After adopting new bylaws in November 2019 to restructure GNPS into a more effective organization (summary of changes here), we were excited to embark on a statewide expansion of chapters under guidance and policy set by the new state-level board of directors and committees. However, we were not immune to the challenges that 2020 brought to the world. Shortly after our February 29th Symposium, it became clear that our robust plans for new chapters would have to wait until it was safe to resume in-person gatherings.
Luckily, much of our formative state-level policy work, an important part of the change, was able to continue through remote meetings of the committees — Conservation, Education, Finance, Audit, Governance, and Member/Chapter Support. All committees made good progress in creating policies and procedures to guide the organization at the state level. Committees also are reviewing and revising existing programs GNPS programs such as Habitat Certification, Plant Rescue, and Site Restoration so that new chapters can quickly and effectively implement these programs at their local level.
In 2021, the state board of directors will continue to formulate strategic initiatives across the state. Committees will continue to translate that strategic plan into educational tools and activities to help chapters engage members. Chapters will continue to work in their local communities carrying out the mission to teach more Georgians that using native plants and safeguarding existing native plant habitat through our conservation policies are important efforts.
As the year concludes, here we provide a summary of where GNPS is now and some of what we look forward to next year.
- Chapters will lead local programs like regular meetings, workshops, Habitat Certification, plant rescue, site restoration, local propagation, and working with local partners such as cities, counties, and like-minded groups.
- Members may currently affiliate with any of 3 existing chapters: West Georgia, Coastal Plain, or Redbud Project (Gainesville area).
- Areas where chapters were beginning to form and which we hope will move forward in 2021: Atlanta, North Metro Atlanta, Macon, Augusta, Athens. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org get more involved in forming chapters.
We end the year with 1,150 memberships, a 13% increase over the beginning of 2020. Each of our 3 chapters has approximately 100 memberships, so the bulk of our members (695) are in areas where those new chapters need to form so they can have access to local programs and volunteer opportunities.
- New scholarships were funded to support the Native Plant Certificate program administered by the State Botanical Garden. Two annual scholarships will be funded: one for a Piedmont resident, one for a Coastal Plain resident.
- Stone Mountain Propagation Project will shift away from growing plants solely for Atlanta area plant sales and focus on growing local ecotypes that are not readily available but deserve wider landscape use. SMPP also will support chapter propagation efforts and cultivate a broader educational partnership with Stone Mountain Park.
- Symposium: The 2021 Symposium will be held virtually across two sessions on February 27 and 28 (2 hours each day). GNPS will partner with Georgia Audubon to execute this program entitled Georgia’s Wildlife from the Ground Up: Why Native Plants & Places Are Essential
- Newsletters/Website Communications will remain at the state level for 2021, although local chapters may also have newsletters and individual websites.
As of November 30, 2020, our total income was $39,534 with total expenses of $36,282. In 2020, membership and program income were our primary sources of income while our February 2020 Symposium and administrative expenses were our largest costs. Our reserves of just over $200K are safely invested in anticipation of future statewide growth and the support that our chapters may need.
Our Treasurer, the Finance Committee, and the State Board made several key decisions in 2020 that resulted in 1) savings on insurance while also improving our coverage; 2) improved investment income; 3) savings on our storage unit (moved to a cheaper location); and 4) savings on website services.
The following new board members are joining in 2021: Mary Lillian Walker, Kevin Burke, and Carling Kirk. We wish to thank our departing members: Leslie Edwards, Marc LaFountain, and Henning von Schmeling.
Thank you for sticking with us through this challenging year of 2020. We hope you will renew your membership in 2021 and continue your support of our mission and the growth of GNPS. For those of you with an expiring membership, you should have already received an email reminder; we encourage you to renew. Reach out to the board with any questions or to volunteer: email@example.com.