Strategic Plan

Gathering Waters' vision, mission, and day-to-day activites are driven by our strategic plan. Adopted by our Board of Directors in January 2014, our strategic plan defines our programmatic goals and the action we plan to take to achieve those goals through fiscal year 2017. This is a powerful tool; and a tool that we're actively employing to help people protect more of Wisconsin's special places and grow healthy communities.

To view our current strategic plan, which continues to guide our work through June 30, 2017 click here and read on for more details.

2014-2017 Strategic Plan Executive Summary

Our Inspiration
Our Mission
How We Work
Our Accomplishments
Our Vision
Our Plan

Energized by powerful geology, inspired by the natural beauty of our state and our inherited legacy of conservation leadership, and driven by the impact that these special places have on the lives of people, Gathering Waters advances Wisconsin’s preeminent tradition of land conservation and stewardship by working to strengthen Wisconsin’s land trust community.

Gathering Waters helps land trusts, landowners and communities protect the places that make Wisconsin special.


Unlike any other organization, we accomplish our mission by strengthening Wisconsin land trusts – nonprofit organizations that protect land to preserve its natural, agricultural, or cultural value for public benefit. We:

  • Provide direct technical assistance to non-profit land trusts
  • Are non-partisan, solution-oriented advocates for public policies supportingland conservation
  • Use our statewide voice to share the stories of land trusts’ impact and how they addressing community needs, and inspire broad public support for land conservation

Additionally, we strive to incorporate best practices into every facet of our work and
continually improve our processes.

Since Gathering Waters’ founding in 1994:

  • The number of land trusts working in Wisconsin has increased from 12 to over 50
  • The membership of Wisconsin’s land trusts has grown to nearly 55,000 members statewide
  • These land trusts have permanently protected well over 538,000 acres of Wisconsin’s natural heritage
  • We have successfully advocated for funding increases for the state’s renowned land conservation program, the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund, and for the passage of the Working Lands Initiative
  • We have become a respected voice for private land conservation in the state and have has earned our reputation as the premier land trust service center in the nation

But more meaningful is the resulting impact of those acres conserved, organizations and collaborations established, and contacts made. Together with our land trust members, partners, and supporters, we are helping to protect the special places where we can all go to exercise and recreate, that protect our local food base and agricultural economy,
where youth are discovering the magic of the outdoors for the first time, and that are home to our most precious resources threatened species.

We envision a strong and strategic land trust community working to meet the needs of the communities they serve and supported and celebrated by a Wisconsin citizenry that personifies the land ethic championed by Aldo Leopold. We understand that the advancement of our mission and the success of the land trust community are inextricably linked to the understanding that land conservation is essential to the economic, spiritual, and physical health of our communities.

Gathering Waters’ core objective, since its inception, has been to strengthen Wisconsin’s land trusts. This strategic plan is a reaffirmation of that core objective. Through this plan, we seek to understand how that objective affects everything we do. We are successful when land trust staff and boards see value in our programming and are strengthened by that programming.

This plan also brings to the forefront the importance of collaborations. Land trusts are demanding opportunities to collaborate--with each other and with other partners. In the past we have, and will continue to, promote collaboration through networking, shared trainings, and facilitation of joint programming. Additionally through this plan, we will explore opportunities to more smartly deploy land trust resources through the pursuit of economies of scale, shared back offices, and mergers. We will also engage outside partners – traditional and nontraditional - who can be allies in our work.

Finally, as land trusts exist to provide value to communities through land conservation, we will increase opportunities to share the stories of the value that land trusts bring to creating healthy and whole communities. We will also explore opportunities to increase the impact and value of our work by better understanding community needs and examining how our core competencies may provide even more value to our land trust members and Wisconsin’s citizenry.

Direct Services to Land Trusts
Through training, facilitation, and collaborative partnership, Gathering Waters engages with land trusts throughout the state to achieve sustainable conservation.

Public Policy Advocacy
Gathering Waters advocates for public policies that strengthen land trusts and that promote land conservation in Wisconsin.

Gathering Waters works to celebrate the successes of Wisconsin land trusts, tell the stories of their impacts and how they are addressing community needs, and promote their value to the citizenry they serve.

Gathering Waters’ Capacity
Gathering Waters maintains a sustainable, diverse, and flexible resource base to fuel the creativity, pace and agility with which we pursue our mission.

Read Our Blog