It is hard to believe that as of January 2022, we are 2/3 of the way through our strategic plan – it seems like yesterday we were filling out surveys and holding meetings to create our mission, vision, and plan. In hindsight, our timing was quite fortuitous; in the throes of the pandemic when meetings in person were put on hold and business plans were turned on their heads, ARCS Atlanta had a road map to keep us all moving in the same direction, even when we were doing it from our separate home offices!
There are 4 separate priorities targeted for our chapter: Fund Raising, Membership, Public Relations (PR), and Acquiring Admin Help. Some of the initiatives are constant and continual by design (fund raising) and others have finite action items (hiring administrative staff). Still others, such as membership, have initiatives that are difficult to implement during a pandemic – creating more opportunities for member engagement is challenging when a Zoom meeting is your only option!
Our first priority is “To grow donations and diversify our donor base” with five different initiatives. Three of those will be ongoing in some form or fashion: our chapter will always be fundraising for scholars and operations; we will always be intentional in our member recruitment; and we will continue to develop a meaningful donor/scholar relationship. Regarding the 4th initiative, we are currently actively engaged in a 30th anniversary endowment campaign. The only item that has not been addressed yet is to form an advisory group to assist with fundraising efforts.
Our second priority is “to improve awareness of ARCS as an organization that champions and raises funds to support college and graduate-level research scientists in Georgia.” There are 7 separate initiatives here, and once again, most will be ongoing. Our PR team is always sharing stories about our scholars to inspire new donors; the social media plan has been developed and we have created a web presence that is constantly being refreshed; information packets are being used to support funds development. Our new video produced for the 2021 SAC is evidence of all the deliberate, consistent messaging across all vehicles and opportunities, internally and externally.
The third priority deals with membership and is focused on efforts to “engage and inspire membership by initiating an all-member outreach and education strategy.” Some initiatives such as conducting exit interviews and partnering with funds development to educate members and prospective members on the expectation of financial contributions, have already been implemented and are ongoing. Most of the items on this list, however, have been significantly impacted by COVID. When this plan was put together, no one expected to be mentoring new members over the phone or presenting more education opportunities through zoom. The other initiatives are on hold as they are not particularly relevant in our virtual world. This priority to engage our membership is critical to the health of our chapter so it will surely need to be revisited and modified moving forward.
There were 5 initiatives for our 4th priority which is to “improve ARCS professionalism and leverage member’s time, talent and resources by acquiring professional administrative and technical support,” and most of these objectives have been met. Our chapter currently has hired ASG, the consulting group used by ARCS National, to keep our website’s public pages current and assist with other administrative tasks related to communication and event registration. Additionally, after assessing the needs and financial capacity of our chapter, we recently hired Kaleigh Malloy to support our funds development work. There is still the open issue of hiring an Executive Director, but for now our needs are being well met in a way that we are currently structured to afford.
In addition to our strategic initiatives, we also created 2 Ad Hoc task forces. One looked at adding more schools for our chapter to support, and the other is investigating and defining the vision for our Scholar Awards Celebration. As of this writing, the discussion regarding the next SAC is ongoing. Clearly there is much desire for gathering in person to support our donors and scholars, but the rapidly changing environment makes planning such a large event difficult.
In the upcoming year, our chapter will need to take a hard look at our strategic plan and confirm we are on the right path. A strategic plan is not a cheap or easy undertaking but can be vital to the growth of an organization, especially when our vision is “funding STEM scholars who will change the world.”