GWS Strategic Statement, 2008–2012

GWS Strategic Planning

The main guiding document of the Society is our Strategic Statement, which is revised by the Board of Directors at least every five years.  It functions identically to a strategic plan, but is, by design, shorter, and emphasizes specific goals and benchmarks for success.

The current Strategic Statement is reproduced below.  It explains the strategic directions we are currently following.  We welcome feedback from members on any aspect of the Strategic Statement.


George Wright Society Strategic Statement, 2008–2012


Founded in 1980, The George Wright Society is organized for the purposes of promoting the application of knowledge, fostering communication, improving resource management, and providing information to improve public understanding and appreciation of the basic purposes of natural and cultural parks and equivalent reserves. The Society is dedicated to the protection, preservation, and management of cultural and natural parks and reserves through research and education.

The George Wright Society advances the scientific and heritage values of parks and protected areas. The Society promotes professional research and resource stewardship across natural and cultural disciplines, provides avenues of communication, and encourages public policies that embrace these values.

The Society strives to be the premier organization connecting people, places, knowledge, and ideas to foster excellence in natural and cultural resource management, research, protection, and interpretation in parks and equivalent reserves.



1. Enhance fiscal solvency while actively seeking to expand our financial, governance, and administrative capacities so that we are in a position to seize new opportunities when they arise. (Leads: Finance and Development Committees)


  1. Create a Board Development and Recruitment Strategy that proactively identifies needs of the GWS and matches them to the skills of existing and potential Board members. Identify and if feasible engage in professionally facilitated Board development seminars.
  2. Develop a Staff Capacity Strategy that identifies the organization’s vision the executive office, along with new and expanded activities that would be possible with optimal staffing. Identify and if feasible engage in professionally facilitated employee development seminars.
  3. Commission a Financial Review by a qualified CPA firm sometime during the 2008–2012 period, and once every four years thereafter. Continue to adhere to the GWS Investment Strategy and review annually for any needed changes.
  4. Identify new possibilities for building the GWS 30th Anniversary Fund (e.g., bequest planning kits for Life Members, investigate NEH challenge grants for endowment, etc.).
  5. Bi-annually review membership and conference fee structure. Survey membership and conference fees for comparable organizations and review/revise GWS fee structures accordingly to maintain adequate financial resources for baseline activities.
  6. Explore grant opportunities for all actions items in this Strategic Statement.

Benchmarks of success

  • Board contains an identifiable mix of skills and connections, consonant with the Board Development and Recruitment Strategy.
  • Future executive office needs are clearly identified, and form key parts of overall GWS fundraising efforts.
  • CPA Financial Review reveals that the GWS is fiscally sound, and that bookkeeping is adhering to SFAS (Statement of Financial Accounting Standards) #117, Financial Statements of Not-for-Profit Organizations.
  • GWS receives bequests from members’ estates, and grants to the 30th Anniversary Fund.
  • Receipts from memberships and conferences maintain basic services and cover conference costs.
  • GWS receives an increase in grant support for targeted activities.


2. Build membership. Membership in the GWS is widely considered a “must” for park and protected area professionals. (Lead: Development Committee)


  1. Develop a membership profile that, for the first time, gives the Board a complete picture of who our members are, why they joined, what benefits they feel they get from being a member, and what their priorities for the organization are.
  2. Produce (via the Development Committee) a comprehensive membership development strategy.
  3. Expand the Development Committee to include non-Board GWS members from target audiences (e.g., non-natural resource professionals, people in non-NPS agencies, citizen scientists, students, etc.).
  4. With the membership profile in hand, produce a comprehensive membership development strategy that includes: (A) a systematic method for identifying members who wish to volunteer for GWS tasks, such as a job sign-up list; (B) a new member recruitment toolkit, including things such as a GWS PowerPoint or digital video (podcast) overviews, GWS logo t-shirts, bookmarks, etc.); (C) means to actively promote membership in specific categories; (D) a target for total member numbers and youth/minority composition; and (E) a review of membership categories and recommendations (if any) for revision.

Benchmarks of success

  • Non-Board members from target audiences take an active role on the Development Committee.
  • Membership profile produced within one year of adoption of this strategic statement.
  • Comprehensive membership development strategy produced within the following year.


3. Increase the visibility and connectedness of the organization so that GWS is better known to the audiences we wish to reach — make GWS “the NPR of protected areas.” (Lead: Outreach Committee)


  1. Create a new Outreach Committee of the whole Board to carry out this strategic direction.
  2. Continue close relationship with IUCN; seek to expand involvement with ICOMOS. Seek strategic alliances with advocacy NGOs such as National Parks Conservation Association and Coalition of National Park Retirees, etc., and professional associations such as American Society for Environmental History, American Society of Landscape Architects, Natural Areas Association, Society for Conservation Biology, etc., when consonant with GWS’s non-partisan mission. When possible, make sure GWS has a presence at major national and international meetings, such as the World Conservation Congress, World Wilderness Congress, etc.
  3. Renew efforts to reach out to potential growth audiences in non-NPS agencies, such as state park agencies, tribal governments, NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries, BLM’s National Landscape Conservation System, TNC, etc.
  4. Leverage special publicity opportunities, such as Burns film series, to increase visibility and membership (e.g., Haas grant).
  5. Update website and expand reach of Forum, as detailed below.
  6. Issue GWS press releases and non-partisan statements on relevant resource issues affecting parks and protected areas, as appropriate.

Benchmarks of success

  • Outreach Committee identifies allied associations we wish to develop relationships with, and makes specific recommendations for the above action items, such as creating a means to post meeting notices of these associations, identifying GWS members with cross-memberships in them who are willing to take GWS literature to their conferences, exploring special registration rates for their members, etc.
  • Maintain executive director’s membership in IUCN World Commission of Protected Areas, and encourage other GWS members to join WCPA. Send GWS representatives to ICOMOS meetings and others, as circumstances allow.
  • Increased membership from non-NPS agencies.
  • Increased recognition of George Wright and GWS in period surrounding Burns’ film release.
  • Material from The George Wright Forum is increasingly cited in research papers and management documents, and unique visits to the GWS website continue to increase, as noted below.


4. Continue to develop the GWS’s role as a leading convener and facilitator of conferences on parks, protected areas, and cultural sites. (Leads: Conference and Development Committees; staff)


  1. Maintain and enhance the GWS biennial conference as the USA’s premier interdisciplinary professional meeting on parks, protected areas, and cultural sites. Continually seek new topics and new presentation methods to keep the meeting dynamic. Enhance support of key partners, including aggressively pursuing NPS cultural resource support. Continue to request sessions on Mexican and Canadian parks. Explore possibility of doing web broadcasts of plenary sessions.
  2. Expand the George Melendez Wright Student Travel Scholarship program and the Native Participant Travel Grant program.
  3. Evaluate feasibility and opportunities for additional GWS-convened symposia in off-conference years. Develop roster of key issues that might form the topics of such symposia. Consider separate Symposia Committee to address these smaller conferences and their format, undistracted from planning for the biennial conference.
  4. Continue to raise the organization’s profile by facilitating and potentially co-sponsoring selected non-GWS meetings on parks, as staff time allows (this function is known as “GWS Conferencing Services”).
  5. Seek ways to minimize the environmental impact of all conferences and symposia GWS convenes or otherwise helps organize, including exploring virtual conferencing technologies.
  6. Use carbon footprint calculators to proxy-measure the environmental impact of GWS conference activity, and then take steps to reduce our footprint.

Benchmarks of success

  • The biennial GWS conferences continue to be successful in bringing natural, cultural, and social science disciplines to bear on protected area management, as demonstrated by continued strong attendance, positive evaluations, and fiscal soundness. Any off-conference symposia convened by GWS meet this standard as well.
  • The GMW Student Travel Scholarship encourages recipients to pursue careers in park-related fields, as determined by follow-up questionnaires sent to previous winners.
  • The Native Participant Travel Grant enhances the knowledge and ability of recipients to do their work, as evidenced by positive follow-up evaluations.
  • GWS Conferencing Services promotes the organization through logo placement, acknowledgment by conference organizers, and positive feedback from conference participants and organizers.
  • GWS conferences use environmentally sound facilities and cost-effective sustainable practices to minimize environmental impacts while maintaining a high-quality conference experience for participants.

5. Enhance the quality and expand the influence of the GWS’s publications so that they are seen as a principal clearinghouse for information about protected area research and management (Leads: Publications Committee; staff)


  1. Continue to upgrade the quality of material published in The George Wright Forum, with special emphasis on the NPS Centennial Essays. Ensure that each issue has articles of interest to a variety of audiences. Expand the influence of the Forum by having it indexed by at least one major on-line indexing service.
  2. Overhaul the GWS website so that it conforms to the latest HTML advances. Make the information-rich content of the site easier to access. Increase the interactivity of the website by exploring possibilities for blogging, adding wiki functionality, etc.
  3. As opportunities arise, produce special publications, either as sole publisher, joint publisher, or provider of content to outside publishers.
  4. Seek the most cost-effective ways to produce other GWS publications, such as the GWS conference proceedings, Board election notices, etc.

Benchmarks of success

  • Material from The George Wright Forum is increasingly cited in research papers and management documents.
  • Unique visits to the GWS website continue to increase, especially in periods away from the biennial conferences.
  • Material from GWS special publications is cited in research papers, management documents, book reviews, etc.
  • Reduce cost of producing the GWS conference proceedings. Establish electronic balloting for GWS Board positions.

6. Establish the GWS as a leader in promoting diversity within professions dealing with research in and management of parks, protected areas, and cultural sites. (Leads: Student Development and Native Participant Travel Grant Subcommittees)


  1. Situate the GMW Student Travel Scholarships, Native Participant Travel Grant, and PARK BREAK programs within a larger, comprehensive strategy for increasing diversity in protected area professions, with a focus on youth and minorities. Build a culture of commitment to the professions among youth and minorities.
  2. Use the ex-officio student Board member and student committee members to recruit youth, especially minority youth.
  3. Explore other ways to promote protected areas as a career to youth and minorities (e.g., collaborate with recruitment efforts by members’ agencies, host mini-job fairs, establish weblink to on-line occupational briefs from Chronicle Guidance and others, conduct/commission polls of protected area employees and feed this info to NPS and others).
  4. Establish Best Student Presentation Award at the GWS conference and advertise among academic community.
  5. Create feedback /evaluation mechanisms for each of our diversity programs.

Benchmarks of success

  • GMW Student Travel Scholarship and PARK BREAK recipients enter into careers in parks, protected areas, and cultural sites, as evidenced by follow-up queries to past winners. The Native Participant Travel Grant enhances the knowledge and ability of recipients to do their work, as evidenced by positive follow-up evaluations.
  • Monitor and quantify ex-officio student Board member’s recruitment efforts.
  • Development Committee reports back to Board on feasibility of additional recruitment efforts.
  • Best Student Presentation Award encourages students to submit presentations for the GWS Conference, as evidenced by responses to evaluation questionnaire.