The ANCA Summit at the Quinta Mazatlán World Birding Center in Mcallen, Texas was my first Association of Nature Center Administrators conference, and I can honestly say that it was an exceptional experience. I’ve attended dozens of trade shows and professional conferences in my career, and the ANCA Summit stands out for all the right reasons. From providing a participant directory with everyone’s names and photos to setting a schedule that allows adequate time for learning and for socialization, everything about the conference was extraordinarily planned and executed. Commendations and congratulations to Jen Levy, Caitlin Fader and ANCA as a whole for a conference that was remarkable from start to finish.
I was struck by ANCA’s outstanding efforts to deliver professional development for people in leadership positions, providing opportunities to explore and expand their roles, improve their operations and further their organization’s mission. In fact, building and sustaining leadership teams was a big focus throughout the Summit, ranging from sessions for new executive directors to workshops on recruiting effective board members.
Generating revenue was, unsurprisingly, an important and multifaceted subject. I listened to discussions and workshops on topics ranging from the best strategies for cultivating major gifts; increasing revenue from facility rentals; the benefits and drawbacks of free admissions; and tracking qualitative and quantitative data for grant reporting and proposals.
Other lively debates centered on the role of technology, especially social media. Nature centers are working hard to strike a balance between urging visitors to disconnect from electronics and encouraging them to promote their participation and activities through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and Snapchat as well as other emerging services and sites. (Excuse me while I ask a teenager what’s next.)
A special highlight of the Summit was co-presenting a workshop titled “Improving the Visitor and Staff Experience: Strategies for Planning and Evaluating Technology Solutions” with Ruth Lundin, who recently retired as President of the Audubon Community Nature Center after a lifelong career of extraordinary leadership. Ruth graciously shared her expertise and experience with me and the participants and I’m honored to have had the opportunity to work with her. Participants posed many good questions about best practices for database management and strategies for data segmentation. (If anyone would like to co-present a session on data management and analysis with me at next year’s Summit, please let me know!)
Thanks again to Jen, Caitlin and all of the attendees for an exceptional experience. I’m truly looking forward to the 2019 ANCA Summit!
David Ellis is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Doubleknot, a company focused on the success of nonprofit cultural organizations. David helps organizations identify ways to increase efficiency and effectiveness through innovative strategies to collect and leverage data. Throughout David’s career, he has worked with organizations like the Iowa Children’s Museum, the Aldo Leopold Nature Center, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and many others.