Wednesday, February 23 • 11:15am - 12:00pm
Track 2: Get More Done: Using a Self-Managed Volunteer Organization to Leverage Staff

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At the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy in Scottsdale, Arizona, fewer than 10 full-time professional staff guide and support more than 700 active volunteers (called stewards). The stewards collectively provide more than 65,000 hours of service each year in support of Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve, the largest urban preserve in the country, and other regional open space. Through training and involvement, these volunteers become conservation ambassadors, working to educate and engage others in exploring and protecting nature.

The reason this model works, with so few staff and so many volunteers, is that the steward organization, with staff support, is largely self-managed and has developed its own formal structure, befitting its size and scope. There are function-level and overall organization charts with defined leadership positions, job descriptions, succession processes, formal training, etc. Furthermore, within the overall context of the Conservancy’s mission and strategic plan and the needs of the Preserve, the steward organization largely has defined its own evolution. The organization’s structure and programs have been changed, usually at the initiative of the volunteers themselves, as the environment, needs, and mission have evolved.

The Conservancy was formed in 1991. The first steward training class based on this model was held in 1996 due to a combination of some visionary volunteers with strong management, science, and educational backgrounds, plus the willingness of the staff and board to allow these volunteer leaders to experiment. The model continues because it has been enormously successful and enjoys ongoing support from Conservancy staff, the board, and the Preserve’s land owner, which is the City of Scottsdale. 

We believe that this model can be replicated elsewhere, allowing other non-profits and open space land managers to significantly leverage staff resources and get more done at modest additional cost. The presentation will review all the elements of this successful model; provide examples of steward program structures, processes, and activities; and indicate how to obtain relevant material and further information.

avatar for Rick Pearce

Rick Pearce

McDowell Sonoran Conservancy
Rick Pearce has led research, engineering, intellectual property management, and licensing efforts across the globe. As corporate VP, he managed research centers in four countries, dedicated to materials science advancements for the automotive, railway, aerospace, and defense industries... Read More →
avatar for Dan Gruber

Dan Gruber

McDowell Sonoran Conservancy
Dan Gruber was a principal and senior partner at Deloitte Consulting. His work included organization performance improvement and turnaround as well as strategic, business, and financial planning. Mr. Gruber worked in a number of industries – retail, manufacturing, health care, cultural... Read More →

Wednesday February 23, 2022 11:15am - 12:00pm MST
Sonoran 1