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.

Speaker: Cherie Cook, AASLH Senior Program Manager

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 November 6, 2019:

Details:

DATE: October 9, 2019

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

COST: FREE

Closed captioning available upon advanced notice. Please contact [email protected] for more information.

REGISTER HERE

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.

Four Organizations Earn StEPs Certificates in July

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.

African American Cultural and Historical Museum, Ann Arbor, MI: MVG Bronze

Cleo Redd Fisher Museum, Loudonville, OH: MVG and Interpretation Silver

Jack Jouett House Historic Site, Versailles, KY: MVG Bronze, Silver, and Gold; Interpretation Bronze, Silver, and Gold; and Audience Bronze, Silver, and Gold

McHenry County Historical Society and Museum, Union, IL: Audience, Interpretation, and Stewardship of Collections Bronze


Moving Luzerne County Historical Society Forward

By Aimee E. Newell, Ph.D., Executive Director, Luzerne County Historical Society with introduction by Cherie Cook, Senior Program Manager, AASLH

Assessment programs are valuable tools for moving an organization forward because they provide a much-needed pathway so board, staff, and volunteers travel in the same direction toward a set of agreed-upon goals.

Organizations that connect planning, decision-making, and fundraising to an assessment program―and to national museum standards―gain credibility. Funders like to know that planning is based upon something that can be justified, substantiated, and measured. You have a much easier time articulating goals and accomplishments when you connect them to the same benchmarks that museums across the country are using. Assessment programs offered by AASLH, the American Alliance of Museums, and the Foundation for Advancement in Conservation all use the same national standards, thus streamlining the transition from one assessment program to another.

Below is Aimee Newell’s story about how her organization has used assessment programs to make impressive progress in sustainability, planning, programming, and more.


When I became Executive Director at the Luzerne County Historical Society in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in late 2016, the organization was facing a number of challenges. It had been without an Executive Director for three years, had four paid staff (three of them part-time) and a $200,000 budget to operate a library, a museum, and two historic houses, as well as to steward the collection of 200,000+ objects, documents, and published works. There was limited programming, confusion about membership status, a ton of deferred maintenance, and the largest annual donation was $2,500.

But, there was also a lot of potential! Luzerne County has a varied history with many interesting stories to tell from prehistoric Native settlements to Revolutionary War battles to anthracite coal mining. The collection and the historic houses could have layers of interpretation and programming added–environmental history, abolition, and diverse family stories, just to name a few. And, we could widen our reach by truly exploring all of Luzerne County and telling its stories.

One of the first things that I did was to enroll the Society in StEPs (Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations) offered by AASLH. I did an initial assessment by going through the entire workbook and we were able to secure bronze certificates in Audience and Collections Stewardship by the end of my first year as ED. The StEPs materials and goals helped me to start thinking about the Society’s first strategic plan in ten years, and to help direct the board and staff toward goals, as well as with understanding their particular roles.

As part of this process of righting the ship, so to speak, and doing some strategic planning, we also participated in the CAP (Collections Assessment for Preservation) and MAP (Museum Assessment) programs during my first two years. In summer 2017, we received a CAP grant that funded a site visit by an architectural/buildings consultant and a collections specialist who met with us and prepared a comprehensive report to identify preventive conservation priorities for our historic buildings and our collection.

We asked the buildings assessor to focus on our two historic houses, while the collections assessor spent the bulk of his time with our library and museum collection. The assessors met with staff members to gain their perspectives and we had a couple of dinners with board members. In addition, I, as the Executive Director, was able to talk about society priorities with the assessors in order to help communicate our needs in the report. Our CAP report communicated the urgency for repairs at our Swetland Homestead, promoted the understanding of the necessity of an inventory and proper environmental conditions for our collection, and helped board and staff see the urgency of the need for a combined museum and library building, rather than our current pair of structures, neither of which is meeting our needs or our goals.

The following summer–in 2018–we participated in an organizational assessment through the MAP program. It helps museums strengthen operations, plan for the future and meet standards. We wanted to increase the board’s understanding of its role and responsibilities, improve the alignment of operations and resources to our mission, improve our financial sustainability and engage the community.

Through the self-study workbook and the assessor site visit, as well as our final report, the MAP raised awareness of our needs and priorities among the board and staff. It also helped jump-start conversations about where we were and where we need to go. One board member commented, “It gives us a shared common experience to move forward with.” Another noted, “The MAP was beneficial in getting everyone on the same page – it’s incredibly refreshing after too many years of stasis.”

In combination with our CAP and MAP surveys, we continue to follow the StEPs workbook. We have used it to help with writing our strategic plan. The StEPs basic, good, and better performance indicators are a nice way for us to measure our progress. StEPs also helps explain goals and priorities to board, staff, and volunteers and allows us to identify and communicate goals for different parts of the organization. StEPs gives us confidence to meet challenges. We enjoy celebrating our progress, and have earned six more bronze and silver certificates!

Assessment programs available to the museum field have been invaluable for LCHS. We have moved forward a great deal since 2016. We still have five staff, but three are now full-time and two are part-time. We increased our annual budget to $325,000. Our fundraising is up across the board – our annual appeal has increased by $20,000 each of the past two years and our largest gift is up to $25,000. We are doing more than 25 programs and events each year and after an initial increase of 67% to our membership, it has remained stable. We still have a ton of deferred maintenance, but now we have a plan, thanks to our CAP report.

The board approved our strategic plan in September 2018. Goals include increasing the diversity of LCHS programming and audiences, making the LCHS collection accessible to our community, maintaining our financial stability, implementing a sustainable plan for growth, and planning for our future, particularly by determining a plan for a combined museum and library building. We still have a lot of work to do, but StEPs, CAP, and MAP have helped us develop a way to approach stages of the process and to measure our progress. As one board member commented, “I feel like everyone has a direction. People realize what needs to be done and they are seeing the future. The assessment has created an energy that is moving all board members and staff.”


Learn more about the StEPs program and the Small Museums Affinity 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 June

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.

Bishop Baraga Association, Marquette, MI: Management and MVG Gold

Cleo Redd Fisher Museum, Loudonville, OH: Management, Audience, Interpretation, Stewardship of Collections, and Stewardship of Historic Structures and Landscapes Bronze

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

Manitowoc County Historical Society, Manitowoc, WI: Management and Stewardship of Historic Structures and Landscapes Gold

Navy Lakehurst Historical Society, Inc., Lakehurst, NJ: Management and Stewardship of Historic Structures and Landscapes Silver

 

And special congratulations to Manitowoc County Historical Society, our latest StEPs graduate with Gold in all categories!


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 [email protected] 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 [email protected] 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