An Update From Our CEO

A Resilient Organization

Straight through the world’s worst crisis, the Sonoran Institute achieves outstanding results.

When I arrived as CEO of the Sonoran Institute during the pandemic at the end of September 2020, I was fortunate to land at an organization with an amazing staff and board of directors. In my first year with Sonoran Institute, I have seen strength and resilience in action. My team took proactive measures to prepare the organization for the challenges and innovated to keep us moving toward our conservation and community development goals.

The Sonoran Institute’s last major event before the lockdown was the celebration of its 30th anniversary in March 2020. The pandemic would prove the most trying time in the organization’s history. The closing of the border and the spread of the virus separated our team from one another physically. We worried that canceling in-person events would separate us from our communities, partners, supporters, and you.

Field staff take care of nursery plants under careful protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has touched us all: family and friends have fallen ill and too many have died. The Sonoran Institute has not emerged unscathed. But, at this very dark hour, the staff and board of directors have rallied to face the crisis head-on. A rapid shift to virtual systems let us work remotely while field workers persevered under strict protocols. At the same time, the team reduced spending to hunker down for the expected financial crunch.

Sonoran Institute staff from Mexico and the U.S. meet virtually

It never came. The team did not just play defense. We went online to promote conservation and community. The Growing Water Smart team held its first-ever virtual workshops for communities in Colorado and Arizona. The Santa Cruz River team took local events like Dragonfly Day online and held its annual Research Days virtually in English and Spanish for the first time, reaching wider audiences than ever before. The Colorado River Delta team launched an online education platform bringing the Delta to students across all of Mexico. In a matter of months, we reached more than 10,000 people in Mexico and the United States.

Staffer Cristal Galindo speaks about her work in En la Silla de la Restauración

The development and marketing team was quick to take its activities online too. We leveraged existing events like Arizona Gives Day, brought in new Sustainers, and welcomed new donors. We launched home-grown campaigns like En la silla de la restauración, to deepen connections to our work. Video promotion raised awareness about the water deliveries in the Colorado River delta from May to October 2021. And, all the while, the finance and administration staff kept our systems and endowment humming and tapped into emergency resources like the U.S. government’s Paycheck Protection Program.

And, of course, none of this would have been possible without you, our great supporters who stepped up when we needed you most to provide resources and continue partnering with us to connect people and communities with the natural resources that nourish and sustain them. I’m proud and honored to have joined an organization that is surviving and thriving during this crisis. It has taught me a lot about what it means to be a resilient organization. To paraphrase Nelson Mandela, we need to make sure we judge one another not by successes, but by the capacity to get back up after challenges. Certainly, the Sonoran Institute has risen, and is now standing tall.

Blog post by Mike Zellner, chief executive officer of the Sonoran Institute.

Este mensaje del blog está disponible en español.