RS&S uses our expertise to utilize our strategic strategies and transform your organization, institution, non-profit, and business.
Virginia Zoo Case Study
The Virginia Zoo is a 53-acre Association of Zoos and Aquarium (AZA) accredited zoo located in Norfolk, Virginia. It is a city-owned and co-managed zoo with active partnership from its supporting organization partner, the Virginia Zoological Society. RS&S was engaged in 2019 to facilitate a holistic strategic planning process engaging both the public and private stakeholders.
The Virginia Zoo is a 53-acre Association of Zoos and Aquarium (AZA) accredited zoo located in Norfolk, Virginia. It is a city-owned and co-managed zoo with active partnership from its supporting organization partner, the Virginia Zoological Society.
RS&S was engaged in 2019 to facilitate a holistic strategic planning process engaging both the public and private stakeholders. This was a highly inclusive process, even with the challenge of navigating a global health pandemic in the middle of our work. Stakeholders from city government, local university partners, fellow cultural attractions, regional conservation organizations and of course, staff, donors, volunteers, and Board members played a major role throughout the process.
One critical planning issue for the Zoo addressed how to leverage its 500,000 annual visitor base to connect more to local community, particularly from under served audiences, to better catalyze community-wide action around environmental issues, particularly in the Hampton Roads region. Having such an inclusive strategic planning process with a broad range of stakeholders resulted in a clear path forward for the Zoo to not only raise the bar within the Zoo campus but also a detailed “roadmap” to position itself as a leading community resource for local education and conservation.
"On behalf of the Virginia Zoo and its Board, we want to express our gratitude and admiration for the dedication and professionalism Jill and the RS&S team have provided us during our strategic planning process. Jill’s insights and expertise were key to the success of the project. We very much look forward to further opportunities to work with Jill and RS&S."
Reid Park Zoo Case Study
The Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, Arizona engaged RS&S Managing Partner; Rick Biddle, to help draft a strategic business plan and define a new governance model...
Reid Park Zoo Case Study
With a mission “to encourage commitment to the conservation of biological diversity and to provide educational and fun experiences for visitors of all ages,” Reid Park Zoo provides a naturalistic home to hundreds of animals on a beautiful 24-acre campus.
In anticipation of the passage of a sales tax initiative that would provide dedicated funding for its operations, Reid Park Zoo identified a critical opportunity to reassess its business model, align its leadership structure and ensure maximization of the pubic investment. The Zoo established a community stakeholder Task Force and engaged Rick Biddle and Rick Barongi to help assess the situation and define actions to position the Zoo for long-term success in terms of financial viability, animal care and management and guest experience.
Up until 2018, the City of Tucson served as the Owner/Landlord for the Reid Park Zoo with overall responsibility for managing Zoo operations, including the animal collections, food operations and retail. The City of Tucson provided an annual allocation to the Zoo to supplement admissions and retail, and the Reid Park Zoological Society raised the additional funding necessary through memberships, special events, rentals, campaigns, appeals and special programming.
As part of Tucson’s Parks and Recreation Department, the Zoo was feeling the impacts of years of tight municipal budgets, cuts in staffing, deferred maintenance and delayed capital improvements. Increased complexity with regulations, sustainability issues and budgets made operating a Zoo through a City’s Parks and Recreation Department significantly more challenging over the years and, at more than 50 years old, the Zoo found itself at a critical juncture. Major improvements were required to meet modern zoo standards and improve the quality of life for the animals. Without these improvements, the Reid Park Zoo was in jeopardy of losing its national accreditation, long-term ability to house much-loved animals and financial sustainability.
Rick and Rick facilitated three task force meetings with the overall goal to develop a sustainable business model and leadership structure for the Reid Park Zoo and to facilitate the approval process for any recommended shifts in governance. Rick and Rick’s focus included helping to define strategic opportunities; establish baselines and benchmarks; consider various public-private partnership scenarios; address potential transition impacts; develop a communications strategy and key message points; and draft a governance model, sustainable business plan, employee transition plan and pro forma projections. The Task Force’s recommendation was thoughtfully considered and based on best practices of AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) institutions and successful models within the Tucson community.
After a careful assessment and analysis, the planning team provided guidance as the Task Force made a recommendation for a complete shift in governance to a new, long-term, expanded partnership between the City of Tucson and the Reid Park Zoological Society through the execution of a Management/Operating Agreement (MOA). With the City remaining as owner and landlord and the Society responsible for all governance and staff, the Zoo is now positioned to achieve its bold vision, address its pressing needs (staffing, deferred maintenance and fundraising) and embark on a path of creating a premier AZA zoological park that is accessible for all Tucson residents and a choice destination for visitors to the region.
The passage of the sales tax initiative in the fall of 2017 has dramatically altered the way in which the Zoo will receive funding and together with the MOA, is enabling Reid Park Zoo to:
Additionally, the sales tax initiative has positioned Reid Park Zoo to leverage additional private sector resources as the region’s philanthropic community continues to embrace the Zoo’s bold vision with a new confidence. In this way, vital partnerships are being created, nurtured and grown, and over time will position the Zoo to realize its vision and establish long-term financial viability and operational excellence.
“Rick Biddle and Rick Barongi provided Reid Park Zoo with the tools and roadmap to bring our community a great zoo, now and long into the future. They gathered and presented the information that our board and community leaders needed to make informed decisions. They were there for us every step of the way to guide our management team and connect us with the information or resources needed to ensure a successful transition.”
Schuylkill River Greenways Case Study
The Schuylkill River Heritage Area (SRHA) celebrates the Schuylkill River (Pennsylvania) watershed as one of America’s most significant cultural, historical and industrial regions...
Schuylkill River Greenways
Schuylkill River Greenways (SRG) celebrates the Schuylkill River watershed as one of America’s most significant cultural, historical and industrial regions. The Schuylkill River watershed was designated a Pennsylvania Heritage Area by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources in 1995. It is home to more than 3.2 million people across five counties; approximately 1.5 million people draw their drinking water directly from the River.
SRG hired Rick Biddle and Jill Macauley to facilitate a strategic planning process that would help the organization achieve its mission: connecting residents, visitors and communities to the Schuylkill River and the Schuylkill River Trail by serving as a catalyst for civic engagement and economic development in order to foster stewardship of the watershed and its heritage.
Rick and Jill led an inclusive planning process with staff and Board as well as the organization’s various programmatic and funding partners, including the National Parks Service and the Pennsylvania Department for the Conservation of Natural Resources.
The final outcome of the strategic planning process was a visionary “roadmap” for SRG as it works towards ensuring the five-county Heritage Area is a thriving and economically vibrant region whose residents, visitors and communities understand, value and are fully committed to the stewardship of the Schuylkill River watershed and its heritage.
Coinciding with the strategic planning process was a transition in executive leadership. In the middle of the process, the Executive Director departed the organization. As a result, the process shifted to be more Board-led. This was fortuitous in that the Board became even more engaged and informed about the organization, which was invaluable when it came time to begin the search process for a new Executive Director, which Rick and Jill also facilitated.
We continue to maintain a strong relationship with SRG, including the new Executive Director, for whom we also recently completed a development assessment.
We engaged Rick Biddle and Jill Macauley to help us develop a strategic road map and management action plan for the Schuylkill River Greenways (SRG), one of America’s most significant cultural, historical and industrial regions. From day one, Rick and Jill took a deep dive into our organization to get to know us inside and out. As a result of their professional acumen, creative approach to problem solving and hard work, they became our all-around go-to resource during the entire planning process and beyond. In fact, because of their excellent work on this project, the Board re-engaged the team to conduct an executive search for a new Executive Director. We’re delighted with the progress that we’ve made through our partnership with Rick and Jill. SRG’s new management action plan update leverages our core mission and provides us with a compelling vision to ensure the organization’s long-term viability, growth and sustainability.