Strong Organizations & Leaders

Strong Organizations and Leaders

To effectively address the increasingly complex set of issues facing our waterways, water-focused organizations and leaders must be ever more sophisticated in their strategies. This includes being effective in their implementation, well-funded, smartly-led, and inclusive of all members of their communities. Organizations on the frontlines of the environmental movement need leaders with the skills to meet evolving and complex challenges like climate change, adverse political climates, and widespread demands for racial justice and equity. River Network provides a variety of support to better equip water protectors and advocates across the country.

Who We Work With

At its core, River Network’s Strong Organization and Leaders program is building the capacity of individuals and organizations.

River Network is ensuring sustainable leadership by supporting new Executive Directors, nonprofit staff and volunteers, and other emerging leaders through targeted training, mentoring, and networking opportunities.

At the organizational level, we support groups with organizational best practices like strategic planning, program development, fostering healthy organizational cultures, financial management, and coalition building, to set our network up for success.

Alongside our network, we hope to build the next generation of water stewards by supporting projects that expose, educate, and engage communities in all aspects of river and water stewardship and advocacy. 

Launched! Chesapeake Bay Executive Director Cohort

We’ve officially launched a 20-person cohort of both new and experienced leaders within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Executive Directors rarely have the time to network and collaborate in ways they did before taking on the ED role. This cohort will build a community of leaders throughout the watershed that can rely on one another, help lift each other up when times are tough, and serve as a resource that can be called upon when needed. The community these leaders build will help equip them to better meet the needs of their staff and address the challenges of the day.

Featured Learning Sessions

Board of Directors Development Shorts

River Network brings you this ‘shorts’ series on Board of Directors Development to highlight the various needs of boards in different stages of growth. Whether you’re with a completely volunteer-run organization, a fully staffed organization, or somewhere in between, this series is for you! We have best practices and considerations to ease the burdens of managing your board.

Strategic Planning in 15 Minutes… or Less!

River Network staff are here to guide you through the basics of strategic planning, in 15 minutes or less! This YouTube playlist features four bite-sized videos highlighting the major components of the strategic planning process, including the what & why of planning, hiring a consultant, planning for coalitions and collaboratives, and keeping your strategic plan relevant in the years to come.

Featured Resources for Capacity Building

Strategic Planning

In this four-part video series, River Network staff review what’s included in a strategic plan process, things to consider before hiring a consultant, special considerations for coalitions and collaboratives, and tricks for keeping your plan relevant.

Lessons from this 1997 issue of River Voices are still relevant today. Dive into the vault to learn how planning can make your work more effective.

Use our checklist to ensure you have an effective planning process in place!

Board Development

The series is designed to help executive directors and board leaders implement best practices in essential areas of nonprofit management. Episodes include governance, strategic planning, volunteer management, fundraising, and intro to EDI.

Dive into longer-term planning for critical leadership transitions – this template provides an outline for planning ahead to maintain board capacity.

This worksheet helps determine where responsibilities lie within your board and staff – use it for organizational transitions by filling out a “before” and “after” or in real-time to track current duties. 

Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion

The Avarna Group partnered with the Urban Waters Learning Network to provide two sessions on EDIJ for water-focused organizations. These recorded webinars are invaluable tools for staff and board training.

This evolving tool is designed to help River Network operationalize our commitments to equity and inclusion through our work, with a focus on increasing equity on the bases of race/ethnicity and class/income. We welcome others to adapt this tool for their own uses.

We’ve compiled a resource library that specifically addresses topics such as white privilege, racial equity, allyship, environmentalism & race, water & equity, and a variety of other topics. These resources come from organizations and experts all over the country.


This 1999 River Fundraising Alert is still relevant when it comes to foundation proposals today! Check out this gem from our archives (especially pages 1-4 and page 7).

Hear from River Network fundraising staff and other professionals in the field as they share advice and best practices for end of year giving to help finish the year strong.

This session from River Network’s Effective Organizations Series will explain the fundraising cycle, the importance of planning and choosing appropriate strategies, and provide tips for building a strong development program for your organization.


Hear from the source itself: how to keep your 501(c)3 status and avoid violations, tips for record-keeping, and required filings for all charities.

Another archival gem, this 1999 edition of River Voices details everything on coalitions, from how to develop and maintain them to the significance of short-term coalitions.

In this recorded session from Virtual River Rally 2020, Baird Straughan (LeadGreen) and Jason Frenzel (Huron River Watershed Council) explore volunteer programs that successfully build advocacy, increase diversity, and train spokespeople and program leaders. 

Through this three-part online classroom, River Network covers the difference between advocacy and lobbying, key ways board and staff can work together, and putting everything together into a winning campaign strategy.

Work With Us!

Consulting Services

River Network offers affordable consulting services for organizations and individuals, personalized to your needs and budget. We offer discounts for our premium members and subsidies when possible. Contact us to learn more.

Groups We’ve Worked With

River Network works with organizations of all sizes and capacities: from small and volunteer-run to regionally staffed networks. Below you’ll find a small sample of organizations we’ve recently worked with:

Looking for More?

River Network regularly offers free virtual Learning Sessions and Peer Exchanges on topics to build your organizational capacity and leadership skills. Subscribe to River Voices to stay up to date on the latest events and check out the River Network Youtube Channel for a variety of recorded trainings on organizational topics such as strategic planning, budgeting and finance, board development, and more.

We’ve pulled out some favorite articles and resources above, but you can explore the extensive collection of Resources related to organizational development and programmatic support that we’ve curated for organizations to access at any time. Search here!

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