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Thank you to the Friends of Great Swamp NWR, NJ, for sharing their process for developing an annual work plan in conjunction with refuge staff.

The Friends Partnership Agreement includes the expectation of an annual meeting between Refuge staff and Friends leadership.

Friends Partnership Agreement — Section V. Service And Friends Responsibilities

Joint Responsibilities of the Service and Friends. Both parties jointly agree to:

(1) Work actively and collaboratively together to achieve the following specified goals and objectives during the term of this agreement:

(2) Participate in regular meetings to foster close cooperation on agreement implementation.

(3) Communicate on a regular basis to discuss applicable site-related issues and projects and make timely decisions on matters necessary for proper implementation and administration of this agreement.

(4) Work in good faith to execute additional agreements, as necessary, to meet the mutual objectives of the parties.

(5) Work jointly to encourage community engagement in shared stewardship of the Service by the local and national community.

(6) Meet annually to assess the effectiveness of the partnership as it relates to the purpose, goals, objectives, roles, and responsibilities outlined in the Friends Partnership Agreement to ensure expectations are clear and realistic, and modify the agreement if there are any significant changes to the scope of the partnership.

(7) Take steps to avoid the appearance that either party represents the views of or directs the management or decisionmaking process of the other. The Service and the Friends will maintain an evident and distinct separation between their organizational management activities.

(8) Work together in good faith to resolve differences.

Joint Planning Meetings at Great Swamp NWR

Refuge staff and Friends at Great Swamp NWR have consistently held a Joint Planning meeting since 2011 and find the process and outcome extremely useful.

The process:

  • Make a commitment to collaborate between Friends and staff. This should be an overarching practice, so it is easier for this meeting.
  • Choose a name for communications and future context. Joint Planning Meeting? “At our Joint Planning Meeting we agreed that one of our priorities…”
  • Write down the purpose and expectations of the meeting. Great Swamp NWR uses the meeting to align Friends and Refuge joint goals for the coming year. This drives creation of the Friends budget – financial planning and projects that utilize volunteer help. The Refuge uses it to communicate priorities for the coming year and request financial/volunteer assistance from Friends on specific projects.
  • Select an annual date, which will depend on how the outcomes of the meeting will be used. September may be a good time, if both Friends and Service use the Service Fiscal Year and you are using the agreements for budgets and work planning.
  • Encourage input from all staff members and Friends board. Many of the joint endeavors at Great Swamp NWR involve not just the Visitor Services manager, but the biologist and maintenance staff. (See example of Discussion)
  • After input from staff and board, two or three people must organize the topic and create an agenda. (See Criteria)
  • The agenda must be circulated ahead of time, with topics highlighted. If there are new topics, as much information as possible, should be sent to staff and board ahead of time. (See Agenda)
  • At Great Swamp NWR, pre Covid-19, Friends provided a pizza and salad dinner before the meeting. Last year our meeting was held virtually.

The meeting:

  • Have all the communications aids ready, including agenda with time allotments, flip charts, etc.
  • Have someone to facilitate the meeting, other than the Refuge Manager or Friends President. Also, a time keeper and a note taker are necessary.
  • Review the past year and highlight the successes.
  • Friends and staff may be ready to commit to some items/projects at the meeting. Other items may require additional information/decisions.
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