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New challenges ahead.

This column marks the fifth anniversary of my introduction to you through my first "Miller's Meanderings." It does not seem possible tht five full years have gone by since then, but "time filies when you're having fun!" I mean that sincerely.

The past five years have been fun and challenging. In my first column I wrote that I would use itt for "observing, reacting, wondering, and at times, maybe even appearing confused and without much direction" -- like when we just meander through the outdoors.

As I was preparing to write this column I though it might be a good time to look at our future and some of its challenges, with where we have come in five years as perspective. There are three broad areas I want to cover -- organizational structure, program, and finance. My challenge to you as you read this is to evaluate what I have to say about ACA according to your view of where ACA was, where it is today and where you see it going in the future. Then, let me know what you think!

First, five years ago, we were just starting on the governance restructuring. Many people felt that ACA was too cumbersome and devoted far too many resources to just governing itself. A task force developed recommendations, which the ACA National Board of Directors and Council of Delegates modified and then passed. The recommendations significantly altered the national governance structure. The new structure is now completely mature and has been very successful in addressing the issues raised back in 1987-1988.

That success does not mean we now have a perfect system. I have always said that organizations are like living organisms. They must grow, develop and adapt to their environment if they are to survive. The environment in which ACA finds itself today is significantly different than it was only five years ago. Our current national structure may need modification, or "tweaking," as some would say, if it is to continue to best serve the needs of members. Some recommendations in that area could be coming forward this fall.

More importantly, and controversially, our section structure may need the kind of study and attention that led to the changes in the national structure. Changes in tax law, society and demographics may require that sections function differently in the future than they have in the past. We will start the process of addressing this issue during the next year. A special task force will be looking at the concept of core services that all members should receive, and at the chartering document.

The next area of change has been program. In 1988 we wasw the first discussions of the need to develop conference-center standards to better serve our members. Those standards have now been developed and training of visitors is underway. As camps continue to expand the scope of their operations, will another set of standards need to be developed? As we explore a more aggressive approach to the day-camp industry and its many facets, will our standards program need additonal modification?

In 1988, a membership survey indicated that our certification program was not particularly important tou our members. After extensive evaluation, a decision was made to alter the program significantly to make it more responsive to members needs. In the membership survey that was done as part of the strategic planning process, certificatiion was rated as very important to our members. That change in perceived importance needs to be translated into increased participation in the program.

Legislative and regulatory activity by various levels of government have become a significant problem for camps over the past several years. On the strategic planning survey, this program area was rated second behind standards in its importance to members. We have maintained a legislative presence in Washington for a number of years and have significantly expanded our commitment in this year's budget.

A component of that expanded commitment is to develop a more coordinated approach to all legislative activities, including those at the state level. Our challenges in this area are centered around developing training and materials for sections to use.

A second major issue: at the time I am writing this column, President Clinton's tax reform package would make it very difficult for ACA to represent its members effectively at the state and local level, in addition to adding massive new record-keeping burdens for activities at the federal level.

The third topic I need to address is that of finance. Five years ago, ACA's financial condition, while solvent, was not strong. Today it is much stronger. It needs to be even stronger. We have completed four consecutively years of operating in the black. Several challenges face us, however. Growth of our dues and service fees must be controlled. Other revenue sources must be developed and the ones we already have need to be carefully nurtured.

This is what makes the American Camping Foundation's Endowment and Public Awareness campaign so important. While the public awareness side of that campaign has captured most of our members' interest, the endowment side of the campaign is even more important. Growth of our unrestricted endowment will provide needed long-term stability to ACA's financial position.

When I arrived five years ago, ACA set some goals for itself. I am pleased to say that we have accomplished many of those goals. ACA is much stronger today because of that success. We cannot sit back satisfied, however. We must continue to grow, change and adapt to our environment. We recently completed a three-year strategic plan and set new goals for ourselves. Working towards accomplishing those new goals can make the next three years even more exciting that the past. I am looking forward to accomplishing them together.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:for the American Camping Association
Author:Miller, John A.
Publication:Camping Magazine
Article Type:Column
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Next Article:Strategic planning update: where do we go from here?

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