Should Island County Beach Watchers Become Its Own Organization
This page provides background of how we got to the late April 2015 decision that Beach Watchers should transition from being a program under WSU Extension to being its own independent non-profit organization.
-- Experienced BW's dropping out or minimizing their activities
- "nothing seems to gets done"
- "no appreciation of volunteers"
- "too much (WSU) red tape to get anything done"
-- Well regarded projects leaving
Some excellent ICBW citizen science projects (Seining, Eelgrass Monitoring)
forced to find new homes to continue doing their work effectively
-- BW Advisory Council (and volunteer) Frustrations
- ICBW Coordinator is a full-time WSU employee; yet WSU only contributes 1% of the salary and benefits (and charges for benefits not received)
- A WSU Faculty Committee considered the future of Beach Watchers without including or communicating with BWAC or the ICBW Coordinator. WSU refused requests to provide information to either BWAC or the ICBW Coordinator.
- BWAC is only 'advisory' to the Extension Director yet has been given the responsibility, without any authority, to manage the BW program
- There is no evidence that the Extension Director has attempted to secure grants to support the BW program while reserves are being quickly depleted. Note that 95%+ of current funding for ICBW comes from LEP license plate funds and BW volunteer and ICBW Coordinator fund-raising efforts.
-- WSU Frustrations
- BWAC functions like a Board of an organization rather than advising about a program of WSU.
- ICBW training curriculum and providers are neither approved nor vetted by WSU
- WSU wants to lessen their liability exposure by reducing volunteer management and will only cover programs approved by WSU (not all current BW programs are or would be covered by WSU)
- WSU desires to 'authorize/enroll/certify' volunteers only when they successfully complete a new Master Naturalist curriculum (raising concerns that all current BW volunteers would not be authorized/enrolled/certified and not covered by insurance).
-- Fall 2014 - ICBW strategic planning sessions
- many excellent ideas for improving existing programs
- many excellent ideas for new programs
- repeated feeling among attendees that we should explore
becoming our own organization, independent of WSU Extension
(fyi: Skagit Beach Watchers left WSU Extension and merged with Coastal Volunteer Partnerships @ Padilla Bay in 2014)
-- 2014/2015 - WSU considering options for future of BW programs
Three options have been proposed (as quoted from Tim Lawrence):
- "Develop a State Program (not a statewide program) for a regional BW program that will cover all 12 counties in the Puget Sound Region. This would include a faculty lead and a more integrated approach to environmental education in the region. Developing this concept is the charge of the faculty committee ... there are no resources available for developing this type of a program at the moment ..."
- "At the discretion of the County Director - continue with County based programming under the direct supervision of the County Director and a program coordinator. Under this scenario there would be an expectation of absolute compliance with WSU requirements for educational programming and volunteer activities ... " (status quo with greater Director input)
- "The third scenario would be for the BW's to spin off as an independent 501(c)(3) ... "
-- February 2015 - Organizational Change Committee formed
BWAC asked Linda Ridder '05 to form an organizational change committe to investigate and report back about
what structure, other than the status quo, will better serve the continuation of this unique organization that is dedicated to making our marine environment and our home the best place possible?
Initial Letter to ICBW Membership,
-- March 2015 - proposed resolution
BWAC unanimously approved the following Change Committee recommendation in principle, pending feedback and input from Beach Watcher volunteers (in early April 2015):
We, the Beach Watcher Volunteers of Island County,
want to be responsible for the ongoing success
of the Island County Beach Watchers program.
In order to accomplish this, we recommend becoming
an independent, non-profit organization.
-- Early April 2015 - Feedback Meetings
Three feedback meetings were held
- a total of 52 BW's attended (Change Committee members not counted)
- attendance was excellent on Camano, disappointingly low on Whidbey.
Kristen Stavros (BW Coordinator, 2006-8, Puget Sound Partnership 2008-2013) facilitated all three meetings.
At each meeting, there was a brief introduction (of the recent history material that appears above) followed by a general discussion and creation of a pros/cons list, e.g. reasons to become independent, and reasons to stay with WSU.
Major reasons to become independent
- to gain local control of our priorities (program, training, ...)
- to gain local control of our finances
- to improve partnership and grant opportunities
- to re-invigorate the organization
Major concerns ... to be addressed in any transition plan
- general unease with uncertainty, too many unknowns moving forward
- potential loss of credibility w/o the WSU brand.
- more work for volunteers, at least during transition
- some WSU infrastructure will need to be replaced, or contracted for.
In all, over 90% of attendees answered affirmatively to the statement "Should we become independent of WSU".
A second exercise focused on gathering answers to three questions:
- Why did you join BW
- Why are you still here (member of BW)
- What are your hopes for the future
(for the BW organization, and for you as a volunteer)
See summary of feedback meetings
-- mid April 2015 - Change Committee discussions
Consensus is that the only structure that will meet the goal of local control is to become our own independent non-profit.
Committee targets January 1, 2016 as the official 'dis-engage from WSU' date, and is addressing the concerns raised at the feedback meetings.
A transition plan is being developed.
-- Late April 2015 - Committee Report to BWAC
BWAC accepted Change Committee proposal, and charged it to take the steps to create this new independent non-profit organization.
See Transition Planning for late April view;
see beachwatchers.net/change for ongoing reports.
last updated: May 2 2015