognition event

  • ​​2017 Objective - Conduct one-on-one meetings

  • ​​2017 Objective - Continue sponsor recognition event

  • Diversify and manage revenue stream

  • Created sponsor & member databases in Akubo & series of communications for each

  • Plans to solicit members for projects like ASLA Green Roof, Student Scholarships and Fellowship

  • ​​2017 Objective - Meet established goals of 5% increase in members and 20% increase in sponsors

  • 2017 Objective - Use new Akubo software to create a monthly dashboard for board to track progress on goals

  • 2017 Objective - Implement solicitation of members in March 2017

  • ​​​Better coordinate our work on elevating members as Fellows and integrating them into the work of the chapter

  • 2017 Objective - Add a Standing Committee on Fellows and make the Trustee the chair

  • Ensure that the perspectives of junior professionals and the public sector are represented

  • 2017 Objective - Nominate a Junior Professional to board membership

  • 2017 Objective - Nominate a Public Sector rep to board membership

Goal 2 - Educate Responsibly

  • Survey the membership about future educational programming

  • Completed last spring

  • Highlights included programming around stormwater, which led to the Fall Stormwater Tour, & native specie

  • 2017 Objective - Continue the Victor Stanley Lecture Series

  • 2017 Objective - Continue the Stormwater Tour

  • 2017 Objective - Host a showing of the film, “Hometown Habitat”

  • Host a spring 2017 day-long "conference" of CEU offerings

  • Research completed and reviewed by board

  • 2017 Objective - Committee chaired by Larissa Torres to plan conference to be held day after Annual Awards Gala

Goal 3 - Communicate Effectively

  • Add new website pages dedicated to advocacy, member benefits, & the diversity of the profession in MD

  • Extensive planning has been done and implementation is underway

  • 2017 Objective - Review Google analytics on new web pages to evaluate effectiveness

  • Develop a strategy for making Embark, a sustainable part of our work annually

  • Ad hoc Committee chaired by Om Khurjeker made recommendations, which the board is discussing

  • 2017 Objective - Appoint board committee to implement new strategy on Embark

Goal 4 - Advocate and Partner Strategically

  • Continue to press the State to adopt regulations on CEUs

  • Town Hall Meeting being planned for February 2017

  • 2017 Objective - Host Town Hall meetings in connection with Advocacy Day in February

  • Connect with a handful of allied professional and similar organizations who can help us promote and strengthen the practice of landscape architecture in MD

  • ​Extensive list developed and prioritized in 2016

  • 2017 Objective - Implement outreach in accordance with prioritized list.

The progress and plans outlined above would not have been possible without the dedicated members of our board and our Executive Director, you – our members – who have engaged with the Chapter in various ways throughout the year, and our sponsors. For every $1 we all spend on membership in the Md. Chapter, we get back $1.20 in services in the areas of fellowship, advocacy, communication and education. That 20% return on investment is largely owing to what our sponsors do for us. And the upshot here is that we all are in this together. We’re climbing a staircase depending on each other for the good judgment, hard work, and support that it takes to reach the top.

Here’s hoping your holidays are filled with rest, relaxation and good cheer. As always, if there is something that the chapter or I can do to help you, please contact me at barbara@neighborspacebaltimorecounty.org or at 443-377-3760.


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