By Jennifer Armson-Dyer
You wouldn’t go on a road trip without a map, right? You would at least look at your final destination and the possible routes to get there. You may hit traffic and have to detour, but you’ll ultimately end up where you want to be, and probably see some cool stuff along the way.
At Badger Region, we also value the final destination, or at least a resting place before we re-evaluate where we want to go next. And yes, we’ve hit road closures (COVID-19), speed bumps (facility construction and unavailability) and have had to take detours (youth sports in general!), but those types of things make an organization stronger. They’re also the reason we continually undergo exercises in strategic and long-range planning: to make sure we still want to go where we said we were going to go, and look for a possible better route to get there.
It’s hard to believe that we’re three and a half years out from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are grateful that Badger Region was fiscally responsible enough to survive without having to let go of any employees, and we were able to provide programming — however different from normal — throughout. But after we all got through it, our old plans didn’t seem like they fit the organization and landscape anymore.
In the fall of 2021 and through the winter of 2022, the Badger Region staff and Board of Directors worked with consultants Cyndi Wood and Merri Oxley out of Madison to revamp our SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis by extensive surveys and conversations with stakeholders and members, including parents, officials and club directors. From there, feedback was identified and grouped together into different categories.
In May 2022, the Badger Region staff and Board of Directors spent a weekend at a Strategic Planning retreat, talking about the different silos, how to increase resource development for diversified funding and outreach streams, integrate diversity, equity and inclusion into the organization and make sure operations, programming and the organization were all headed in the right direction.
Each area has a set of short term goals and long term goals to be accomplished, and all goals were set up in SMART format for accountability, so that each goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Based.
Today, this is where the areas stand:
The overarching theme of this category is making sure there is a solid foundation for both the organization and the board on which to build.
Complete: Our first goal of creating a Finance Committee was completed in May 2022 and is chaired by our Treasurer, Beau Rath, and joined by board members Holly Jablonowski and Josh Price. Rath and Executive Director Jennifer Armson-Dyer have undergone an accounting transition from a third party to bring bill payments, payroll and accounting in-house for greater access and transparency. Also complete are alterations for board structures and positions. The executive committee of the board is now elected by the board itself, rather than the membership at large, which protects the institutional knowledge of the region and aids in strong leadership from those involved, as they also retain their elected seat. But recognizing that membership-elected positions were being taken away, the current executive committee positions of President, Vice President and Secretary were put on a transition plan from elected to that specific position by the full-membership to constituent- or demographically-elected. In 2023, the Secretary Position was turned into an At-Large seat elected by the general membership population. In 2024, the President position will transition to an Official’s Representative, elected by all officials who are in good standing in the region, per the recent policy. And in 2025, the Vice President position will become a Coach position, eligible to any coach in the region and elected by the general membership. Holly Jablonowski was elected by the board as Secretary, and she will also continue to represent Southeast Wisconsin.
In Progress: Currently in progress are the goals of providing a health insurance option and additional benefits for staff and also reviewing staff titles and organizational structure. With the growth of the region, it’s prudent to make sure that the current staff is taken care of and also make sure that workloads are both recognized and efficient, or if additional staff positions are needed.
Up Next: Up next on the list for this category are to develop a succession plan for the Board of Directors and staff, to create a Parent Advisory Committee and to also create a Health and Wellness committee. All of these items are on the roadmap to good governance and organizational success and also speak to the care that we have for our members and their success.
The idea behind this category is to build up the resources that Badger Region can use — both human and capital — to further its mission and serve more people.
Complete / On-Going: A great success of this area so far has been the Ambassador program, headed by Program Director Brian Sharkey. This group of volunteers has been active at Badger Region events and open houses, helping to answer questions, assist staff with events and spread the mission of Badger Region! If you’re interested in becoming an Ambassador (and getting some cool region swag), please contact Sharkey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Progress: Two areas that are underway are creating a diversified fundraising plan with stores and donations, as we are a registered 501c3 nonprofit with a mission for education. We’ve also developed more sponsors and partners for Badger Region, with Molten, Sports Imports, Hudl, Art of Coaching, Frisco Mo, Won80 Sportsmanship, Milwaukee Dive, the International Volleyball Hall of Fame, First Point Foundation, Dig Pink and the Sideout Foundation and the American Cancer Society. These partnerships and sponsorships increase outreach and visibility for Badger Region while in some cases providing our members with incentives, or helping to aid in the missions of other organizations.
Up Next: Three areas that are up next are to hire or contract a resource development director, create a resource development committee and develop and implement a Thank-a-Thon campaign. These three items will further the outreach and development of programming and resources that the region is able to provide to underserved and growing populations around the state, as well as recognize those dedicated to helping us advance our mission and increase opportunities for anyone to participate in the sport.
One of our largest categories, this area helps solidify both the public-facing and internal communications of Badger Region.
Complete / On-Going: Several tasks have been checked off the list, including the most expansive: revamping the website. This was done in conjunction with Pitch and Run, LLC, with the goal of making the website more user-friendly, including to mobile users. Also complete and in use are e-ambassadors, volunteers who share on social media platforms stories and photos from Badger Region, as well as creating materials to support those ambassadors. Badger Region belongs to everyone, so another goal underway is the incorporation of diversity, equity and inclusion messaging in all communications, as appropriate. This includes general pronouns and familial relationships.
In-Progress: Several areas are also in-progress, including developing a feedback form and collecting information from events and listening sessions that we have online with our members and constituent groups. The staff and board then use that information to help make informed decisions on policy and programming. We’ve also developed a comprehensive communication plan and social media calendar to make sure we know what is coming up and can plan resources accordingly. Also underway, is an improvement in onboarding new club directors. We understand that a lot goes into running a club, and our goal is to make it as easy as possible. Led by Operations Manager Scott Spiess, several video tutorials and step-by-step one-pagers have been developed to aid club directors in their duties.
Up Next: The remaining goal in this area is to create resources for the Parent Advisory Council upon its formation. We will use the council’s experiences to improve programs and services and create materials to help other parents in their club volleyball journey.
Programs and Events:
While Badger Region has a robust event schedule that also allows clubs and third-parties the ability to run safe, region-approved events, we understand there is always the opportunity for improvement, which is where this category comes in.
Complete / On-Going: In an effort to bring recognition to the northern part of the state, we created and helped to implement a Northern Badger Series. We partnered with events in the northern part of the state (Eau Claire, La Crosse and Stevens Point) and helped recognize the teams who were successful in those events. We will continue this in the 2024 season.
In Progress: A main goal that is underway is to identify venues in areas where future growth can occur. Not only does this mean active participants, but also venues where events can grow. We’re proud to say that for the first time ever, under the direction of Tournament Director Kelly Lehman, Badger Region will be running large events in the Alliant Energy Center in Madison and the Resch Convention Center in Green Bay.
Up Next: A long term goal for this area is to form an internal working group to explore the viability of new programming. This comes with an evaluation of current programming, as we want to know what is working, could be modified, or should be discontinued in favor of something more valuable. The deadline for this goal is 2025, even if we are constantly evaluating events and programs as they happen.
This final area focuses more on framework and policies to help set a standard and build on a solid foundation.
Complete: Marked in green on the dashboard from this area are the tasks of reviewing staff job responsibilities and workload (to help identify future staffing needs) and also coordinating listening sessions and round tables across the organization to either get feedback from the membership or get information out from subject matter experts to our members. Keep an eye on the website for the upcoming fall slate of Lunch & Learns on Facebook!
In-Progress: We’ve started conversations in many different areas on sportsmanship, which brings into play two separate goals in the strategic plan of creating a good sportsmanship task force and also creating a policy to address poor sportsmanship in clubs and at events. A main partner in this is Mark Horbinski of Won80, a grassroots sportsmanship movement started in 2015 with a mission to lead a return to sportsmanship through awareness, education and inspiration. Badger Region offers to clubs Won80 sessions with Mark, who also just presented at our recent Junior Club Director meeting on Aug. 27 in Brookfield. Also at this meeting we started talking to the club directors about creating a sportsmanship policy, and welcome any feedback on this idea.
Up Next: The outstanding item in this category is to identify and develop needed training programs. Much like the evaluations from the Programs and Services category, this initiative would look at current training options and look at where gaps exist and where improvements can be made.
We’re proud of the work we do, even when most people don’t see it, because it translates to smiles on the court and memories that can be looked back upon fondly. Of the 33 total goals included in this most recent strategic plan, developed in May 2022, we’re happy to say that only nine remain to be started; the rest are complete, on-going or in progress of being completed.
If you have any questions on certain topics or items, would like to find out more about an area or offer your expertise, please reach out to Executive Director Jennifer Armson-Dyer at email@example.com.