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Recorder's Notes for The San Diego Natural History Museum
Strategic Planning Session #3

November 21, 2001

External Environment Assumptions | Core Challenges | Planks for Long-Term Vision

Attendees:Mr. Richard Benard, Ms. Darcy C. Bingham, Ms. Pam Bruder, Mr. Richard Bundy, Dr. Paisley Cato, Ms. Charlotte Chandler, Ms. Dale Clark, Dr. Tom Deméré, Ms. Denise Moreno Ducheny, Dr. Iris Engstrand, Dr. Anne S. Fege, Mr. Steve Gautereaux, Dr. Michael W. Hager, Ms. Ann Laddon, Mr. Steven P. McDonald, Mr. Jerry Navarra, Mr. Thomas A. Page, Mr. Richard J. Roncaglia, Mr. Robert Sharp, Ms. Ruth Shelly, Mr. Bill Trumpfheller, Ms. Delle Willett

Ms. Charlotte Chandler opened the session at 8:40 by welcoming everyone and thanking them for their time in the strategic planning process. She said that, due to the economic climate, the Museum has reduced staff and put everyone on furlough for 10% of their time. This will not affect the strategic planning process. There is anticipation that the staff will be back on their normal time schedule as soon as the economic picture is better.

Dr. Hager said it was like deja vous because in 1991 the Museum was in a similar economic position when the first strategic planning began. The difference is that now the Museum has the infrastructure in place and will get through this quicker and more efficiently. However, the Museum is committed to a balanced budget and has to stand by that. In the earlier time some programs were also eliminated for two to three years. Construction delays have caused a large part of the problem because the Museum could not have three major exhibits that it had originally planned. Also the south entrance to the Museum has not been finished, thus making the Museum less accessible. On a positive note Dr. Hager said that Ms. Shelly had put together a remarkable National Science Foundation grant proposal which will hopefully result in major funding soon. The proposal was for $4 million and the Museum has to match $2 million. Another positive was that Ocean Oasis won first place at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival.

Mr. Smith referred to the "Detailed Schedule for Strategic Planning Session #3 - Tuesday, November 20, 2001" for today and the slightly modified 2001-2002 "Calendar for the Museum's Strategic Planning Process (Revised)" and suggested replacing the former calendar with the revised one. As a reminder regarding the Plan for Planning, Mr. Smith said:

  1. The first phase focuses on the internal matters of the Museum
  2. The second is external as the SPT members define constituencies
  3. For today the work will mostly address the external environment of the Museum for the future.

Mr. Smith first asked the SPT members to turn their thinking to identifying the main external opportunities and threats facing the Museum in the next several years. An overhead was introduced which read:

"Survival under conditions of intense competition and accelerating change depends on the ability to adopt and take advantage of the environment better than others." (Charles Darwin)

Ms. Carson then asked the SPT members to use the handout, "Work Session on Predicting External Forces Session #3 - November 20, 2001" as they divided into groups to discuss III.

Assumptions about the External Environment.

The groups reported the following:

Mr. Roncaglia reporting: (O = opportunities; T = threats).

  • Regional focus is huge marketplace
  • Money: San Diego has good fund-raising demographics (people with money)
  • Climate
  • Lobbying local/federal/state
  • Population of San Diego is diverse and growing and close to other regions like Los Angeles

  • Short-term because of the present economy but long-term tourism will present more revenues and fundraising; people's fear short-term.
  • Competition for that money and is the Museum positioned well enough to get our share.
  • Competition of all the activities
  • Budgetary problems like tax assessments and others
Comments on this group: Ruth Shelly asked about the wealth transfers. Dr. Hager said wealth was moving from one generation to the next.

Pending wealth transfers (money moving from one generation to the next):
  • T - Short term
  • O - Long term
  • T/O - San Diego has good fundraising demographics - but is not positioned well to take advantage
  • O - Population of San Diego - Diversity and growth of downtown housing
  • O - Drive distance for tourism
  • T - Uncertainty of life after terrorism
  • O - Regional focus - bi-national opportunity
  • T - Border crossing - potential threat in execution of program - can't transport artifacts
  • T - Increased competition from universities and public entities for fundraising dollars; big sophisticated players
  • O - San Diego has large capacity for giving
  • T/O - Climate draws people outside
  • T/O - Public access and parking in Park
  • T/O - Governmental support

Mr. Tom Deméré reporting:

  • Loss of diversity in natural environment
  • Socioeconomic shift in San Diego
  • Outward population shift (distance)
  • Public resources
  • Stress on public education system
  • Competition for leisure time
  • City management and the ballpark, and the way city management solves its problems on the back of other institutions.
  • Parking accessibility/Park management
  • Cross border politics
  • Lack of dollars for science research (e.g. bio infomatics)

  • Public interest in environment/border
  • New populations to educate, reach out to
  • New ways of reaching distant populations (telecom, Internet, outreach)
  • Downtown population/urban growth
  • Outcome based funding
  • Wealth transfer between generations
  • Aging population opportunity (volunteerism, patrons, participants)
  • Earned income through non-trade means (Museum)
  • Establish permanent Museum presence in Mexico
  • Philanthropy in Mexico

Steve McDonald reporting:

  • Awareness of effect of development on environments (loss of habitats, traffic) - creates awareness of bio-diversity
  • More home-family, region-based leisure
  • Short, local, inexpensive educational/leisure activities demanded by public
  • Information technologies web page, long distance learning suggest places to go, hikes to take
  • Local universities/students for research, educational programs, training grad students
  • Schools not providing science education
  • Ties to Mexico/Baja = proximity, institutions
  • Economic, cultural strength in Baja/border for education, leisure
  • Non-traditional ways of raising money


  • Poor city management (cultural dollars redirected toward ballpark, etc.); public doesn't expect cultural dollars after awhile; small base of city dollars (county dollars not sustained)
  • Hard to attract quality professionals; university systems aren't training the museum experts needed (have to train biologists, etc. in museum processes); schools not putting emphasis on science; science emphasis is on technology, less biology-ecology
  • Parking inadequate
  • Bus/transport inadequate
  • Energy costs
  • Development of the natural environment causing loss of biodiversity
  • Softer economy, stock
  • Market, portfolio endowment, uncertain fundraising, fewer tourists from Mexico, international, other U.S. (war)
  • Security (war) - slower border crossings
  • Mailing specimens and transporting across the border
  • Less learning, experiences on-the-land and in the outdoors - kids and people out of touch with nature
  • Museum industry overall contracting (foundations uncertain) - compete for members, lay off staff, negative feeling

Steve Gautereaux reporting:

  • Increased focus on staying at home
  • Increased emphasis on science education with focus on K-12 (sources outside of school)
  • Growth in community --- larger constituency
  • Increased emphasis on family
  • Armed forces
  • Increased emphasis on environment recycling/sustainability
  • Lack of discretionary income (threat, too) good value - too expensive
  • Park location - high visibility; market the Park like Old Town has done
  • Increase retail appeal
  • Daycare/adults and kids (body, mind, soul programs)


  • Economic downturn/instability
  • Increased cost of travel/fewer tourists
  • Insecurity
  • Growth in community - reduced habitat, increased traffic, constituents farther away (out of sight, out of mind)
  • Diversion of government funds from education to security
  • Poor parking
  • Not competitive

Ms. Carson asked what new thoughts came to mind as the participants listened to Threats and Opportunities. Mr. Sharp said that when he did his mid-term analysis of the Capital Campaign the use of the term "museum" was thought to be "dark, damp, musty," which leads to external perception of the Museum. Mr. Sharp said that how the Museum was positioned to take advantage of funding was considered in his analysis. Mr. Sharp had also spoken to someone who worked for the City who gave him a business card with the title of "Director of Development, Major Gifts and Planned Giving." Mr. Sharp was struck that the City is taking gifts and endowments. Dr. Hager replied that one of the things the City sells is the Park and libraries. Mr. Page added that regarding new, large, sophisticated players the public universities are competing and that state funding alone will not be enough for them. Therefore, at the graduate level, they are ramping up. University of California, San Diego, followed by San Diego State, will be huge in competition for research and other dollars.

Ms. Shelly said that all four breakout groups were aware of local demographics in relationship to Museum welfare. She felt that SPT members should become more aware and informed of demographic shifts as an important considerations when planning. Dr. Hager said that the Irvine Foundation has funded a cultural study of demographics and that the Museum will receive the information.

Dr. Hager spoke about the handout titled, "Forecast of External Forces Which Will Have Highly Significant Impact on the San Diego Natural History Museum" and mentioned Bill Shore's book, Cathedral Within on earned income for non-profits.

Mr. Smith asked Delle Willett to comment on the Autumn 2001, Volume XV Number 3, San Diego Natural History Museum Field Notes magazine which was also used as an annual report. Ms. Willet said the publications design and content have improved much over the past two years. She also referred to several websites noted in the report. Each SPT participant received the magazine along with the other materials for today's session.

Mr. Benard distributed the "Operating Budget Five Year History." He noted that for the past five years income exceeded the budget and so did the expenses.

Mr. Smith distributed a matrix summary titled, "Staff Research Projects for Museum's 2001-2002 Strategic Planning Process (Updated November 20, 2001)" and said he had never before seen this degree of research conducted for a specific strategic planning process.

Dr. Hager gave a report on the La Paz Workshop held in Baja California November 8 and 9, 2001. There were 14 scientists plus Dr. Exequiel Ezcurra, Presidente, Instituto Nacional de Ecologia, Dr. Hager, and Mr. Smith as moderator. The focus was the high concentration of research in areas of great value like conservation in Baja California. The concern was staying on course for systematics research, e.g. evolution and ecology. The consensus was a project-by-project approach is occurring because things are changing so rapidly. Coordination of projects requires liaison which is lacking at present. Funding resources are the usual ones but there is a need for new ones like the Packard, Hewlett, Ford Foundations and others. But the Museum has to partner with other organizations in order to obtain this type of funding. Another important part of the funding is to be published in an indexed journal and there is the need to publish in Spanish and English. The Internet needs to be used for a publishing source, such as the Museum website. Dr. Hager felt there was a need for a field research station in Baja California, but since there is not a call for long-term monitoring, a permanent field station is not a practical idea.

However, it is also becoming more difficult to bring specimens across the border and this is one reason for having a research station or museum in Baja California, probably in La Paz. This could also result in obtaining additional funding. The staffing of the museum would be important in order to achieve collaboration and thereby get funded.

Dr. Hager felt the Workshop was a great success because of the collaboration, spirit, and ideas which came out of it. He said that the Museum had built important friendships with conservation leaders in Mexico. Conservation, ecology and systematic research were the common goals. Also eco-tourism could possibly support Museum funding. Mr. Smith said that much of the success of the workshop was due to Dr. Ezcurra's extensive ties to government officials, educators and conservation organizations in Mexico. Other positive news was that Guadalupe Island has plant sources to reestablish disappearing species. There is a first report on the La Paz Workshop on the Museum website. A more complete summary will be provided on the website at a later date. Mr. Gary Meads, Managing Director of Campbell Mithun, and his associates were introduced to give a progress report on surveys of five target audiences for the Museum. Mr. Meads and Katie Feifer, Research and Planning Director, distributed and highlighted a top-line report on the surveys. Full reports will be sent to the SPT members as they are completed.

Ms. Clark briefed the SPT members on the Museum's Strategic Planning website. While presenting information on our planning process, the website also has a place where people can give their inputs called "Get Involved." The handout distributed shows the home page of the site. The website was made possible by a grant from the James Irvine Foundation and serves as a model for other museums and like organizations. Ms. Clark was congratulated on her outstanding work on this website.

Ms. Delle Willett gave an update on the ArtsMarkets surveys as they apply to the Museum. The handout titled, "Arts Market Survey Results" was distributed. The study was done July, August, September and October of 2001. The question of whether any children took the survey was voiced. A more comprehensive report will be provided at a later date.

Mr. Sharp distributed a handout on future fundraising for the Museum. He said the capital campaign had soared to great heights and then leveled out. He said focus of management must be changed from Dr. Hager being so much the driving force of all activity to becoming more the empowering visionary. Interactions between management and staff need to be different, so everyone can run more with his/her own positions and goals.

He added that Mr. Benard's department needed to be staffed up in order to accomplish its mission. This is also true of the development efforts. This information was based on Board and staff interviews. Another factor was the perception of the Museum as dark, damp and musty. The climate for fundraising currently is negative, with doomsayers and those who are scared, but we are still going onward. Ms. Ducheny expressed the concern that philanthropy today is going more toward humanity venues. Mr. Sharp said this kind of giving currently was above others. The summary prepared for the last Museum Board meeting is in that meeting's minutes. The title is "Fundraising in Uncertain Times - Opportunities and Threats, and is added to these Recorder's Notes as Attachment 1. Foundation giving is consistent with the stock market. It goes down after a stock market turndown but corporate giving goes up. Endowment giving is problematic in any market. Individuals are the key because those giving have personal trust relationships with those they give to. Estate gifting is the easiest of endowment giving. The downside is that 85% of our population will die without a will.

Ms. Shelly distributed the "Staff Report: Internal Strengths and Weaknesses" and said that 100 surveys were given to department heads, then directors, then supervisors. The "speaker" in the surveys is the staff, not management or the Board. Strengths and Weaknesses are listed in order of importance. Ms. Shelly said there was much less congruence for external opportunities and threats than there was earlier internal for strengths and weaknesses. These reports represent what "bubbled to the top."

Ms. Mack distributed and discussed "Volunteers Summary of Internal Strengths and Weaknesses 11/20/01" and "Volunteers Summary of External Opportunities and Threats 11/20/01," which provide the volunteers' input.

Ms. Laddon reported on Culture and Values: "why" and "so what." Two handouts were distributed, one for "Critical Factors for Success" and one for "Values and Culture Worksheet." The handouts are the result of compiling the SPT's earlier inputs. Critical Factors for Success are the characteristics which the Museum needs to possess in order to succeed in a competitive environment. The Values stressed over the last ten years were: team atmosphere; fun place to work; mission driven; creative; thoughtfully; responsibly; passionately; entrepreneurial; hard working; consensus-conscious; inclusive.

Reflecting on an earlier discussion point made about some recent criticisms of strategic planning without wide participation, Mr. Smith commented on the Museum's planning process over the last decade. He said one of the main achievements has been its broad participation. This has led to shared responsibility for implementation.

Mr. Smith said that important decisions at the next SPT session will come out of the results of today's next step: Core Challenges for 2002-2012.

Working in trios, SPT members developed the following reports:

Core Challenges for 2002-2012

Group 1:

  1. Stable funding
  2. Obtain a driving force for BRCC - i.e. identify a visionary head for BRCC to reshape and reinvigorate the research program
  3. Establish strong permanent exhibits and accompanying public programs
  4. Reaching the audience that is the highest growth group but is least connected to Museum at present

Group 2:

  1. Funding/resources (improve, increase)
  2. Management (skilled, flexible, innovative and participatory)
  3. Competitive (scientifically and from a business standpoint)
  4. Quality (in all areas and scope)

Group 3:

  1. To be relevant to a broad constituency
  2. To move from static to interactive and multidimensional (opera was used as an example)
  3. To achieve financial stability
  4. Figure a way to better integrate the science with the "carnival" aspects of the business

Group 4:

  1. Funding - endowment to fund - $2 million has to be raised now
  2. Understanding demographics of San Diego and adapting to the diversity of potential visitors
  3. Technology - uses keep changing, maintaining advancement
  4. Exhibits need to be exciting and timely
  5. Staying relevant with school core curriculum

Group 5:

  1. Increase endowment to $100 million - cover core operational budget each year
  2. Lack of access to community (visibility)
  3. Balboa Park problems
    If we were free
  4. Build programs - to appeal to community and educate
    What do people want -- or show people what they should see
    (Educate plus entertainment)
  5. Develop credible Mexican Institution with Baja California Separate but equal - truly Mexican but companion to SDNHM

Group 6:

  1. Build exciting permanent exhibits
  2. Build endowments
  3. Create non-traditional revenue sources
  4. Keep up with technology and training programs

Group 7:

  1. Use creativity to overcome the weaknesses
  2. Research (fill position), exhibits (finish and get exhibits in place), leadership/management (resources)
  3. Compliments.
    Win our second Oscar!

Mr. Smith next discussed the importance of creating a long-term Vision. A graphic was shown with a definition of vision, and six handouts with visions of other organizations were distributed. Ms. Carson then shared several thoughts for developing a vision for the Museum. It should apply to the entire organization and requires, in the case of the Museum, ten years of effort to complete. Setting the vision far into the future requires thinking beyond the current capabilities of the organization and the current environment. Inventing such a vision forces the Museum to be "visionary" rather than just strategic or tactical. The vision should not be a sure bet but we must believe we can reach the goal.

Ms. Carson then put the following on the overhead as a reference: "The Envisioned Future" - "What we aspire to become, to achieve, to create - something that will require significant change and progress to be attained."

Ms. Carson then asked the members to work in groups of threes to develop potential long-term vision planks for the Museum.

Planks for Long-Term Vision
Reports from trios:

    Ms. Bruder reporting:
    In ten years the Museum will:

  • Be the most exciting, dynamic destination for science and nature in the region.
  • Be regarded as the premier bi-national research institution
  • Have achieved and maintained a level of resources that ensures continued growth.
  • Mr. Bundy reporting:

  • Enhance appreciation for biodiversity of the Southern California/Baja Peninsula Region among all residents of the region.
  • Ms. Chandler reporting:

  • The place to go for the curious.
  • The premiere source for information.
  • Provide the AHA!! "I learned this today!"
  • The research at the Museum is a great source of information (accurate), environmental, geology - all natural sciences (Paleontology, Botany, etc).
  • Formal and informal education in science - household name - the visitor center for the region.
  • Reaching the broadest number of people in a meaningful, stimulating way.
  • Enlighten the minds of everyone with visits to Natural History Museum or visits to the web.
  • Ms. Willett reporting:

  • To be the most frequented cultural institution in San Diego.
  • To be the preeminent science research institution in San Diego.
  • To be a national showcase for exhibits and technology.
  • To be a "must see" museum for all San Diego visitors.
  • To be known worldwide as a premier bi-national, regional museum.
  • Ms. Bingham reporting:

  • Prior Vision: (Add and delete)
  • The SDNHM will be recognized as the premier collections… in our region.
  • We will provide high-quality programs that are user friendly and relevant to the lives of the diverse populations… in the San Diego/Baja California region (now and into the future)
  • Mr. McDonald reporting:

  • "Museum in every house" - Webpage from SDNHM; distance learning programs.
  • Pre-eminent source of scientific information to understand environment:
    • Collections
    • Accessibility co-collections
    • Educate ecologists - in a broader sense • Key player: Identify issues - Answer conservation questions - Promote conservation issues [Open doors to future funding]
  • Sister institution or some physical presence in Baja California viewed as credible institution from Mexican point of view
  • Win our second Oscar!
  • Mr. Trumpfheller reporting:

  • A natural history educational experience available in every part of our region leading to environmental involvement.
    • Telecom
    • Ecotours
    • Satellite facilities
    • Research expeditions
    • Nature Camp
    • Museum as the Hub
    • Educational Outreach
    • Partnerships
    • Collaborations
    • Access for all

Follow-up Post-It for Vision: To be self-sustaining organization recognized as the premier resource for relevant natural science research, education, and exhibits for all people in the bi-national region.

Mr. Benard: Needs something to identify Museum. A tagline - connection.
Dr. Hager: Commonality: most of us are seeing current Museum as a hub that reaches out.
Mr. Roncaglia: We were struggling with the fiscal responsibility part in critical factors for success. Implicit in vision statement for ten years out that Museum would have achieved that? Does it need to be part of the vision? Mr. Smith said it depended on how important a group thinks it is.
Ms. Laddon: That was why "recognized" was important. Vision is not what we have now, but what we have in ten years.
Mr. Trumpfheller: If our vision is to make money, we can sell bones. The financial price is a strategy to reach our vision.
Mr. McDonald: The notion of sustainability and permanence is important for funding.
Mr. Roncaglia: I didn't say money per se but asked if it was implied in the Vision statement. Mr. Smith said unless that (i.e. money) was a major weakness to be overcome, it was implied.
Ms. Shelly: One percent referred to Ms. Carson's statement that vision is 99% alignment and noted that, if our vision is self-sustaining, the cost analysis has to always be in back of our mind.
Ms. Cato: This (funding) was always going to be part of our discussion.
Ms. Bruder: Historically funding has been a problem for Museum, so it needs to be stated in the vision. It tells everybody something.

A graphic was presented: "A vision without the ability to execute is probably a hallucination." …Stephen M. Case. Mr. Smith said that this seemed relevant to the discussion.

Mr. Smith referred to the second page of the revised calendar (on overhead) and noted that between now and our next meeting all our database for planning should be completed so that the SPT is moving strongly to IV. Where we want to go and how we're going to get there. This leads to prioritizing Key Result Areas (KRAs) and setting measurable objectives for them. Then strategies are developed… and from there step-by-step Action Plans are prepared, showing what needs to be done by whom, when. The Action Plans become the basis for individual and group commitments. The next SPT session is crucial because KRA task forces will be assigned. Mr. Smith asked that as homework: (1) Everyone please schedule your time to be at the next meeting; (2) Please go over all the things we've developed as the planning database; (3) Please review everything we've developed today so each member can be ready for full participation.

Mr. Smith asked the SPT members to look at vision samples (previously handed out) to see if they can be useful for expressing the ideas for the Museum's vision statement. Mr. Smith spoke of famed architect Richard Neutra, who invented the word "psychotope" to describe a place which you feel you have to see, to get close to, to be inside For our target constituencies, the Museum should become increasingly a powerful, psychotope, he said.

Ms. Carson asked the members to remember the Museum website for resources for homework and reinforced the importance of reviewing all the database before the next meeting.

The meeting was adjourned at 4:10 p.m.

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