Webinar: Get Ready to Plan Strategically!

Strategic planning can be a daunting task for many organizations. Lack of time or resources are frequently cited barriers to planning, yet having no mission-driven direction tied to performance measures is risky. This 90-minute webinar will cut through the mystery and (perceived) misery of planning to introduce participants to the process and language of strategic planning.

In “Get Ready to Plan Strategically!” guest speaker Anne Ackerson will discuss the important preparations necessary for meaningful and productive strategic planning. She will also present models for strategic plan formats, address community input and visioning.

This AASLH webinar is part of the StEPs Lab webinar series offered to both StEPs participants and all others interested in the topic of strategic planning. Applying what you learn in a StEPs Lab to your policies and practices helps your organization make meaningful progress. Learn more about StEPs, AASLH’s self-study, self-paced assessment program designed specifically for small- to mid-sized history organizations, including volunteer-run institutions.

This is StEPs Lab 18.

Details:

DATE: June 25, 2019

TIME: 3:00 - 4:30 pm EASTERN (Remember to adjust for your time zone)

COST: $40 Members / $65 Nonmembers / $15 discount for StEPs participants with promo code found on StEPs Community website

Closed captioning available upon advanced notice. Please contact flammia@aaslh.org for more information.

REGISTER HERE

Participant Outcomes:

After taking part in this webinar, participants will:

  • Understand the difference between strategic and long range planning;
  • Learn other planning definitions like vision, goals, objectives, and tasks and understand the importance of being unified and consistent in the terms your planning group will use;
  • Learn what needs to be done before board, staff, and others gather for the first strategic planning session;
  • Understand that there are a variety of strategic plan formats and your organization should choose one that meets its needs, and
  • Be inspired to trust in the strategic planning process, see it through to the completion of the plan, and use it!

Speaker:

image

Anne Ackerson is co-author with Joan H. Baldwin of the publications Women in the Museum: Lessons from the Workplace and Leadership Matters: Conversations with History Museum Leaders. Ackerson is also a co-founder of the Gender Equity in Museums Movement (GEMM).


The StEPs logo, in which the letters of S-T-E-P-S are typed above a curved brush stroke that is lower on the left and higher on the right. Text below logo reads Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations.

Three Organizations Earn StEPs Certificates in May

We congratulate these members who earned StEPs certificates last month!

The Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations is AASLH’s self-study standards program designed specifically for small to mid-sized history organizations, including volunteer-run institutions. Through a workbook, online resources, and an online community, organizations enrolled in StEPs assess their policies and practices and benchmark themselves against nationally recognized standards. StEPs certificates mark an institution’s progress towards enhancing standards and management of their resources.

Alf Engen Ski Museum, Park City, UT: Management Bronze and Silver

Cleo Redd Fisher Museum, Loudonville, OH: MVG Bronze

Evansville African American Museum, Evansville, IN: Stewardship of Historic Structures and Landscapes Bronze; Stewardship of Collections, Management, and Audience Silver; Interpretation and MVG Gold

 


A person with orange sneakers climbing blue stairs.

Extended! Enroll in StEPs and Receive Three Bonus Resources

A person with orange sneakers climbing blue stairs.

The work that needs to be done at our nation’s museums is endless. But, as we all know, our energy and resources are not unlimited.

Assessment programs are like road maps. They are a valuable tool for moving an organization forward along a path and helping paid and unpaid staff, volunteers, and board members stay focused as they travel together along that path towards their goals.

Organizations that connect their planning, decision-making, and fundraising to an assessment program like StEPs―and thus national museum standards―gain credibility. Funders like to know that your plan or project is based on something that can be justified and substantiated, and that your organization’s progress can be measured. And, you will have a much easier time articulating goals and accomplishments to your community and other stakeholders when you connect them to the same standards that museums across the country are using.

With StEPs, history organizations have, for the first time, specific recommendations for improving the daily management of their organizations and planning for the future―all while working to meet national museum standards. These specific recommendations are the missing link that the field has long sought. They answer the question, “How do we know when an organization is meeting a standard?” StEPs uses an incremental approach of Basic, Good, and Better recommendations. Participating organizations earn Bronze, Silver, and Gold certificates in each of the program’s six workbook sections.

The StEPs program is open to any museum, historical society, historic house, site, or related organization. It is intended for small- and mid-sized organizations that do not feel ready for other assessment programs, but larger museums may find it useful for prioritizing and as a refresher checklist or training tool.

Enroll in StEPs during the month of May June and your organization receives the following bonus resources:

  1. The Field Service Alliance’s Tips for Caring for Collections on a Budget (webinar recording)
  2. The Art of Saying ‘No’: Declining Collections Gifts Gracefully (webinar recording)
  3. How to Plan Your Digitization Project (Technical Leaflet download)

Join more than 1,000 organizations across the country that are using StEPs to assess their policies and practices and take a leap forward in how they operate and serve their community!


The StEPs logo, in which the letters of S-T-E-P-S are typed above a curved brush stroke that is lower on the left and higher on the right. Text below logo reads Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations.

Five Organizations Earn StEPs Certificates in April

We congratulate these members who earned StEPs certificates last month!

The Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations is AASLH’s self-study standards program designed specifically for small to mid-sized history organizations, including volunteer-run institutions. Through a workbook, online resources, and an online community, organizations enrolled in StEPs assess their policies and practices and benchmark themselves against nationally recognized standards. StEPs certificates mark an institution’s progress towards enhancing standards and management of their resources.

Alf Engen Ski Museum, Park City, UT: Audience Bronze

Bay-Lakes Council Scout Museum, BSA, Oostburg, WI: Audience Silver Gold

City of Miami Black Police Precinct and Courthouse Museum, Miami, FL: Interpretation and MVG Bronze

Navy Lakehurst Historical Society, Inc., Lakehurst, NJ: Stewardship of Collections and MVG Silver

Pioneer Museum Fredericksburg, Fredericksburg, TX: MVG Bronze


The StEPs logo, in which the letters of S-T-E-P-S are typed above a curved brush stroke that is lower on the left and higher on the right. Text below logo reads Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations.

Webinar: Is Your Organization Ready for StEPs?

Assessment programs like AASLH’s StEPs program are road maps. They are a valuable tool for moving an organization forward along a path and helping paid and unpaid staff, volunteers, and board members stay focused as they travel together along that path toward a set of common goals.

Organizations that can connect planning and fundraising to an assessment program gain credibility. Funders like to know that your proposed project is based upon goals that are supported by an assessment program, and that your organization’s progress can be measured.

StEPs is a self-study assessment program open to any museum, historical society, historic house, site, or related organization. It is intended for small- and mid-sized organizations that do not feel ready for other assessment programs, but larger museums may find it useful for prioritizing and as a refresher checklist or training tool. Enrollment in StEPs is a one-time fee of $175 for institutional members of AASLH.

Is your organization ready for StEPs? Join us for this free, one-hour webinar to hear how StEPs can help your organization create a road map for meaningful change.

Note: This webinar is for organizations that are considering using the StEPs program. Organizations already enrolled in the program should register for the free webinar, “StEPs Welcome or Refresher" on June 19, 2019: https://learn.aaslh.org/p/event-stepswelcome-2019jun.

REGISTER HERE

Details:

Date: May 1, 2019

Time: 3:00 – 4:00 pm Eastern (Please adjust for your timezone!)

Cost: Free for AASLH Members and Nonmember

Closed captioning available upon advanced notice. Please contact flammia@aaslh.org for more information.

About the Instructor:

Cherie Cook is AASLH Senior Program Manager. Prior to joining the Association, Cherie worked with museums in Oklahoma for more than sixteen years, first as field services coordinator and then as executive director of the Oklahoma Museums Association. Much of Cherie’s work at AASLH focuses on smaller history organizations and is influenced not only by her years in Oklahoma but also her experience as a county historical society curator.


The StEPs logo, in which the letters of S-T-E-P-S are typed above a curved brush stroke that is lower on the left and higher on the right. Text below logo reads Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations.

Five Organizations Earn StEPs Certificates in March

We congratulate these members who earned StEPs certificates last month!

The Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations is AASLH’s self-study standards program designed specifically for small to mid-sized history organizations, including volunteer-run institutions. Through a workbook, online resources, and an online community, organizations enrolled in StEPs assess their policies and practices and benchmark themselves against nationally recognized standards. StEPs certificates mark an institution’s progress towards enhancing standards and management of their resources.

Kent-Delord House Museum, Plattsburgh, NY: Management Bronze

Lacey Historical Society, Forked River, NJ: Audience, MVG, Stewardship of Collections Gold

PBY Memorial Foundation, Oak Harbor, WA: Audience Bronze

Uintah County Heritage Museum, Vernal, UT: Management and MVG Bronze, Management and MVG Silver

Vintage Automobile Museum of New Jersey, Point Pleasant, NJ: Interpretation Bronze


StEPs Spotlight: Our Latest Gold Graduate, the Greeneville Greene County History Museum

Exciting changes are happening at the more than 1,000 organizations taking part in the StEPs program (Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations).

Our “StEPs Spotlight” blog series highlights accomplishments by participating organizations.

Below is another example of how StEPs is helping organizations take a leap forward by improving policies and practices, opening lines of communication, and setting goals for a bright future.

AASLH is proud to announce our seventh national StEPs graduate and the first in our home state of Tennessee!

Greeneville Greene County History Museum
Greeneville, Tennessee

By Dan Spice, Board Co-President, Greeneville Greene County History Museum

Beginning as a one-room museum in a retired school building, the museum has grown to thirteen galleries and numerous walk-through exhibits. This includes a fully restored 1787 two-story log structure that was one of Greene County's first homes that is now located on museum property. Galleries include “Tennessee Country: Paleo to Pioneer” and “The Green Book: The Segregated Years,” and the museum shares artifact stories and oral histories on its Facebook page and YouTube channel. GGCHM began as the Nathanael Greene Museum, but a name change on 2013 to the Greeneville Greene County History Museum more properly focuses on the collection of artifacts and stories of our rich local history. We host visitors from numerous states and several foreign countries each year, but we are most proud of our service to area residents, including thousands of schoolchildren. A staff of three and twenty-five volunteers work at the museum, which enrolled in StEPs in 2015.

Can you describe how your organization is making its way through the program?

We focused on working on each level and divided our board members into groups to help complete and document each step. Eventually, we found that we were already at the Good level in some sections. We used board meetings, committee meetings, and community advisory panels as we completed our strategic planning process in 2018 with the help of an outside professional management consulting firm. The workbook was invaluable in prompting a more objective look at our policies, plans, and procedures.

Our 2018 museum board.

What would you say is the most significant change or improvement within your organization as a result of taking part in StEPs?

A focus on staff and board growth was one tremendous outcome, along with planning for a new building that will allow us to serve more visitors each year and provide much-needed exhibit and storage space for our collections. StEPs is one way we are demonstrating our stewardship and growth to potential funders for our new building.

Tell us about some other specific examples of positive changes within your organization as a result of participation in StEPs.

Because we are presently in a 102-year-old building, disaster plans were badly needed. We were able to put this into action and it paid off, with a recent electrical malfunction that could have caused much greater damage if not for our disaster plan.

AASLH Chief of Operations Bethany Hawkins presents the StEPs graduation certificate to Betty Fletcher, Operations Director of the Greeneville Greene County History Museum, at the 2019 Tennessee Association of Museums conference.

Which section of the workbook has been your favorite, and why?

The Collections section forced us to focus on the quality of acquisitions and learning when and how to say "No, thank you" to unwanted donations. We also learned to look for the value and stories attached to our collections.

What advice do you have for organizations just starting in StEPs?

The workbook is invaluable. Read it, use the case study examples, and use the process as a good "floor-length mirror" for your organization. The StEPs process, for us a three-year endeavor, helped our board focus on long-term growth and greatly increasing the quality of our collection, exhibits, and service to the community.  While the entire board participated, our StEPs chair Kathy Giles, made sure we stayed on task and focused on improvement.  We highly recommend the program for the discipline and professionalism it has fostered in our organization.

Learn more about StEPs...

The StEPs logo, in which the letters of S-T-E-P-S are typed above a curved brush stroke that is lower on the left and higher on the right. Text below logo reads Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations.

Four Organizations Earn StEPs Certificates in February

We congratulate these members who earned StEPs certificates last month!

The Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations is AASLH’s self-study standards program designed specifically for small to mid-sized history organizations, including volunteer-run institutions. Through a workbook, online resources, and an online community, organizations enrolled in StEPs assess their policies and practices and benchmark themselves against nationally recognized standards. StEPs certificates mark an institution’s progress towards enhancing standards and management of their resources.

Alf Engen Ski Museum Foundation, Park City, UT: MVG Bronze

Cass County Historical Society, Plattsmouth, NE: MVG and Stewardship of Collections Bronze

Navy Lakehurst Historical Society, Inc., Lakehurst, NJ: Stewardship of Collections Bronze

Tuckerton Seaport and Baymen's Museum, Tuckerton, NJ: Stewardship of Collections Silver


New StEPs Group Forms in Missouri

By Elizabeth Pickard, Director, Education and Interpretation, Missouri Historical Society

Last month, the Missouri Historical Society launched its new StEPs working group as part of its Innovation Fund. Seven local history organizations are working through the StEPs workbook planning process in one year. The hope is that, by tackling the program in a structured course with fellow professionals, participants can share resources with one another as well as be sources of encouragement and support. A structured group also helps participants stay focused on the program by having set deadlines and group meetings. The quick pace is intended to help the organizations develop planning and implementation plans and to keep their momentum going through the process.

In addition to providing a group meeting structure, MHS is bringing in local, regional, and national experts to speak on each of the StEPs workbook sections. They will lead workshops on each topic and, during the planning time in the workshop session, help organizations identify action steps to meet their goals.

The organizations will gather for four hour meetings eight times over the course of the year, beginning with the January 2019 kickoff session and ending with a January 2020 StEPs celebration. At each gathering, they will develop a plan for conducting the initial assessment for one of the chapters. They will then identify what resources they have and what resources they need to determine where they are for each of the chapter’s standards, including what level they meet, or whether the standard needs to be addressed to begin with.  At the next meeting, they debrief with one another, share their experiences, and then have a workshop on that chapter.  At the end of the session, they will plan for assessing the next chapter and so on.

Here is the meeting schedule for the year, along with the presenters covering each topic. We're excited to begin this process with our colleagues!

Date Topic Speaker
January 15 Kickoff meeting/plan for assessing Mission, Vision, Governance Cherie Cook, AASLH
February 12 Mission, Vision, and Governance workshop/plan for assessing Audience Ashley Holmes, The Rome Group
April 16 Audience/plan for assessing Interpretation Dina Bailey, Mountain Top Vision
June 11 Interpretation/plan for assessing Stewardship of Collections Modupe Labode, IUPUI
August 13 Stewardship of Collections/plan for assessing Historic Landscapes and Structures Tamara Hemmerlein, Indiana Historical Society
October 15 Stewardship of Historic Landscapes and Structures/plan for assessing Management Andrew Weil, Landmarks St. Louis
December 17 Management/develop punch list to complete StEPs Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko, The Abbe Museum
January 14 2020 wrap up and celebration of class of 2019 and kickoff for class of 2020  

Learn more about StEPs groups here, and for more information on starting a StEPs group in your area, contact AASLH Senior Program Manager Cherie Cook at cook@aaslh.org or 615-320-3203.


StEPs Spotlight: Monroe County Museum

Exciting changes are happening at the 1,000 organizations taking part in the StEPs program (Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations).

Our “StEPs Spotlight” blog series highlights accomplishments by participating organizations.

Below is another example of how StEPs is helping organizations take a leap forward by improving policies and practices, opening lines of communication, and setting goals for a bright future.

Monroe County Museum
Monroe, Michigan

By Andrew Clark, Museum Director, Monroe County Museum

When it was originally founded in 1939, the Monroe County Museum shared quarters with other community organizations in the Sawyer House, a historic home located in the city of Monroe. Through the generosity of the founders of La-Z-Boy, in the early 1970s the museum moved into a building of its own, the recently vacated United States Post Office. Our signature exhibits include the First Nations, French-Canadian Settlement, 200 Years and Counting: A Bicentennial Exhibit, and George and Libbie Custer. We also have changing exhibits throughout the year. A staff of three full-time and twelve part-time employees, eleven members of the Monroe County Historical Commission, and sixty volunteers work at the museum, which enrolled in StEPs in 2017.

The Monroe County Museum also operates the Territorial Park on the River Raisin, a seasonal historical park, which includes the Navarre-Anderson Trading Post (1789), Navarre-Morris Cabin (c. 1810), Papermill School (c. 1865), as well as a recreated barn and bake oven typical of the region in the 1790s and early 1800s. Additionally we maintain the Eby Log House (1859) located at the county fairgrounds and assist with the operations of the Monroe County Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Museum, a seasonally operated site. Before it was transferred to the National Park Service, the museum also managed the River Raisin Battlefield, a War of 1812 site.

The Monroe County Museum fuels and cultivates visitors' curiosity through the exploration of Monroe County's rich and varied stories, joining together to unearth meaning and illuminate relevant connections between the past, present, and future.

From left to right: Navarre-Anderson Trading Post, Navarre-Morris Cabin, bake oven, and barn. A multi-year preservation and improvements project begins at the site in 2019.

Why did you choose the StEPs program?

In 2016, the Monroe County Historical Commission (MCHC) and Monroe County Museum (MCM) were still shaking off the funk of potential closure from a few years prior. Additionally, the MCHC was undergoing a structural transformation. However, the leadership of the MCHC and MCM recognized that we needed to position ourselves to begin thinking of the future. Some of our initial conversations were around the idea of seeking accreditation but we quickly realized that we were not at a point where we could successfully go through the process. Once we settled with StEPs, rather than go through the process in-house, we contracted with Donna Braden from the Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan, to lead us through the workbook. Donna's experience, organization, and expertise with the topics covered really made it possible for us to finish the workbook in a timely manner.

Can you describe how your organization is making its way through the program?

Our general process in going through StEPs was for our committee comprised of historical commissioners and museum staff to meet in a retreat format generally followed with an enrichment session that integrated with some aspect of StEPs. As needed, we would augment the committee with historical commissioners or museum staff that would be the most impacted or could provide specific insights related to the topic of discussion for that day. Following each meeting, Donna would provide extensive notes and supplemental materials related to the topic of discussion. At every meeting of the historical commission, the StEPs Committee would then give a progress report. Periodically, Donna would give updates to the MCHC at meetings in Monroe or at retreats at the Henry Ford.

Hiring an outside consultant like Donna was one of the best decisions for us as an organization. The work that she put into it and knowledge she conveyed to us as a committee has been invaluable. One outcome was that Donna and our StEPs committee presented at the Michigan Museum Association's annual conference in October 2018 about the process and the dynamics of a large institution working with a small institution.

Consultant Donna Braden (far right) with members of the Monroe County Historical Commission and Monroe County Museum staff at a StEPs retreat at the Henry Ford's Eagle Tavern, November 2018.

What would you say is the most significant change or improvement within your organization as a result of taking part in StEPs?

The Monroe County Historical Commission and Monroe County Museum have started to think more about the future in a thoughtful manner. We've been able to admit to our strengths and weaknesses as an organization and started the process of making the appropriate corrections. Perhaps, most importantly, we've developed strategic priorities and a road-map to accomplishing them.

Tell us about some other specific examples of positive changes within your organization as a result of participation in StEPs.

Our participation has been a little bit different from other organizations, but one of the most positive outcomes is working with colleagues from another museum. Additionally, historical commissioners and museum staff have learned more about some of the universal truths of the museum field (e. g., everyone needs more storage for collections and the collections storage you have could always be improved).

Historic image of Papermill School. Besides serving as a one-room schoolhouse for nearly a century, the building also served as the home of the Monroe County Museum's Country Store Exhibit for nearly fifty years. In late 2018, museum staff started preparing the building to turn it into a visitors center for the Territorial Park.

Which section of the workbook has been your favorite, and why?

Speaking for myself, I would say Mission, Vision, and Governance. Believe it or not, when we started StEPs we didn't really have a mission statement. That motivated us to create one as a committee, which we then presented to the Monroe County Historical Commission for adoption. This also set up our model of working with Donna on the workbook and also having enrichment sessions with staff and commissioners that related to some aspect of StEPs.

What advice do you have for organizations just starting in StEPs?

Take your time and be thoughtful. If you're in a position to have an outside consultant work with your organization like we did, I would suggest you take advantage of that opportunity. It can make all the difference.

Learn more about StEPs...