December 8, 2020

“Focus On & Manage What You Can Control”

Last week, we had the opportunity to moderate a session with AZA Directors on how Covid-19 is impacting organizations. We know many areas of the country are in the midst of a virus resurgence and based on the latest reports, it could last another rough couple of months. Yet with news of a vaccine, there is light at the end of the tunnel. We just don’t know how quickly it will come. All of this is creating renewed continued uncertainty for AZA members and their teams. We know that depending on where you are in the country and the type of facility, your experiences can be very different, whether you have been forced to close again or not sure when you could be. Despite it all, we’ve heard many positive stories of your colleagues successfully managing through the pandemic and holding their own; their enormous creativity; and amazing resiliency. An overarching theme from the Directors we heard from is to focus on and manage what you can control.

Here are ten things you can do to get through these uncertain times:

  1. Focus on donor engagement: Present a stronger conservation message to donors. This is important especially now. Bring donors closer. For some, “it’s been their best gifting year ever.”

  2. Increase attention to your communities: Build relationships with neighborhoods and initiate new projects. Be “an advocate for the entire cultural sector” in your community and build multi-faceted partnerships. Make it known that you’re here to support the public and all the communities you serve.

  3. Communication is critical: Now more than ever, talk with your team, with your community, and with government officials, especially local representatives. You need to control the narrative to get on top of rumors, gossip, misinformation. Communicate with transparency and trust.

  4. Care for your teams: Provide support and resources to your teams who have gotten your organizations through these last nine months. Try to keep your teams intact as best you can. Also, safety is paramount. Keep your staff healthy and safe; the same for animals and guests.

  5. Advance actions with social justice and equity: Now is the time to talk about these issues and more importantly move to action. Work to understand how this year has impacted all communities and the inequities of that impact.

  6. Be an example of best practices: Zoos and aquariums can be models for Covid-19 management and safety.

  7. Manage the experience: There are many challenges to creating a positive experience (masking, some indoor facilities being closed) but work to maintain a compelling experience for your guests and keep them connected to your conservation mission.

  8. Don’t stop innovating and being enterprising: Continue to look for new ways of doing things.

  9. Maintain trust. Our reputation is critical: The public is looking to you as an oasis for the community. Leverage that.

  10. Support each other: Sharing and helping your peers and colleagues makes us all stronger. As a zoo and aquarium community we share a common success.

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