The evidence is clear: outdoor environmental education can be a game-changer for many children, especially urban dwellers who have limited access to open space or school-based science classes.
Yet the COVID-19 pandemic threatens the survival of organizations nationwide that provide critical outdoor environmental and science education to K-12 students, with an alarming 63% of such groups uncertain about their ability to ever reopen their doors, according to a study by the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley.
Closer to home – as SVP Boulder County steps up to address the immediate needs of local nonprofits that are most impacted by COVID-19 – the Cal-Wood Education Center recently drew on SVP’s COVID-19 supportive services, which include connecting local nonprofits to thought leaders equipped to help organizations cope with the changes and challenges brought on by the pandemic.
[Free of charge, we’re currently offering counsel and consultation to help our local nonprofits navigate through – and successfully emerge from – the current crisis. Sign up to work with one our experienced Partner members!]
“Among the most valuable offerings that SVP provides at this crucial point in time is an impartial sounding board,” says Rafael Salgado, Executive Director of Cal-Wood for more than two decades. “SVP Partners listen deeply, ask the right questions, offer different perspectives, and present different ways of doing things.”
Specifically, Rafael worked with SVP Partner and executive coach David Bachrach on how to steer Cal-Wood through the effects of canceled summer programs – and beyond.
Continues Rafael, “David was instrumental in helping me bring more creative, better informed ideas to my board – even as everything’s a moving target. At a time when the best solution today may not be the best solution tomorrow, David helped me think through different options – including how to keep the Cal-Wood team engaged and identifying if and when to implement furloughs.
“A lot of times, it’s good to gain the fresh perspectives of experienced thought partners who aren’t necessarily closely involved with Cal-Wood – especially when tough, strategic decisions have to be made in a climate of substantially reduced revenues.”
Indeed, David – a devotee of author Jim Collins’ maxim ‘Leadership does not begin with just a vision. It begins with getting people to confront the brutal facts and act on the implications…’ – embraced the opportunity to encourage Rafael to confront current organizational realities.
“As an organization, Cal-Wood is experiencing some existential difficulties, exacerbated by the pandemic,” he says. “Rafael is smart, capable, experienced, and strongly passionate about Cal-Wood’s mission – which includes exposing, educating, and encouraging Latino families to access nature through its camps and educational opportunities.
“It was my job to hold up a mirror, to look closely at the financials of the organization – including fixed costs, like building maintenance –, and to help Rafael consider the longer-term, bigger picture.
“How to get from here to there, despite uncertainty – that’s the big question for every nonprofit, school, and business right now. Confronting ‘brutal truths’ and exercising pragmatism is key.”
Alongside David and Rafael, SVP Board Chair Claire Clurman, SVP Partner Shawna Peterson, and Cal-Wood Board President Rich Lopez also contributed their knowledge and experience in wide-ranging strategic discussions – from ideating fundraising and marketing tactics, to deciding how to sustain and weather a degree of dormancy until fall 2021 via a “soft landing” that modifies and mitigates impacts on programming and staff.
Additionally, David will be working with Rafael and Rich to build out and diversify Cal-Wood’s board – in terms of race/ethnicity, age, interests, capabilities, and philanthropic capability.
Concludes David, “Like I said to Rafael early on, ‘you’re making decisions from the heart, and I value that. I’m going to offer you a more dispassionate perspective, from the head. And together, we’re going to get Cal-Wood over this hump.”