Organizational Restructuring for Success
Under their old organizational structure, Potomac Riverkeeper Network (PRKN) had a President/Potomac Riverkeeper, a Shenandoah Riverkeeper, and an Upper Potomac River Manager. After securing the Upper Potomac Riverkeeper (UPRK) Keeper license and going through a transition in Presidents, they decided that they needed to reorganize the organizational structure to better meet the needs of their Riverkeepers and program staff.
After a thorough strategic planning process, Board and staff decided to create an umbrella organization with semi-autonomous Riverkeepers. The idea was that the umbrella (PRKN) would work to support the Keeper programs with centralized development, fundraising, communications, administration, and legal support. This proposed structure would allow the Keepers to focus on their important pollution fighting work and leave everything else to the umbrella organization. In 2014, PRKN worked to bring this idea to reality by restructuring the organization’s programs and moving staff around to better build capacity.
At the end of 2014, PRKN had identified a new Shenandoah Riverkeeper to replace now President Jeff Kelble, as well as a new Potomac Riverkeeper. In March 2015, the new Riverkeepers started and for the first time in their organization’s history they had a focused Potomac Riverkeeper (previously the position had been split with either the President or General Counsel).
The new structure has proved to be very effective for both the Riverkeepers and operations/legal staff. The Riverkeepers can now solely focus on their work and leave the operations/legal/fundraising/communications to the umbrella staff. It has made organizational activities significantly more streamlined and increased the organization’s ability to carry out its mission.
Future challenges for the group include successfully communicating that, while Potomac Riverkeeper Network has three separate Riverkeepers, they are all under the same 501c3 nonprofit. Each Riverkeeper carries out the same two programs (Pollution Reduction and River Access & Recreation) and represents the umbrella organization. The only difference between the Keepers is how they conduct their work depending on their local community and the issues present in their specific part of the watershed. In the future, PRKN plans to expand their reach to incorporate a Lower Potomac Riverkeeper, bringing the total up to four Riverkeepers.