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The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation

The Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF), a national nonprofit organization, has engaged Benefactor Group three times over the past decade to facilitate long-term planning—because “Benefactor puts the customer first, and they challenge our board to think strategically,” according to RBFF President and CEO, Frank Peterson. RBFF conducts strategic planning every three years to maintain quality service and increase the number of individuals who participate in boating and fishing. Most recently, Benefactor Group had the privilege of working with RBFF to facilitate planning sessions for the upcoming period, 2017 through 2019.

Celebrating Success, Seeking Improvement

RBFF is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase participation in recreational boating and fishing, and thereby increase public awareness and appreciation of the need to protect, conserve and restore this nation’s aquatic natural resources. RBFF is committed to educating people about the benefits of boating and fishing, and connecting them to the beauty of ‘Mother Nature’s Waterpark’. Headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, RBFF reaches millions of people, of all ages, nationwide.

RBFF’s Take Me Fishing™ campaign, originally launched in 2003, engages individuals in the sports of boating and fishing and demonstrates the conservation needs of national marine resources. To serve the nation’s growing Hispanic/Latino population, RBFF launched the Vamos a Pescar™ campaign in 2014. In the last year, RBFF had 9.1 million visits to its digital properties.

An Inclusive and Interactive Approach

Prior to the strategic planning process, Laura MacDonald, Julia Pechlivanos, and Catherine Fynes conducted board interviews and an online board and staff survey to gauge the organizational needs and goals. With a diverse board made up of executives from the fishing and boating industries, along with state fish and wildlife agencies and non-governmental organizations across the country, a meaningful yet concise strategic planning session was necessary. Benefactor Group led a two-day strategic planning session that would allow all members of the organization to articulate their vision and mission, key objectives, and goals.

The consultants took an appreciative inquiry approach to identify RBFF’s strengths as an organization. The executive leadership at RBFF requested a process that would allow all members of the staff and board to have a voice and a role in implementing change. In order to fulfill RBFF’s vision, Laura and Julia led a discussion where everyone’s opinion could be heard. By partnering staff members and board members, all participants were able to come together to form a collaborative vision for the organization.

Peterson reflects that RBFF has a large board with many differing points of view as to the organization’s objectives. He states, “Benefactor Group consistently brought these groups to consensus positions while making sure all opinions are heard.” Pechlivanos recalls RBFF’s strategic planning process and describes Benefactor Group’s use of the Nominal Group Technique – a ranking exercise — as a way to prioritize different ideas. Using this interactive process allowed RBFF to include all levels of staff and to hear each participant’s thoughts and ideas. From this process a strategic plan emerged to serve RBFF through 2019. The plan received unanimous approval from the board, as stated by Peterson.

The Future of Fishing

In addition to its thriving marketing campaigns, “Take Me Fishing” and “Vamos a Pescar,” RBFF now has “several new partnership initiatives in place that will help recruit a new generation of customers for our industry,” Peterson explains. The new strategic plan and a holistic approach will help RBFF connect with key stakeholders and consumers. With Benefactor Group’s assistance, RBFF is addressing the ever-changing needs of a growing population.

Benefactor Group provided RBFF the expert consultation needed to navigate change. “Their knowledge of both the for-profit and nonprofit worlds has been extremely helpful to us,” Peterson said. “Their knowledge of how boards should run and their ability to get our board to understand what is their role and what is the staff’s role have proven invaluable to me as the CEO.”

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