The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 17, 2013

Consultants say more staffing, fundraising needed at Ney center

By Brian Ojanpa
Free Press Staff Writer

HENDERSON — More staffing, a focus on a long-term vision, and increasing fundraising opportunities are among the recommendations made for Ney Nature Center near Henderson.

The recommendations from a consultants group was presented this week to the nine-member board of the center and community members.

Center Executive Director Becky Pollack said even though the recommendations weren’t unexpected, hearing them from a team of expert outsiders was beneficial.

“It’s great that they saw the same things,” she said, adding that some board members perhaps hadn’t looked at the big picture as to strategic planning.

That big picture from the consultants, who included nature center directors from Michigan and Pennsylvania, was comprised of the following recommendations for the 16-year-old facility:

n Development of a unified center vision plan for the next three to five years that may include a) remaining small, b) growing modestly as a local presence, or c) growing to become a regional presence.

n Develop a plan to address a staffing shortfall. The center now has two part-time staffers and it would be the board’s task to determine how many more employees are required.

n Re-examine roles and responsibilities of board members. Consultants said the board should consider recruiting new members with specific skill sets in accordance with the strategic plan. Further, specific roles and responsibilities for board members should be identified.

n In the short term, focus on fundraising. Consultants said board and staff need to clearly identify fundraising opportunities and take action.

Pollack said a more thorough written report from the peer consultant team will be forthcoming.

“The biggest challenge of this will be to keep the (energy) of the process going,” she said the planning initiative.

Ney Nature Center is an environmental learning center in Le Sueur County Park on the bluffs of the Minnesota River. The park is open daily for seasonal activities including hiking, bird watching, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.