Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The End of People For Puget Sound

At the end of August a year ago, I was laid off after working 20 years for People For Puget Sound— for budget reasons.

Yesterday, on 9/11, the board and executive director of People For Puget Sound announced they were shutting down what was once the premier Puget Sound conservation organization at the end of this month— for budget reasons.

"This is shocking and sad," founder and recently retired executive director Kathy Fletcher told the Kitsap Sun. "I never would have imagined that this would happen."

I’m angry, disappointed and sad.

I’m angry because what we worked so hard for over 20 years has gone down the toilet in a year. I’m angry because all the work we did in strategizing the executive transition and People For Puget Sound under new leadership never took flight. I’m angry because we went through many tough financial crises during our 20 years and worked our way through to survive. I’m angry because People For Puget Sound will not survive.

I’m disappointed because those of us who loved and cared for People For Puget Sound were never asked to help in this past year, never consulted, never told how bad the situation had become. I’m disappointed that an organization based on engaging people never turned to the very people who made up its membership, its volunteers and its donors. I’m disappointed that no other alternatives were openly discussed before announcing an end to People For Puget Sound.

And I’m sad because Puget Sound will no longer have a watchdog and advocate focused exclusively on the Sound’s well being. I’m sad because we won’t have activists and volunteers — the real people of Puget Sound — speaking in one voice for the land, waters and critters of the Sound. I’m sad because I, too, never would have imagined that this would happen.

I’m sure the board of directors and executive director of People For Puget Sound believe they’ve made the right decision. And the decision’s been made: they’ve brought about the end of People For Puget Sound.

--Mike Sato

11 comments:

  1. I guess the overwhelming feeling I'm experiencing about this is grief. I'm appalled and profoundly saddened by this decision, and so very sorry for you, Kathy, and all the other great staff and board members who worked so hard over so many years to build such a great - and essential - organization.

    I'm also rather in shock, as it feels like losing a much-loved big sister. Over 15 years, until my own retirement, I enjoyed working closly with People for Puget Sound as our two organizations - which many described as sister groups on either side of the border - shared information, ideas and strategies and collaborated on projects to tackle the issues affecting our shared waters and the wildlife that inhabit then.

    I learned so much from working with you, Kathy and others from PFPS - how can the wonderful organization you built suddenly be gone? The issues that prompted its creation are still there, along with a host of newer ones, so it's not like the job is "done" - nor do I have faith that other groups, who are also struggling with financial challenges, can pick up the work of PFPS. This is a huge loss to the entire region - on both sides of our shared waters.

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    1. Eye on Environment is, of course, Laurie MacBride of Georgia Strait Alliance with whom People For Puget Sound worked hand in hand on transboundary issues, notably the Orca Pass International Stewardship Area. MS

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  2. This was indeed shocking and disturbing news. I feel a strong sense denial welling up. Hard to believe this was the first public announcement of serious trouble. But I had a bad feeling after Mike and Doug and other staff were lost or let go. The nearly 8 years I spent working on the board was one of the better ways I spent my time on this earth. The mission is not complete. Let's hope the other organizations can fill this void. -Brad Severtson

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  3. Yes, "how can the wonderful organization you built suddenly be gone?" Is there no way for the people who founded PFPS to come back in and revive the vital organization?

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    1. The decision's been made by those who hold the keys to People For Puget Sound to shut it down. Period. There remans both the people OF Puget Sound who still will advocate for its protection and the need to build and maintain that constituency. Good to start thinking about how that might be organized anew. MS

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  4. As a line in Phantom of the Opera goes - "These things don't just happen." Probably more yet to come out. I do note that a large number of the Board members are quite new to the effort. I also suspect that it is time to recognize that the ways and means of working on and educating about our local Puget Sound need some substantial changes - what has worked for the past many years is not working well now.

    In the meantime, let the grieving continue. =:<(

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  5. This indeed a very sad day when the best of the best closes it's doors. So many talented people and so much accomplished over the years. The people I worked with were Doug Myers, Heather Trim, Rein Atteman and Mike Sato. With the talent and expertise you folks have, I know you will be very adept at finding other opportunities. I can only hope it will be here in Washington and Puget Sound. The people of the state need you and your expertise. If there is anything I can do to help, feel free to ask. It is a very sad day to see People for Puget Sound close it's doors. Very sad day indeed.

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  6. Reading the comment by the former financial officer of P4PS, about "what happened to the money", is a good question. How did they end up with a $700k deficit after only one year on the job by Tom Bancroft? Where is this years' financial statement, which was, coincidentally, due out this month? Why did they cancel the fall fundraiser last year if they were in bad financial shape? When I left the board, over a year ago, there was a surplus. I would like to see the financials actually published on their web site, as we expect.

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  7. I am somewhere between anger and grief about this news… Actually, I am not just angry; I am downright pissed off. As someone who fundraised for People For Puget Sound for three years, it is bollocks to say that they weren’t able to raise the money to keep the organization moving forward. It was easy to raise money for PFPS. I did it door-to-door and in public spaces, and always came in with lots of cash in hand. The people in the community loved our work, and loved that we were out there talking about the issues. What led to this tragic demise was a series of bad financial, managerial, and staffing decisions.
    To this day, I will hold that cutting the canvass from the organization was one of the worst decisions that was ever made by senior leadership. To say that the canvass did not cover itself financial was beyond shortsighted. How can anyone honestly say that a team who took the organization from 4,500 members at the end of 2004, to 10,000 members by the end of 2009 wasn’t covering its costs?! The canvass over doubled the membership base in 5 years. That team was dedicated, knowledgeable, and did more than just bring in members. They spread the name of the organization; they were instrumental for informing the public on critical issues, the rallied volunteers, and the worked as a public face for the organization. The people that made that decision to cut that team forgot that the organization is, or should I say was, PEOPLE for Puget Sound. It was not Major Donors for Puget Sound, or Funders for Puget Sound. When you cut one of your major connections to the community, you lose their support. This demise, the epic loss, is made that much more tragic by the fact that it was completely avoidable. This did not have to happen.

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