Positioning NAI for the Next 30 Years

The Bylaws Revision Task Force has been working hard for the past year to prepare NAI for growth and opportunity. Now it’s your turn! We are asking you to read over the new Constitution and revised Bylaws for NAI and give us your thoughts.

A major milestone like celebrating NAI’s 30th anniversary always presents an opportunity to reflect on the future – we know where we have been, where do we want to go? For those of us in leadership positions within the organization, this is no idle contemplation, but a solemn responsibility.

One issue that NAI’s board of directors has wrestled with over the past six years is that of awkward governance documents that restrict our ability to respond to changing challenges and new opportunities in an agile fashion. The last bylaws revision (2012) changed the board structure in two major ways: Board members were now elected directly by the membership rather than the board being composed of region and section directors; and a separate Advisory Council was set up for region and section directors with two representatives on the board. This addressed the work overload for regional and sectional leaders who essentially had had two big (volunteer) jobs, but maintained a way for the regions and sections to continue to meet, discuss issues and have an impact on board decision-making.

While this new board system has worked well, and is popular with the membership, the actual bylaws (written by a law firm) were constructed on a corporate template that could charitably be called “cumbersome.” Requiring a long process and a 2/3 majority positive vote of at least 10% of the membership to make even the smallest operational change, the end result was that no changes could realistically be made – even adding a committee, expanding election rights of members, changing the date of the conference, etc. without a vote. Like many organizations, NAI gradually got out of whack between what the bylaws said and what actual practice had become, and so a bylaw revision was necessary.

After much deliberation, it was decided to tackle a more thorough revision instead of minor tweaks to address the lack of flexibility. The result was the creation of a Constitution, or foundational governance document, with all of the core aspects of the organization – much like the original Articles of Incorporation. Any aspect of these core components needs a vote by the entire membership to be changed or amended in any way. The revised bylaws will continue to contain the more operational aspects of the organization. Either the membership at large or the members of the board of directors can propose amendments or changes. These amendments will be voted on by the board, allowing for more timely implementation.

Over the next several months we will be posting more about the revisions and answering questions. We encourage you to leave a comment or suggestion – we are hoping to encourage an active conversation about these changes to make sure everyone is comfortable with them. After all, it is your NAI!

—Bylaws Revision Task Force
Cem Basman
Jay Miller
Tom Mullin
Theresa Coble
Pepe Chavez
Margo Carlock


Let Me Hear From You!

ImageToday marks my second week with NAI, and although my head is spinning a bit, I am very excited to be here, working with such a great staff and board to move the association forward.  It is a beautiful spring day in Fort Collins – 84 degrees and sunny, and the weather matches my mood.  A four-day cross-country road trip and the first phase of unpacking boxes are behind me.  I have planted an herb garden and bought a bicycle and now feel one with the Colorado zeitgeist!

The more I learn about NAI, its mission and membership, the more I am struck by similarities with the museum community that has been my world for the past 19 years.  Both share a passion for the preservation and interpretation of historic, cultural and environmental heritage.  Both have dedicated staff and volunteers, who deal with the challenges of tight budgets and tight timeframes.  For both, education is the key mission.

I have been amazed over the years at the dedication and resiliency of people who work in the nonprofit cultural and environmental sectors.  They certainly aren’t in it for the pay!  But the benefits, both tangible and intangible, make all the difference.  For the most part we work in beautiful or at least interesting locations, we get to work with the public and meet interesting people, and we get to feed that abiding love for history, nature, science and art.

One of the reasons I decided to apply for this position was the very evident commitment of the board to the mission of the organization and its determination to preserve and build on the respect that NAI engenders worldwide.   I have been in the nonprofit arena for more years than I care to admit, and one truth is universal – the selfless dedication of board members is the key to a healthy and thriving organization.

I have three primary goals for my tenure – to grow membership, especially by reaching out to under-represented interpretive disciplines such as historic sites and art; to develop member services that will help interpreters in their careers and daily work lives; and to ensure that the organization is on a sound financial footing and following best practices in association management.

Right now I am in a listening and learning mode.  I am grateful for the comments and well wishes I’ve received already from members, and I am anxious to hear from all of the NAI stakeholders – members and nonmembers alike.  Well, maybe not all – there are about 5,000 members and I wouldn’t get anything done if I answered every one! But I want to hear from you.  I welcome any and all comments, suggestions, complaints, and kudos for the organization.  I want to know what you like about NAI, where you see the need for some improvement, and what thoughts you have for its future.  NAI is a wonderful organization, and I am proud to be part of the staff serving its members in the interpretation and related fields.

— Margo Carlock

California Dreamin’: Seeing NAI through New Eyes


Since the relaunch of the NAI Blog, we have had new posts once a week, with the president (Amy), two vice presidents (Cem and John), and the executive director (me, for now) each writing once a month. My turn comes up on the second Tuesday of each month. It occurs to me that the next time a second Tuesday of the month comes up, NAI’s executive director will be Margo Carlock, and I will have swapped my interim executive director’s tie for my art director’s beret. (Okay, I don’t actually own a beret, but that is me with the tie in the photo above.)

One of my last major official duties as interim executive director was to attend—along with our incoming executive director Margo—last weekend’s meeting of our Board of Directors in Oakland (pictured above), which coincided with a lively NAI Region 9 spring workshop. As always, at the Board meeting, we discussed everything from the minutiae of NAI’s finances to larger picture items like partnerships with other organizations and the future of our certification program and signature events.

Amy and MargoMargo got a true taste of NAI at this event. After the Board meeting, she experienced her first-ever regional workshop scholarship auction (a unique experience, to be sure), and then she stuck around after the fact for a question-and-answer session with Region 9 members and Board President Amy Lethbridge (pictured here, courtesy of Phil Sexton). I didn’t get to attend that session, but word from my friends in Region 9 is that everyone loved Margo.

I left the meeting simultaneously exhausted and full of caffeine. (Turns out you’re never more than 30 yards from a coffee shop in Oakland.) I also left truly looking forward to NAI’s new day with Margo at the helm. As we celebrate a quarter century as an organization, we can be proud of what we’ve accomplished already, and as we look to the future, we can push the envelope on our exciting new adventures like a growing webinar program, a new-look National Workshop, and others we haven’t even thought of yet.

I’m grateful to the Board for their support and for trusting me with the interim role the last eight months or so, and to all NAI members, whose passion and energy make NAI such a great organization—not to mention a fulfilling and entertaining place to work. Come next month, I’m looking forward to refocusing on my regular responsibilities with NAI’s publications, website, and social media, and to starting the next chapter in NAI’s history.

Introducing Our New Executive Director

After a long and extensive search, it is my great pleasure to introduce our new Executive Director, Margo Carlock.

Margo_CarlockMargo joins us from 19 years with the Virginia Association of Museums (VAM), where she was Executive Director overseeing every aspect of the premier museum service organization in the country. She is excited about the opportunity to bring her energy, enthusiasm, and operational abilities to the service of the larger nonprofit heritage community. Prior to her successful career at VAM, Margo spent time with several other organizations, including the U.S. State Department serving as a Foreign Service Officer in Senegal and Poland. In addition to being extremely passionate about museums and first-person interpretation, Margo also spent an internship early in her career as an interpreter at a state historic site in Illinois and has volunteered as an interpreter in Virginia.

Margo has an MFA from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale with a major in diplomatic history and a minor in museum administration, and also received her BA in history from the same university. She is excited to be making the move to Colorado and Fort Collins in the coming months and is looking forward to exploring the western part of the U.S., learning more about its history, and enjoying outdoor activities.

Margo will be taking up her official duties as Executive Director full time in the office in mid-May, and in the meantime, should you need anything, Paul Caputo remains as interim director. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll share more information about Margo and where you might be able to meet and interact with her once she is on board. I know she is certainly looking forward to meeting as many of you as she can through conference calls, video chats, and of course, our in-person events such as the National Workshop this November in Reno.

As the current President of NAI, I am thrilled that Margo has accepted the position and feel that her experience in nonprofit management, fundraising, stakeholder engagement, professional development, and organizational stewardship has great potential to move NAI forward in the coming years. In addition to these skills, we are very fortunate that Margo is also very experienced with IMIS, our new membership management software.

In talking with Margo earlier today, she wanted me to share with you that she is “excited for the opportunity to serve NAI, a highly respected organization that plays such an important role in helping the public understand and appreciate our historic, cultural, and natural heritage. It is indeed an honor having been selected, and I look forward to working with staff, board, and members to explore new opportunities and face the challenges of the future.”

You will be able to reach Margo by email at mcarlock@interpnet.com.

My sincere thanks go out to Paul and the staff at the NAI office, who have done an incredible job continuing to keep NAI moving forward with the IMIS software implementation in addition to all their other responsibilities while running a little short handed. In particular, Paul stepped up to take on the role of interim director and handled it with the utmost professionalism and care while also doing his job keeping up with all of the NAI communication forms and blogs, not to mention the sudden and unexpected demise of our old website.

I would also like to thank the executive search committee headed up by Committee Chair and Board Member Chuck Lennox along with fellow board member Jane Beattie, past board member Rachel Larimore, NPS representative John Morris, and Jim Ballard who although not an NAI member, brought a respected and experienced outsider’s perspective to the process and candidate screening. All volunteered many hours in ensuring the best search process possible along with the executive search firm Waldron HR headed by Ed Rogan.

Thus begins a new and compelling chapter for NAI. The hiring of a new Executive Director comes at the perfect time as we celebrate 25 years of being one of the leading global professional organizations supporting the field of heritage interpretation. I have no doubt that the next 25 years are going to bring new and exciting challenges and successes and I look forward to each and every one of YOU being a part of it. But for now, it’s time to celebrate!

Happy spring everyone,

Amy Lethbridge
NAI President

2013 at NAI – A year of change

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” ― Andy Warhol,

Changes take time. Usually more time then we think they will. That is why 2013 is going to be a great year for NAI. Not only will we be celebrating our 25th anniversary as an organization, but many of the changes that have been “in the works” for some time now will finally be unveiled.

The first of these is the redesign of the website, http://www.interpnet.com. Staff is still adding final touches to the site and transferring last bits of information from the old site, but I am sure that you all agree that it is cleaner and easier to navigate.

Staff is also putting the finishing touches on the new data management software. The most recent issue of our newsletter NAI Now included instructions on how to log on as a member, giving you complete control of your own data within the system. No more worries about misspelled names, incorrect addresses, etc – you will have the ability to update your own information.

We are also adding new “voices” to the NAI Blog. Vice President for Administration Cem Basman and Vice President for Programs John Luzader will join the Executive Director and me here, each of us posting on consecutive Tuesdays.

Some of the changes may seem less exciting than others. Maybe not all of you are as thrilled that new policy manuals made necessary by the changes to the by-laws last year will be developed. But for those of you who love getting their hands into important administrative work these represent, we are looking for volunteers to be part of several committees. The reorganization task Force, led by Linda Strand will now turn its efforts to member services. We will continue to solicit feedback and listen to members.

Most excitingly, we are coming to the end of the search process for a new executive director and hope to make an announcement in the next few weeks. In the meantime interim executive director Paul Caputo continues to do an outstanding job.

Winston Churchill said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” I am not sure about perfection, but I do know that 2013 will be a year of great changes for NAI.

— Amy Lethbridge, NAI President

NAI: We’re a Very Huggy Group

The first time I stepped into NAI’s office in Fort Collins, Colorado, more than 11 years ago, I knew this was not a typical nonprofit association. The office had character—it was a small, cluttered Victorian house in a neighborhood made up almost exclusively of houses rented by Colorado State University students who liked to ski off their roofs when it snowed (true story!). Desks were coerced into awkward corners of rooms that were originally designed for dining or sleeping. Some of the very first NAI certification packets were assembled in a former kitchen, which required working around an inconveniently placed sink. My office, which I shared with at least one other staff person, was covered with wallpaper that can best be described as dated (and which clashed badly with my candy-colored iMac G3). NAI has since moved into a beautiful facility a few blocks to the north, but the character reflected in the first NAI office I ever knew remains as part of the culture of the organization.

Before I attended my first-ever NAI National Workshop (which was called the National Interpreters Workshop back then) in 2002 in Virginia Beach, NAI’s then-membership manager Heather Manier warned me, “It’s a very huggy group.” I had been with NAI for nine months at that point, but this would be my first chance to interact with many members in person. I saw what Heather meant right away at NIW 2002. People whom I had never met would light up with recognition upon seeing my name badge, and sure enough, many of them greeted me for the first time with an enthusiastic hug followed by, “You’re Paul. Welcome to NAI!”

I’ve seen a lot of NAI history in 11 years—the new office building, the introduction of the International Conference, the expansion of NAI certification, and a new logo, just to name a small sampling—but one of the things I enjoy most about working here is that I’ve stepped into an organization with extremely deep roots. I get to be part of something that matters a lot to a lot of people and has for a long time. (I’ve been a member of other professional associations, and I’ve never seen a culture of belonging like I see with NAI.) I’ve always enjoyed hearing the stories of the organizations that became NAI, the individuals who made that happen, and the origins of the institutions I found already in place when I arrived on the scene.