To provide a safe haven for 17 African elephants, the Dallas Zoo this year demonstrated impressive leadership and collaboration with conservation officials in Swaziland, Southern Africa, and with two other accredited U.S. facilities. The elephants had destroyed trees and other vegetation in the managed parks where they lived, making the land uninhabitable for more critically endangered rhinos.
As a result, Swaziland managers planned to kill the elephants in order to focus on rhino conservation. Through a collaborative conservation effort, the elephants were flown instead to the U.S. aboard a chartered 747 jet in a carefully planned operation, arriving on March 11, 2016.
All three U.S. partner zoos—Dallas Zoo; Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE.; and Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, KS.—have expansive new habitats that set the standard for an advanced way of managing elephants in human care, allowing for socialization, herd behavior and extensive walking. Public support for the rescue has been overwhelming, given the critical situation in the animals’ native land. African elephants face many threats, ranging from human encroachment on their habitat to extreme poaching, which claims the lives of nearly 100 elephants every day.
S&W is incredibly proud to partner with clients that are doing extraordinary mission-driven work. Our clients demonstrate outstanding leadership within their respective fields. In celebration of Thanksgiving, S&W is grateful for the many ways our clients make the world a better place for all—people, animals and our planet—through conservation efforts.
For nonprofit organizations, there is perhaps no more exciting, emotional and nerve-wracking time than the transition from start-up mode to full flight. This is when an organization shifts away from the largely personality-driven stage that is fueled by the founder’s blood, sweat and tears and moves into a more formal stage. The acknowledgement that a nonprofit—its mission, impact and potential legacy—is much bigger than any one individual presents a significant opportunity for transformation.
But in most cases, this doesn’t just happen. It’s not easy to admit that you are, in fact, dispensable. It takes a founder who thoughtfully considers the situation, assesses his/her role and then gracefully enables the organization to fully embrace a new beginning. Gathering the courage and humility to step aside, a founder can make the necessary space for a new leader to succeed with the collective support of a fully empowered and engaged Board.
For one inspiring example of how a founder is effectively navigating this tricky terrain, see the TedxTalk from Carrie Maria, founder of Monster Milers, a shelter dog running club and rescue organization.
Carrie realized that for Monster Milers to thrive, it needed a more robust organization and a layered governance structure, which would require some careful planning. So in September of 2016, Monster Milers engaged Schultz & Williams to assist with governance planning. We were pleased to guide them through this six-month process of “conscious uncoupling”—a purposeful approach to positioning Monster Milers to flourish with redefined leadership roles.
Through this process, a small volunteer task force worked with Carrie to formalize the Board structure by updating its by-laws, increasing the number of Board members from two to nine and adding clear role descriptions for the Board’s officers and members. The task force focused on two important thoughts: (1) we want to do this transition right, taking the necessary time to think things through, and (2) we want to ensure that the members of the Board are capable and committed to the mission.
Carrie arrived at this hard decision through self-reflection and a realistic acknowledgement of her limits. However, for many founders, knowing when to let go is not instinctual. Nonprofits often find themselves trying to keep things together, meet commitments and maintain the status quo. But they must raise this question: “Is the status quo good enough?” Determining the answer to that question can lead the founder and the Board to a shared understanding, ultimately positioning the organization to unleash its full potential.