THE NEED FOR A STRATEGIC PLAN
2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the Neotropical Bird Club (“NBC”). The event presents not only, an opportunity for us to celebrate NBC’s achievements but also, an appropriate moment to reaffirm and communicate our strategic objectives for the next few years (2019-2021).
The NBC has grown from a small group of founding individuals in 1994 concerned with conserving Neotropical birds into a respected organisation disseminating high-quality information about Neotropical birds and making a number of grants per annum for work or research projects centred on the conservation of Neotropical birds (worth between US$1,500 and US$ 5,000 per grant).
There can be little doubt that the need for Neotropical bird conservation persists and, if anything, the need is more acute today than it was in 1994. * The magnitude of the challenge is such that that the NBC can only ever be one of a number of organisations dedicated to Neotropical bird conservation. Even so, through its sharing of bird information, conservation projects, enthusiastic membership and network of experts the NBC is well placed to facilitate Neotropical bird conservation.
Yet to maximise the effective use of these scarce resources it is important that we plan how best to do so. Hence, we need a set of written objectives and actions that are simple, clear, focussed and achievable. Furthermore, these objectives and actions must be communicated externally so that the wider community are aware of how the NBC intends to use all contributions made (financial or otherwise). Hopefully, this may encourage more contributions. To that end this Strategic Plan records the NBC’s objectives and actions for 2019-2021. It was approved by the NBC’s governing Council in June 2019.
*For example, BirdLife International in its 2018 review of Globally Threatened Birds (IUCN Red List for birds) “uplisted” 58 Neotropical bird species (residents and migrants) to a higher category of threat.
OUTLINE OF THIS STRATEGIC PLAN
The Strategic Plan:
- begins with noting the NBC’s charitable objects (our mission);
- moves on to explain the role of our strategic plan;
- then outlines 4 strategic objectives; and
- finally contains a list of actions for each objective.
The Strategic Plan is not intended to be a box ticking exercise. Rather it’s a set of stepping stones on a long journey towards the goal of conserving Neotropical birds for future generations to enjoy and study. Some stones may be missed out and others might be replaced but the direction of travel remains the same.
OUR MISSION (CHARITABLE OBJECTS)
The NBC’s Constitution states its charitable objects are:
- promoting the study of, and an interest in, Neotropical birds; and
- the conservation of Neotropical birds.
The Constitution then adds that these objects may be furthered by the NBC:
- acting as a forum for persons interested in Neotropical birds by holding meetings and publishing materials concerning Neotropical birds;
- working with individuals and non-profit making organisations who pursue aims or activities concerned with Neotropical birds; and
- encouraging members to contribute to conservation research on Neotropical birds.
THE ROLE OF THIS STRATEGIC PLAN
Thus, the Constitution establishes the purpose (i.e. objects) that governs all that the NBC may do and illustrates a number of ways in which the NBC may achieve those objects. While the NBC’s purpose is fixed, how the NBC might achieve this is more open. We believe furthering the NBC’s objects can be progressed by pursuing four strategic objectives accompanied by a number of associated actions. This is not to say that the NBC can have no other strategic objectives or set actions. Rather, in line with the remarks made previously, this is a way to encapsulate what we see as the most practical and effective way of marshalling the NBC’s limited resources towards Neotropical bird conservation.
OUR FOUR STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES
- Gather and disseminate topical and high-quality information about Neotropical birds.
- Finance quality small-scale projects intended to benefit Neotropical bird conservation.
- Establish working relationships with like-minded organisations and individuals.
- Attain a measure of financial independence and earn a reputation for good governance.
- GATHER AND DISSEMINATE TOPICAL AND HIGH-QUALITY INFORMATION
ABOUT NEOTROPICAL BIRDS
The NBC generates, collects and distributes information about Neotropical birds. This is done in a number of ways including through:
- Cotinga – a peer-reviewed journal containing papers and notes on new distributional and temporal information concerning Neotropical birds with a special accent on globally threatened species. Written by contributors from all parts of the world, it is recognised as a quality scientific journal. As of 2018 40 editions have appeared.
- Neotropical Birding – a forum for articles and stunning photographs on identification, birding sites and other information expected to be of interest to birders living in or visiting the Neotropics. Written principally by Neotropical birders, it is appreciated as one of the best birding magazines for birders with an interest in Neotropical birding. As of 2018 23 editions have appeared.
- Member meetings-the NBC runs meetings for its members (generally once a year in Europe) -which is also open to the public-hosting a number of talks and other presentations concerning Neotropical bird conservation.
- British Birdwatching Fair (“BBWF”) – the NBC through its presence promotes interest in Neotropical birds and distributes copies of Cotinga and Neotropical Birding.
- The NBC website- this publicises the information the NBC generates and contains links to other sources of Neotropical bird information.
- Use of social media-platforms such as, Facebook and Twitter group are used to communicate with members and others. They are administered and monitored by nominated administrators.
WE WILL (subject to having the necessary financial and other resources)
- Publish at least one edition of Cotinga per annum.
- Publish at least two editions of Neotropical Birding per annum.
- Hold an open meeting at least every other year.
- Maintain a presence at BBWF and possibly Middle American & South American equivalents.
- Maintain and improve the NBC website’s promotion of our and other bodies information on Neotropical birds.
- Use appropriate social media platforms to communicate news about the NBC (e.g. meetings, fund raising and release of new publications) and to encourage interesting posts from group members.
- FINANCE QUALITY SMALL-SCALE PROJECTS
INTENDED TO BENEFIT NEOTROPICAL BIRD CONSERVATION
The NBC promotes bird conservation through its Conservation Awards Programme (“CAP”). Following a rigorous review of applications by the Council’s CAP sub-committee, we award small grants for conservation work or research carried out by nationals and/or residents of Neotropical countries. These must be of conservation benefit to birds of the region, especially globally threatened and data deficient species.
Between 2001 and 2009 around 60 grants were made relating to 14 countries (for example, Colombia (20), Argentina (13) and Ecuador (5)) and concerning a variety of bird families (for example, buntings (5), guans & curassows (4) and cotingas (4)). It is generally recognised that small grants can have a positive impact for bird conservation. A number of grants have demonstrated this. They have led to the discovery of unknown sites for threatened birds and prompting local conservation action (Horned Guan award 2004), the revision of our understanding of the conservation status of a species and thereby prompting an ‘uplisting’ on IUCN’s Red Data list for birds (Hooded Grebe award 2008) and the recognition of a threatened taxon deserving of full species status and consequently attracting conservation efforts (Swallow-tailed Cotinga -now known as Palkachupa Cotinga -award 2007).
We have a rich heritage of supporting successful research projects. We wish to continue this work and make more of our legacy. To do so requires more income, new projects and broader publicity. There is a potential virtuous circle of new projects leading to new publicity leading to greater awareness of what the NBC does leading to more donations.
- Continue to fund high quality conservation projects throughout the Neotropics with a focus on threatened and data deficient species.
- Continue to adopt and effect a rigorous appraisal system of applications for grants.
- Continue to report the outcomes of funded projects in our journal but also look for other ways to publicise them such as press releases, Facebook, articles in magazines and twitter.
- Continue to publicise (especially in the Neotropics) the availability and objectives of the Conservation Awards Programme.
- ESTABLISH WORKING RELATIONSHIPS WITH LIKE-MINDED ORGANISATIONS AND INDIVIDUALS
From the beginning the NBC established a network of regional representatives with an emphasis on having representatives based in the Neotropics who, in a pre-Internet world, could meet or telephone members in their home country. As technology has moved on it’s time for the NBC to re-appraise how best to use these regional contacts*. In addition, there has been an evolving use of technical experts and so there is a similar need to evaluate the most efficacious use and retention of this resource.
Similarly, working with other like-minded organisations or individuals- that demonstrably facilitate the dissemination of information about, and/or conservation of, Neotropical birds – can also assist us in achieving our mission (e.g. collaborating on conservation messages and individual projects). Furthermore, there may be opportunities to bring about administrative savings and new ways of income generation.
We have begun the process of developing memoranda of understandings with such organisations.
- Clarify the role and our expectations of representatives and advisers.
- Use our members and other contacts to identify suitable representatives and advisers.
- Deepen our relationships with the other Regional Bird Clubs.
- Work with more like-minded organisations & individuals if this may further our mission.
* Following the retirement of all Regional Representatives (RRs) at the NBC’s AGM on 22nd August 2020 an Ambassadors programme has been introduced to implement a new strategy to best promote NBC through members connected to the Neotropical region.
- ATTAIN A MEASURE OF FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE AND EARN A REPUTATION FOR GOOD GOVERNANCE
The Council of NBC is conscious of the fact that there is potentially so much more the NBC could do to achieve its charitable objects. Limited finance and human resources present the major limitations on what can be achieved. Even so, on a limited budget and with a small cadre of volunteers, the NBC has achieved much in recent years. However, as with other UK charities, the NBC faces a diminution in volunteer support, an increasing regulatory burden and a struggle to raise funds. Nonetheless, we remain undaunted and will continue to seek ways to raise finance and encourage new volunteers, especially from a diversity of backgrounds and experience. Further, we recognise that those who are donating, and those who might one day donate, expect the NBC to conduct its affairs efficiently and transparently. Accordingly, NBC is committed to continual improvement of its administrative functions and the maintenance of the best governance standards.
- Seek out new members and donors via promoting the NBC through our members, leafleting, birdfairs, journals, the website, social media, tour operators and other relevant organisations.
- Encourage new volunteers (including trustees) from all economic and social backgrounds including students, professionals with the expertise the NBC can utilise and Neotropical residents interested in conserving their avifauna.
- Maximise all avenues for fundraising including donations, fundraiser trips, raffles, sales and corporate sponsorship.
- Continue to work with other organisations to share costs and resources.
- Practice good governance through adoption and implementation (so far as feasible) of generally recognised standards such as the recommended practices of the Charity Governance Code for Smaller Charities and the Nolan principles of public life.
- Implement recommendations by the Charity Commission concerning best practice in relation to administration, fundraising and governance.
MONITORING AND FEEDBACK
The Council of the NBC will monitor the progress of this strategy and will publish a revised strategy so far as necessary.
We welcome any comments from members and the wider public. They may be emailed to secretary @neotropicalbirdclub.org
This version 08/07/2019