Behind the Scenes at Asombro: Planning for a New Year
By Stephanie Bestelmeyer
“Every time you tear a leaf off a calendar, you present a new place for ideas and progress.” -Charles Kettering
I was recently talking with a long-time Asombro donor who asked me an interesting question:
When there is so much to do to improve New Mexico’s education system and help people learn to care more for the natural world, how do you decide what to do next?
He was surprised to hear about the lengthy and detailed process Asombro uses for setting our goals and objectives each year. After explaining the process to him, I thought many of you might also be interested in getting a behind-the-scenes look at planning for a new year.
For the last 15 years, our annual strategic planning process has involved three steps:
Step 1: Staff brainstorming, dreaming, and planning
It takes a very special kind of person to work at a nonprofit, and Asombro is fortunate to have an office full of these wonderful folks! Not only do Rink, Stephanie, Ryan, Rachel, and Dakota work tirelessly to make the world a better place, they also think deeply about how we can constantly improve our services. Therefore, the logical people to begin planning for the new year are our staff members.
We begin working during weekly staff meetings, but our largest effort comes at a daylong retreat. Over lots of coffee and a scrumptious lunch (this year from Chachi’s), we spend the day at my house discussing and planning the new year. At the end of the day, we have a draft list of priorities, goals, and specific objectives to help us reach those goals.
Step 2: Board of Directors planning retreat
While most people are finishing their holiday shopping and decorating, Asombro’s incredible Board of Directors spends an entire Saturday in December setting the goals, objectives, and budget for the upcoming year.
This year, we met at Salud! de Mesilla for a day of discussions, laughter, and work. We fine-tune the draft objectives list prepared by the staff and then work to make sure we have a budget in place to meet our goals. In 2019, we ended up with three major goals, 16 objectives, and 95 (!) specific tasks to help us meet them (see below for a sneak peek at a few of them).
Step 3: Making specific plans and timelines for each objective
Although many organizations’ strategic plans sit on a shelf for the majority of the year, Asombro’s plan is an active document we use weekly. This begins in early January when the staff puts together a specific strategy for each item, including all the steps needed to make it happen, deadlines, and the staff member who will shepherd the project to its completion. I’m not going to lie – this step is hard! I think all staff members leave this meeting feeling a bit overwhelmed by all there is to do. However, we are also excited to get started on ideas that we started dreaming about months ago.
One dream we are pursuing in 2019 is continuing to assist New Mexico teachers with implementation of the new science education standards. This will include tasks such as continuing our successful education programs like the Desert Data Jam, Stepping Out for Science Inquiry, and Desert Stories; hosting teacher workshops; and continuing to develop engaging classroom lessons and field trips that align with the new standards.
In addition, we will focus even more this year on providing innovative outdoor learning opportunities for youth and adults. This will include updating our Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park field trip program, bringing back our holiday luminaria event, testing a regular schedule at the Nature Park when staff members are on site to answer questions, and partnering with other groups who share our goal of getting more people out into the desert.
If you’re interested in hearing more about our full list of ideas for the new year, please contact me. 2019 presents a new time and place for ideas and progress, and I can’t wait to get started!
Stephanie Bestelmeyer is the Executive Director of Asombro. She has been with the organization since 2000 and has a doctorate in Biology from Colorado State University.