Our retreat venue: Westcott Bay Shellfish Farm

When you read this, I—along with the rest of the Preservation Trust staff and nearly all of our Trustees—will just have emerged from an intensive two-day retreat focused on strategic planning for SJPT’s future, held at the beautiful Westcott Bay Shellfish Farm on San Juan Island.

The last time the Preservation Trust went through a formal strategic planning process was back in 2010. In the nonprofit world, there’s a rule of thumb that says organizations should step back to envision their desired future, and translate this vision into broad goals and a sequence of steps to achieve them (which is the definition of strategic planning) once every three to five years.

By that standard, we’re a few years overdue for a strategic “checkup.” Plus, SJPT is turning 40 next year, and big, round-numbered birthday years are traditional occasions when we pause and reflect on where we’ve been and where we want to go, whether as individuals or as organizations. For all these reasons, strategic planning has been high on my priority list since the day I started as the San Juan Preservation Trust’s new executive director in February. In fact, it had been a high priority for SJPT since before I joined.

All to say that everyone on SJPT’s board and staff has been anticipating the retreat on September 28 and 29 for a long time.

We’re going into it prepared with a mountain of data that will inform our thinking:

  • Each board and staff member has completed an assigned list of thought-provoking reading assignments.
  • Board and staff members have interviewed 40-some “stakeholders” in our island communities, asking for their thoughts on the Preservation Trust’s strengths, weaknesses, and areas where new opportunities may lie. We sought a diverse sampling of interview subjects engaged in the areas of agriculture, water management, scientific research, education, housing, parks, and trails-advocacy groups, along with some long-time SJPT supporters.
  • We also conducted an online survey that asks questions about how the Preservation Trust is perceived, how different aspects of our mission rate in importance, and how SJPT’s conservation activities could align with broader community needs. More than 300 people have taken the survey (if you haven’t yet, it’s not too late). The results so far are both affirming and challenging. We will be sharing some highlights with you later.

Our September retreat is just the kickoff for a planning process that will unfold over the next several months.

We are embarking on the process with open minds, and don’t know yet exactly what the outcome will look like. One thing we DO know, however, is that the San Juan Preservation Trust will remain essentially what it has been since its founding in 1979: a powerful force in the San Juan Islands for conserving, protecting, and caring for the landscapes and natural systems that make these islands unique and beloved, now and for all generations (human and otherwise) to come.