In Education and Learning, River and Water Organizations

Building Strong Champions for Local Impact

We say it a lot: River Network connects local watershed organizations across the country, empowering them with tools, training, and resources. But what does this really mean? What does it look like to “build strong champions,” as our strategic plan puts it, and to support Leadership Development, Organizational Sustainability & Planning, and Professional Development for our member organizations? What is the importance of an organization that exists to help other organizations?

At its core, building strong champions is capacity building work at both the individual and organizational levels. As we do this work, we are honored to meet so many passionate individuals at impactful organizations and find deep gratitude in how we are able to encourage, train, and celebrate these amazing individuals and organizations in our network. It’s these voices and groups that make a difference in their communities each day, and we’re humbled to see our expertise and support manifesting in real-world solutions and strength.

Organizational Sustainability

“Today, I and one half-time staff person with board members and volunteers have built Cayuga Lake Watershed Network into an effective watershed-wide organization working daily to protect our lake and region from threats and challenges – thanks in large part to my River Network education. I’m so grateful that my Board recently accepted my suggestions that we work with River Network staff for our strategic planning process during 2020. Would not want to do this with anyone else.”

-Hilary Lambert, Cayuga Lake Watershed Network

Organizations succeed and thrive when they are innovative, thoughtful, and nimble. To support water organizations on this path, River Network offers direct fee for service consulting on strategic planning, board recruitment and development, and annual fundraising and work planning. For those looking for broader learning opportunities, we offer virtual trainings and peer learning opportunities focused on coalition building; equity, diversity, and inclusion; policy and civic engagement; and organizational infrastructure.

We also provide financial support. In 2020 alone, we provided over $600,000 in funding to 63 different local groups, thanks to re-grant collaborations with government agencies such as the National Park Service (NPS) and the US Forest Service (USFS). This financial support helped to protect and restore wild and scenic rivers, educate and provide access to recreational programming, and promoted waterway stewardship opportunities. It also ensured these local organizations could continue providing programs to their communities, despite the challenges and uncertainties of COVID-19.

“Receiving the River Network Youth River Education and Recreation Grant during the depths of COVID-19 uncertainty allowed us to take a deep breath and know that we could meet special challenges of our community. Migrating our hands-on river education program for youth into video experiences and online learning required new skills, equipment, connections, and creativity. Many of our regular funding sources were reduced or going to more immediate health-related needs, even while the demand for nature experiences has been booming during lockdowns. Receiving this substantial grant buoyed up our virtual learning program – we’ve made 13 educational river videos and shorts, with over 20,000 views in just three months.”

-Beth Stewart, Cahaba River Society



Leadership Development

“I have found River Network’s guidance and advice to be extremely helpful in these difficult times for running an organization. River Network on the whole has tremendous experience in helping small organizations understand how to work effectively.”

-Executive Coaching participant

We believe leaders come in all shapes and sizes and to be a leader, you need not rely on a title or a specific place within your organization. River Network has multiple avenues to engage individuals and organizations alike in leadership development. Webinars and trainings focused on recruiting and retaining volunteers, presentations at regional conferences focused on feedback and courageous conversations, and more recently, one on one mentoring and coaching. Previously limited to our annual River Rally conference, in 2019 we expanded our mentoring services to organization executives year-round. Our Executive Coaching programs provide directors and managers with safe places to brainstorm ideas, seek advice for organizational issues, or work through planning processes. Opportunities to participate in Executive Coaching are currently funding restricted, but please email me if you’re interested to explore additional options!


Professional Development

“Employees already have the technical skills they need to advance their career and organization, but often lack emotional intelligence skills: if EQ (the emotional IQ) can be increased and built as a viewable and discernible skill, then leaders are better equipped to serve in their diverse roles.”

-Stephanie Scott, Water Education Colorado

Not ready for Executive Coaching yet? No worries, we have opportunities we hope will increase your confidence, hone in on important professional skills, and dive deeper into organizational wide issues such as equity, diversity, and inclusion. Over the next year, we will be releasing toolkits geared to building leadership and professional development skills. Through our newsletter, published resources, and webinars, we will highlight the importance of emotional intelligence, how to incorporate coaching and mentoring within your organization, and ways organizations have pivoted both their expectations and their focus on self-care during the pandemic.

To learn more about these and other River Network programs, stay tuned to River Voices, follow us on social media, join one of our Learning Sessions or Peer Exchanges to see what our trainings are like, or contact me at to start the conversation.

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