Submitted by Justin Minsker on
By Amy Hammons, CHC Outreach Program Coordinator
The popularity of Texas’ numerous preservation-related organizations demonstrates a clear public need for preservation programming and services. However, a number of these organizations struggle each year to find the time, money, and manpower to accomplish goals, indicating they may not be sustainable.
The Texas Historical Commission (THC) recognizes that sustainable organizations play a vital role in our efforts to save the real places that tell the real stories of Texas. Preservation success requires more than an understanding of maintenance and materials—we need organizations that can deliver a quality level of programming over time to see projects through from conception to implementation.
Formed in 1954, the Galveston Historical Foundation (GHF) is a nonprofit devoted to historic preservation and history in Galveston County. GHF’s organizational sustainability is demonstrated by its endurance and diversification.
Over time, GHF has expanded its vision, responding to the shifting needs of its community and landscape to address preservation issues related to community redevelopment, coastal resiliency, and stewardship of historic properties.
The organization’s practices have evolved to encompass advancements in environmental and natural sciences as related to the preservation of historic buildings and coastal life.
Through innovative programming, GHF attaches the community to its mission in meaningful ways, creating experiences that highlight engaging stories about the history of Galveston Island.
Developing Sustainable Organizations
Building sustainable organizations is about increasing organizational performance. There’s no single solution that enables organizations to accomplish this goal––some will expand services, some will reduce programming, and some will refine the organizational mission.
Developing strategies toward sustainability enables organizations to accomplish extraordinary goals. When these strategies are implemented, preservation organizations demonstrate the best of what preservation can achieve and, by doing so, reinforce the importance of our shared mission to save the real places that tell the real stories of Texas.
Sustainable County Historical Commissions
THC’s County Historical Commission (CHC) Outreach Program creates opportunities for each CHC to build the capacity of its appointees, programs, and organization. Ultimately, these efforts encourage practices that result in sustainable organizations. Franklin CHC is a good example of a sustainable CHC.
The Franklin CHC is a political subdivision of Franklin County. This 18-person board serves a low population and minimal land area county; however, Franklin has one of the more successful CHCs in the state.
Franklin CHC’s organizational sustainability is demonstrated by its cultivation of multiple funding sources, area partnerships, and diverse programming.
CHC events target a variety of participant ages and interests related to preservation. By connecting local history to recreation, fine art, music, and holiday celebrations, the CHC has expanded its audience and, in turn, its outreach efforts.
Additionally, Franklin CHC’s partnerships have resulted in a larger volunteer force and increased funding—both of which encourage a healthy distribution of work and growth in programming over time.
These sustainable practices are reinforced by the variety of CHC programs that contribute to promoting the downtown historic district, area museums, historic sites, and heritage tourism efforts.
Evaluating Organizational Sustainability
If you are a part of an organization with potential issues related to sustainability, here are a few questions to consider regarding how your organization currently functions.
- Does your organization have the resources necessary to execute its mission appropriately? Sustainable organizations craft a body of work that can be delivered within a realistic budget and reliable workforce. Additionally, that body of work contributes directly to the organizational mission.
- Does your organization have a resilient leadership structure in place? Sustainable organizations have a healthy distribution and shared understanding of responsibilities to ensure that the organization can withstand changes in leadership, staffing, and volunteer corps.
- Does your organization evaluate programming and make changes accordingly? Sustainable organizations look for ways to improve how they educate and engage the community. Sustainable organizations also focus on quality over quantity––they can let go of less productive efforts to expand core programming.
Successful preservation efforts involve more than an understanding of materials and maintenance. That’s why our Real Places Conference offers not only technical discussions about preservation standards, but also sessions related to organizational excellence.
Join us on Friday, January 31, for our breakout session, Let’s Talk About County Historical Commissions, to consider organizational challenges faced by CHCs, as well as, nonprofits. The THC’s CHC Outreach Program staff will facilitate discussions among attendees that address such topics as program planning, leadership transitions, and aging volunteer corps.
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