Third Sector Group Helps Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado Reinvents Itself as Steward of State Land

For three decades, land stewardship organization Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC) motivated and enabled more than 100,000 volunteers to help maintain Colorado’s natural resources, outdoor spaces, and recreational facilities. As the state’s population and tourism industry soared, however, Colorado’s land began to show signs of damage from overuse. And with the decrease in state and federal funding for public lands, VOC needed to change course to maximize its impact.

The organization partnered with the Third Sector Group to embark on a thoughtful, strategic planning process that addressed building capacity for the work needed to sustain Colorado’s land for future generations. Third Sector Group’s in-depth, non-judgmental process helped VOC decide to shift its strategic focus from that of trail builder and maintainer to steward, capacity-builder, and thought-leader.

“Change needed to be strategic and planned. Charting the future of a sustainable organization that is mission-driven is a big endeavor that takes time, and we needed to be patient,” said VOC’s Executive Director Ann Baker Easley. “This is where Third Sector Group shined. CEO Kimberley Sherwood was an incredible facilitator who brought honesty and candor to the process without judgment. The result was a solutions-based vision, not just a Band-Aid approach.”

By offering pragmatic tools and strategic roadmaps, Third Sector Group created an environment for VOC board members and staff to discuss real change and make thoughtful, impactful decisions. “We teased out the wisdom of VOC leadership, which helped to reveal strategic opportunities,” said Sherwood. “We designed this process to spark open, honest conversations. As a result, people asked courageous questions that led to directional change.”

Part of the success of Third Sector Group’s strategic process to bring about change stemmed from their in-depth preparation. Sherwood worked hard to gain a comprehensive understanding of the organization before stepping foot into the boardroom. As a knowledgeable facilitator, “she knew when to reign it in or let it ride. She was clear with expectations, kept people on track and helped us stay with the intention of the process,” said Baker Easley.

Third Sector Group’s familiarity with the organization, its challenges and its evolution also played a critical role in keeping the VOC team focused on what they wanted to accomplish and how they wanted to transform the organization. “It wasn’t simple to shift from a project-based trail organization to a leading stewardship organization,” said past board chair Rebecca Watson, who notes that VOC needed support from funders and governmental agencies to move the organization forward. “Third Sector Group’s strategic process helped us determine how the shift we were considering could create broader impact. Ultimately, this knowledge helped us gain the funder support we needed.”

As a trusted, long-term partner, Third Sector Group continues to help VOC discover areas of growth, change and challenge by setting the right conditions for their leadership to understand and articulate how best to achieve their mission. With their sustained engagement in VOC’s governance, Third Sector Group has become adept at leveraging board insight to help VOC build capacity for the good of the organization, and ultimately, the benefit of the state of Colorado.