Case Study:

National Marine Sanctuary Foundation

THE CLIENT

The U.S. Congress established the National Marine Sanctuary     System in 1972 as a critical response to the myriad threats facing the ocean.

Envisioned to play a meaningful role in marine conservation, as well as in preserving and celebrating American heritage and history, enhancing recreation, and supporting livelihoods and economies, the National Marine Sanctuary System has grown to 15 sites encompassing more than 600,000 square miles—larger than all the national parks combined.

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is a leading voice for these U.S. protected waters, working with communities to conserve and expand those special places for a healthy ocean, coasts and Great Lakes. Working together, the Foundation safeguards species and the places they call home and preserves America’s maritime resources.

Highlights

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Expanding the Footprint

The National Marine Sanctuary System has grown to encompass more than 600,000 square miles—larger than all the national parks combined.

Hands-On Involvement

The Foundation moved beyond the role of fiscal manager of Federal awards to being directly involved in raising philanthropic funds and cultivating stewards of our natural world.

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Long-term Focus

Focusing on the real world impact the Foundation was seeking, we built consensus and created support and momentum for long term sustainability and relevance.

The Challenges

In early 2018, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, the only national nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting our nation’s national marine sanctuaries, engaged Schultz & Williams to create its next three-year strategic plan. The challenges we faced were threefold:

  1. Create a plan to increase and diversify funding to support the conservation of our national marine sanctuaries.
  2. Identify and articulate a new, broader and more impactful vision for the Foundation than we attempted in the past.
  3. Find a path toward real programmatic prioritization for an organization with a mandate to serve both national and local interests.

With the arrival of Kris Sarri as the new president and CEO in 2016, the Foundation and its Board understood that they had the opportunity to challenge themselves, and the marine sanctuaries and monuments they served, to move beyond the role of fiscal manager of Federal awards to a foundation that is more directly involved in raising philanthropic funds to protect national marine sanctuaries and monuments, inviting people to work with the Foundation to be stewards of these treasured places. For Kris Sarri, this meant:

Much like national parks, national marine sanctuaries are held in trust for the American people. They are ours to protect and the challenges that face them are all of ours to overcome. All of us, no matter where we live, depend on the health of our ocean. The Foundation’s role is to engage people with a stake in the health of our ocean to protect their place in it. That requires inviting people to work with us as stewards. Schultz & Williams helped us define what a more national posture could look like and what specific actions we needed to accomplish to achieve our vision.

The Solutions

The key to our successful planning process was the creation of a Planning Task Force which included members from the senior staff, several constituent groups like sanctuary leaders and partners as well as the Chair of the Board and the Chief of Staff at the Office of Marine Sanctuaries.

A collaborative and iterative process to identify a clear and compelling vision and mission from among this broad constituency might have been cumbersome and confusing. Instead, by focusing on the real world impact that the Foundation was seeking, we were able to build consensus and create excitement, support and momentum for long term sustainability and relevance. Today, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is in the process of implementing a number of critical new initiatives to achieve their long term vision:

National marine sanctuaries and monuments—our wondrous protected waters—teeming with life and inspiring a proud community of stewards for our ocean coasts and Great Lakes.

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