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A Strategic Plan for NOFA/Mass in 2014

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This article comes from the NOFA/Massachusetts 2013 December Issue Newsletter

By Julie Rawson, Executive Director

NOFA/Mass Board & Staff - November 2013

At our most recent board and staff retreat at member Kofi Ingersoll’s Bay End Farm and Overbrook House in Buzzard’s Bay a strong desire coalesced to prioritize developing a serious strategic plan for NOFA/Mass. From my long term perspective of 29 years in NOFA/Mass, we have made slow, but generally steady, progress as we work to stay close to mission, keep a solid footing in the grassroots, develop a strong multi-layered and faceted structure, foster a vibrant and diverse funding stream, provide practical staff and board development and support, and maintain integrity amongst the larger community. Several times per year we consider how any potential program direction or decision fits with our basic mission to educate and advocate for organic agriculture in Massachusetts. Now it seems imperative to plan a little longer, to continue to integrate our diverse programming initiatives into one whole. Ideally, a strategic plan such as this is sparked when an organization wants to move from good to better, or best. I feel we are well poised to do so. We in NOFA are of course do-it-yourselfers, and we will probably follow a hybrid model of strategic planning that seeks some support from professional planners while doing most of the legwork ourselves. Stay tuned and stay in touch. Many voices, including yours, will be valuable in the process.
 
Below are some strategic planning highlights:
 
1. Succession Plan - As Jack and I get older, admittedly central figures in NOFA for almost 30 years, there is genuine organizational concern over a succession plan, not only for our roles of Executive and Education Director and Policy Director, but also because the NOFA/Mass office resides in our house.
 
2. Realizing Development Potential - Three years ago we had a marvelous development session with Pat Gray, formerly of the Food Project. Since then we have developed a strong board member giving program, increased grant income, built a rock solid marketing program, and filled holes in member attrition rates (we are now gaining members after some years of declining memberships). When the 2014 Winter Conference is over, we will have pulled off three very successful fundraising events this year, reaching diverse audiences. We are now receiving bequests and gifts of stocks and realize that we are on the tip of the iceberg in realizing our development potential.
 
3. Staff Compensation - With this strategic plan we will have to determine what level of financial remuneration support we want to provide our staff, and then work to fulfill that goal. 4. Building Financial Reserves - The recession of 2008 taught us that we need to have a financial cushion in place. We are building reserves with an eye toward financial stability in hard times.
 
5. Balancing Food Access & Education - We need to decide what amount of our time should be dedicated to organic food access and organizing education for the increasing numbers of farmers and consumers in the state. Providing strong and relevant education for our existing practitioners (farmers, gardeners, land care professionals, and homesteader/do-it-yourselfers) must stay in balance with other priorities like consumer education and access.
 
6. Advocacy Work - And at what level do we participate in local, state, national and international organic advocacy work?
 
7. Supporting Beginning Farmers - The needs and support of the ever-burgeoning beginning farmers in the state are another concern for an organization of 30+ years like ourselves that strives to remain relevant to a new generation of farmers.
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