November 2016 Newsletter

President's Message


Today is Halloween and it brings back many memories of trying to get my three children into their costumes, fed and out the door to trick or treat before it got too dark.  Of course, Al had to be home before we could leave as he was always the one to hand out the treats.  He’d wear a rather scary mask – which would frighten the young children until he’d take it off and let them know who was really behind the ugly face – and ask each child who or what they were before they could pick out their candy.  We lived in a neighborhood full of young families and lots of children which often made for a long evening.  I rarely have more than one or two families come to my door now.  Wonderful memories of happy, busy days!  

Congratulations and kudos to the Arrowhead Management staff and to the Route 21 team who planned and put on the Fall Symposium!  It was an excellent event:  well-planned with many interesting and varied tours, workshops and activities, not to mention the excellent meals and entertaining and stimulating conversation and good fellowship.  It seems I either have to have visiting company or an event such as this symposium to explore what’s in my own backyard.  That was certainly true for several of us who live near the Tri-Valley area.  We were exposed to places we’d never taken the time to visit until the folks from Dublin, San Ramon, Danville and Pleasanton offered to host this symposium.  Heartfelt thanks to everyone who worked so hard to create a delightful experience for all of us who traveled from far and near to learn about the California Route 21.

My last newsletter talked about the general subject of strategic planning and I hope you all found it useful, especially as the strategic planning team develops their initiatives and reports their progress in the CCHS newsletters.  I thought I’d cover the basic components of a successful plan in this issue so that when we start reporting our progress you will have an understanding of what we are talking about.

Strategic plans can come in various sizes and formats, but they all should have the following key components:

  • Mission Statement
  • Vision Statement
  • Values Statement or Guiding Principles
  • SWOT – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats
  • Differential Advantage
  • Long-Term Strategic Objectives
  • Strategies
  • Short-Term Goals/Priorities/Initiatives
  • Action Items/Plans
  • Scorecard or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
  • Financial Assessment

All nonprofits are mission driven.  The mission statement should be an overarching, timeless expression of the organization’s purpose and aspirations.  It is a statement or declaration of why you exist as an organization and, as such, it should be the first section of the plan and will set the stage for all that follows. 

Our mission statement, according to the CCHS bylaws, is as follows:

The mission of the Conference of California Historical Societies is the preservation of California history by unifying and strengthening the historical organizations throughout the State. 

The first task the strategic planning team tackled was the creation of a vision statement.  We finally adopted a short, concise statement of our vision for CCHS’s future….what we envision the organization looking like in the next three to five years.

CCHS will be the recognized leader in empowering historical societies in their mission to preserve California history by making them stronger and more responsive to their communities through organizational development and the sharing of successful strategies.

This vision will guide and direct the five strategic initiatives – or goals – as we develop and set them in motion.

In developing the five initiatives we considered our current position, focusing on our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.  We analyzed the data that had been compiled for our review, assessed our resources including money, people, expertise, skills and other intangibles that are currently available to us.  We carefully analyzed the CCHS organization structure and realized that our unique regional vice president component (RVP program) gives us a powerful differential advantage over other state-wide organizations similar to ours.  The RVP network enables CCHS to have and/or develop immediate contact and interaction with our member organizations.  

After several meetings of thoughtful discussion, we developed a strategic focus with practical ways about how to make the best use of our resources to achieve our goals.  We anticipate it will take us three to five years to accomplish this.  The strategic plan as put forth was adopted by the CCHS board of directors and then by the CCHS membership at the June annual meeting. 

You will be reading about the five strategic initiatives (or goals) and their objectives in future newsletter articles written by our strategic planning team members.  Basically, they are the following:

RVP Program:  clearly define the roles, responsibilities and recruitment of RVPs as well as develop training programs to better enable RVPs to provide support for their respective historical societies

Audience Development: develop direct relationships with historical societies in identified target regions in order to communicate the CCHS vision and the various ways we plan to assist them in their efforts to meet their mission to preserve various aspects of California history

Knowledge Base:  provide education to improve the effectiveness of historical societies by sharing ideas and information online

Internal Leadership Development:  create an organizational structure to address the long term future of CCHS

Fund Development:  provide resources of revenue to fund programs needed to execute the strategic plan

As I said earlier, you will be reading more about each of these goals and their objectives as the plan is rolled out.  In the meantime, if you have questions about the CCHS Strategic Plan and how it might affect your historical society, please feel free to contact me at 925.387.5385 or [email protected]

My very best wishes to all for a wonderful holiday season,

Andrea Blachman, CCHS President

[email protected]



First Vice President's Message


Coming Soon! 



Michael Otten, CCHS 1st Vice President

Region 8 Vice President (Sierra Gateway)

[email protected]



Second Vice President's Message

Vision Statement - How Important is it? 

Has your historical society ever had more things to do than you could do in a lifetime?  You are not alone.  A well crafted vision statement may help.

At a recent strategic planning workshop, a survey of the participants from local historical societies revealed some interesting information about mission and vision statements.  When the audience was asked how many had a mission statement, 77% said they did.  When asked how many had a vision statement, 15% said they did.  When asked how many were clear on the difference between a mission statement versus a vision statement, only 38% said they knew the difference.   

From these responses, it is apparent that many organizations see no need for a vision statement or do not truly understand what a vision statement is and why it is important.  Now, I know what you are thinking.  Why does it matter if there is confusion about mission and vision statements?  Or, we have a mission statement which no one pays attention to anyway, why do we need a vision statement?

Why have a mission and vision statement?  Have you ever been faced with trying to decide which idea from your Board should be worked on?  There are always great ideas, but limited time and volunteers to work on them.  Although they are fundamentally different mission and vision statements both serve as a guide for the organizations decision making.  They are reflected in policies, procedures and anything the organization undertakes.  It helps members of the board of directors know what decisions and tasks best align with the organization’s mission and vision.  One of our challenges is to sustain and grow our organizations.  Creating mission and vision statements helps the organization move forward and is important to its long term success.

Let’s start by clarifying what a mission statement is and how that differs from a vision statement.  A mission statement defines the purpose or broader goal for an organizations existence and can remain the same for decades if written well.  The mission describes why it is important to achieve a vision.  The vision is a projection of the future status of the organization, say in 3 -5 years.   In accordance with this vision the organization sets its objectives and motivates its volunteers. 

As historians, we are much more comfortable focusing on the past than the future.  To develop a sustainable organization we must focus on the future and this is why a vision statement is so important.

A well-known expert on the subject of organizational vision, Burt Nanus defines a vision as a realistic, credible and attractive future for an organization.  Let’s expand on this definition:

  • Realistic:  A vision must be based in reality to be meaningful for an organization
  • Credible:  A vision must be believable to be relevant.  To whom must a vision be credible?  Most importantly, to the members of the organization.
  • Attractive:  If a vision is going to inspire and motivate those in the organization, it must be attractive.  People, particularly your volunteers must want to be a part of this future that’s envisioned for the organization.
  • Future:  A vision is not in the present, it is in the future.

When your organization builds a vision together you can achieve the following benefits:

  • A better understanding of what the organization must be like in the future to be successful within today’s environment.  Think millennials!
  • A common goal or dream which is a tool for building team work and resolving conflict.
  • A clear focus on the few things that really matter.  This prevents the organization from wasting time and resources trying to do too much.
  • A help in simplifying decision making.  Every decision is tested against the vision.  A common vision ensures that everyone makes decisions based on a common direction.
  • A vision provides a tool for measuring progress.  It provides both the ‘before and after photograph’ of the organization.

Nanus provides some advice on formulating a vision for an organization:

  • Bring the organization’s major constituencies such as your Board into the visioning process.  They have the biggest stake in the organization
  • Keep an open mind as you explore options for a new vision.  Don’t be constrained in your thinking by the organizations current direction- it may be right, but it may not.
  • Encourage input from your Board and key members of the organization.
  • If you have an existing vision, understand and appreciate it.  Provide continuity if possible and don’t throw out good ideas because you didn’t originate them.

Formulating the vision is only the first step, implementing the vision must follow if your vision is going to have any effect on the organization.  The 3 critical tasks of your Board are not only formulating the vision, but communicating and implementing it as well.  If you do not create a plan for implementing your vision, it will be a wasted effort.  The vision needs to be well articulated so that it can be easily understood.  If the vision is to inspire enthusiasm and encourage commitment, it must be communicated to all members of the organization.  The bottom line is that visioning is not a discrete event, but an ongoing process.


- Strategic Leadership and Decision Making-National Defense

- Vision and Values-Ruth Tearle

- Demand Media


Best regards,

Ralph H. Thomas, CCHS 2nd Vice President


In Case You Missed It... 
The 2016 Fall Symposium in California's Tri Valley was a huge success!
Check out some highlights below! 

Symposium_MayorOfDanville.jpg Symposium_TourDanville.jpg

 Left: The Mayor of Danville leads a tour of the Museum of the San Ramon Valley
Right: Walking tour of Old Town Danville

Symposium_GlassHouse.jpg  Symposium_Car.jpg

Left: Historical reenactors lead a tour of the Glass House at Forest Home Farms Historic Park
Right: CCHS members enjoy a photo opp with a classic Ford Model A on Highway 21! 

Thanks to everyone on the Highway 21 planning committee, and to everyone who came - it was a blast!
A big thank you to Rick E. Case for the wonderful photos! More of his work, and more photos from the weekend, can be found here.

It's That Time of Year Again: 
Renew Your CCHS Membership through 2017 Today! 

Don't miss out on the exciting opportunities coming up in 2017 with CCHS! Membership includes access to our network of RVPs, knowledge base, organizational development to strengthen your historical organizations, discounted insurance, and of course, historical tours at our annual meetings, symposiums, and workshops! 

Renew online today, or look for a letter in the mail in the coming weeks if you would prefer to pay by check. All memberships are considered valid for one calendar year beginning January 1st. Any memberships updated now will be considered valid through December 31, 2017. 


JFK University Museum Studies Presents: 
Our First Ever Continuing Education Series
Online and Onsite at a Museum Near You! 


CCHS is excited to announce the Museum Series Fundamentals courses offered by JFKU! Designed to help you strengthen your historical society or small museum, these courses offer a well-rounded introduction to the information and professional skills vital to a thriving organization. 

Each course includes 12 hours of content with online learning modules to be done at your own pace, some live sessions, and an onsite hands-on training class at a California museum or historical society. Courses will provide online learning modules with recorded lectures, student-instructor discussion boards, live chats, training videos, readings, reflection and written assignments with instructor and peer-to-peer feedback.

Designed to be taken in sequence, these courses are specifically created for volunteers, non-expert staff, and board members of historical societies and small museums. 

This program costs $350 per course or $1,750 for the entire series.

Series Requirements:

  1. Museums 101 - January - February 2017
  2. Strategic Thinking & Planning - March - April 2017
  3. Collections Management Basics - May - June 2017
  4. The Visitor Experience - July - August 2017
  5. Fundraising & Marketing - September - October 2017

After completing all five courses, you will receive a certificate from JFK University! Courses may also be taken individually if you are interested in a particular area of study or find one course could be especially helpful for you and your organization. 

Click here for more information and online registration. Please email [email protected] with any further questions. 

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Conference of California Historical Societies
Bringing together California's historical community to share California's heritage, learn from one another and strengthen our communities.