The Big Picture of a Big Nature Center Change


Diana Nollen’s front page article in yesterday’s GAZETTE featured leadership changes at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, African American Museum and Cultural Center and the Indian Creek Nature Center. Unlike Executive Directors Terry Pitts and Tom Moore, Rich is not retiring……at least not now.

Our change began over two years ago when three senior nature center directors visited for an “institutional assessment” sponsored by the Association of Nature Center Administrators (ANCA). They made three recommendations:

  • Rich Patterson is in his 60’s and will not be here forever. Create a succession plan.
  • The old barn is an increasingly inadequate headquarters building. It is not legally accessible, is located on the far edge of the property, is difficult to expand and properly ventilate, and it flooded once and will flood again. Consider creating a new headquarters building approximately central on the property in a spot well above the flood plain.
  • In Rich’s last year or two switch him to a fundraising role to help locate money for a new building and enough new endowed assets to create an annual stream of cash to care for the structure.

It took two years to put the succession plan in place. Volunteers, board members, and staff member Jenny Rupp served on a search committee chaired by former board president Lisa Henderson that culminated in my hiring. I began work on May 28.  The following week, Rich began his new role working in an office donated by Alliant Energy located on the 21st floor of the Alliant Tower downtown.

Our goal is to locate $7 million. $5 million will be used to craft the new building. $2 million will be permanently endowed at the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation to generate the cash stream for building care. The Campaign is called AMAZING SPACE.

The Hall-Perrine Foundation issued a generous challenge grant – we find $3 million by December 31, 2015 and they will add one million dollars! A committee of board members and trustees, assisted by Rich, is now entering the “silent phase” of fundraising. The plan is to locate the majority of the goal through foundation grants and major gifts. Rich, who turns 64 on July 2, will retire sometime next year.

Nature Center operations are in good hands. Its gifted and hardworking staff remain in place and have tremendous experience in programming, ecological restoration, fundraising, marketing, financial management, and much more. I have significant nonprofit management experience, most recently with the Boy Scouts of America.

I am responsible for education, facilities, financial management and all other operational tasks. Rich is focusing on fundraising with the able assistance of Nancy Lackner and the volunteer help of  Trustees Jim Seifert, Jim Tinker, Dick Garberson, and Charlie Rohde. Several board members are chairing subcommittees.

The Nature Center has many opportunities for naming rights to various portions of the building, and gifts to the endowment side of the campaign may qualify a donor for Endow Iowa tax credits. Although the campaign will likely not  be approaching many members during the quiet phase, Rich would like to talk with anyone interested in making a contribution. Named endowed funds or named parts of the building are outstanding ways to honor a loved one or mentor, and contributions are tax deductible.

The Amazing Space campaign will position the Nature Center to serve ever more people as the need for intimate contact with our natural world increases.

Call the main Nature Center phone number (319-362-0664) to reach either Rich or me.


June 30, 2013 Gazette Article

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