Guilderland Historical Society


Strategic Plan 

Strategic Plan for the Guilderland Historical Society (click to download document)

June 4, 2021

This document summarizes the Strategic Plan developed by a group of Officers, Trustees, and other members of the Guilderland Historical Society.  The plan consists of three parts; consideration of the current state of the Society, a new Vision Statement that sets a clear marker on the horizon for where we want the Society to be in five years, and five goals to propel the Society towards that Vision.  The Strategic Plan is the total of those parts and provides the Society with a blueprint to grow and thrive.  

President Bill Johnson convened a working group that met over a series of six meetings between February and May, 2021 to develop this plan.  All meetings were held via Zoom and involved a total of 11½ hours of meeting time.  

The following individuals participated in the strategic planning process:

Bill Johnson, President

Mary Ellen Johnson, Past President

Bob Sheehan, Treasurer

Carol Hamblin, Secretary

Tom Capuano, Trustee

Bill Donato, Trustee

Steve Rider, Trustee

Merril-Lee Lenegar, Trustee

Ann Wemple-Person, Guilderland Town Historian

Rosemary Centi, Liaison to Town

Bruce Dearstyne, Ph.D., author of Leading the Historical Enterprise

Linda Miller, past Membership Chair

This Strategic Plan was approved by the GHS Board of Trustees at their meeting on June 3, 2021.  

The remainder of this report summarizes the outcomes from the strategic planning process and includes key findings and recommendations.  The full notes documenting points of discussion are also available on request.  

Phase 1: Assessing the “As Is” condition of the Society

The first phase of the strategic plan involved making a clear-eyed assessment of the current state of the society.  This was done using a SWOT analysis, which considers Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

The process was to go “round robin” soliciting ideas for each category until there were no further ideas.  No critiquing was allowed, only explanations.  Once a full list of ideas had been generated, the process continued with polling to identify the ideas for which there was general consensus among the group, as evidenced by the polling.   

Below is the summary of the the SWOT analysis:


  • Collection of photos, archive, files, maps, library display

  • Monthly programs/speakers/June jaunt

  • Outreach: Frederick House News, Enterprise, publications

  • Talent of committed volunteers

  • Tours and open houses (incl Greens show)

  • Place to meet/focus (M-F House)

  • Trustees


  • Declining membership

  • Limited treasury, Dues structure

  • Relationship with Town: maintenance, lighting, ADA access, storage, climate control

  • Online presence, Website needs improvement


  • Improved web presence & online content

  • Make local history relevant and exciting

  • Partnering with local businesses

  • Digitizing our collection

  • Engage community of Guilderland

  • Connections with neighboring historical societies: ACHA

  • Healthier finances

  • Engage Guilderland teachers and students

  • More publicity - social media, advertising

  • Grant writing


  • Finances declining, age/health of members, member roll

  • Digital Age - online presence

  • Lack of volunteers among our membership

  • M-F House deteriorating, Alternative meeting space

  • Barriers to relevance and excitement 

  • Deterioration of the collection, lack of climate control

Phase 2: A new Vision for the future state of the Society

The current GHS Bylaws contain the following language:


We, residents of the Town of Guilderland in Albany County, State of New York, in order to promote a general interest in the history of our town through writings, programs, photography, and other means, hereby join together in a society in order to achieve such ends, and we hereby establish the following Constitution on behalf of the Town of Guilderland.


The purposes of the Society are to stimulate an appreciation of the historical heritage of the Town of Guilderland; discover, collect and preserve materials which will illustrate the history of the Town of Guilderland; bring about the preservation of historic buildings, monuments and sites; and disseminate historical information.

The work group considered those current statements along with the results of the SWOT analysis, and set a target of 5 years as the horizon for a new Vision Statement.  A total of 8 candidate Vision Statements were proposed and a polling exercise was used to prioritize them.  Phrases from the top candidates were then combined into a new Vision Statement that was then further refined and tightened.  

The new Vision Statement consists of two parts; a catchy triplet of phrases, followed by a deeper explanation.  The new Vision Statement is a total of 68 words and we believe should be widely promoted as a way to explain “what the Guilderland Historical Society is all about”.  

GHS Vision Statement:

Exploring Guilderland’s past

Engaging Guilderland’s community

Informing Guilderland’s future

The Guilderland Historical Society will be a vibrant, highly regarded community organization, appealing to people of all ages, and widely supported in the Town.  We will be valued for our collections, our website, and our engaging programs that present, interpret, and preserve our history.  We will promote making connections to our past to inform our responses to contemporary issues.

Phase 3: Strategic Goals to move the Society toward the future Vision

In the final phase of the strategic planning process, a wide range of ideas were suggested in the following categories:

  • Finance

  • Membership

  • Programming

  • Collections

  • Community Engagement

Ideas were offered as specific actions, emphasizing things we can do to move the Society towards the new Vision, as opposed to broad abstractions.  Once the initial set of ideas had been generated through a “round robin” process, each idea was categorized as either strategic (meaning the idea will take time and effort to develop) or tactical (can be done quickly/easily).  Strategic ideas were then considered as candidates for inclusion in goals, while tactical ideas were separated as immediate actions for consideration by the GHS  Board of Trustees.  A polling exercise was then used to prioritize the strategic ideas and ensure that those ideas for which there was group consensus were moved forward for consideration in broader goals.  

The work group identified five goals which provide an overall framework and structure to guide our actions as we move the Society towards our future Vision.  These five goals, along with specific actions to support each goal, are listed below:

GOAL 1: Improve Coordination with the Town

  • Need for improved interaction and engagement with Town officials 

    • Use of the Mynderse-Frederick House, formalize the relationship with GHS

    • Use of the Library

    • Interaction with the schools

    • Interaction with the business community

  • Seek Improvements for the Mynderse-Frederick House, which serves as the de facto headquarters for the Society

    • Maintenance issues

    • Accessibility issues

    • Climate controls for GHS collections

    • Long-term improvements

GOAL 2: Increase Membership

  • Rethink garden club joint membership

    • Probably better to separate and cultivate interested garden club members

  • Create attractive rack card (tri-fold promo brochure), have it available at town buildings, events, etc

  • Create a Patron model for higher-level financial support to the Society

GOAL 3: Engage the Business Community

  • Work with the Chamber of Commerce

  • Seek business community support through overall sponsorship and funding for specific initiatives

  • Sell advertising in the Frederick House News newsletter

  • Promote bank & business community involvement 

    • Internal membership recruiting within companies that sponsor GHS

GOAL 4: Robust Online Presence

  • Digitizing project to prepare items (photos, newsletter articles, etc) for online discovery and access

  • Online resources for programs (past speakers, articles)

  • Modernize the GHS website and enable online payment for dues and publications

  • Use of online media to promote GHS programming

GOAL5: Enhanced Program Offerings

  • Heritage Day (scan photos)

  • Offer programs at lots of other locations

  • Connect youth membership to local history studies at school

  • Reach out to schools to offer assistance on local history

  • Big kick-off event in fall 

  • Access and use of collections by public

  • Program on how to collect/preserve/document historic materials

  • Historical perspectives on current events

The Board of Trustees can establish committees to begin pursuing the goals.  The strategic plan should be widely promoted to build support and excitement about GHS and to attract new members and volunteers to help us pursue the goals.  

In addition, the Board of Trustees can begin taking immediate action on the prioritized list of tactical priorities identified below:

Tactical priorities

  • Recruit recent retirees

  • Revise dues schedule - raise, reconsider lifetime

  • More publicity

  • Walking tours

  • Online payment option on website

  • Webcast all programs

  • Events at library (more visible)

  • Attract youth via free membership under age __

  • Invite donations at all program events

  • Apply for grants

  • Define member benefits (why join?)

  • Promote whole years’ worth of programs

  • Separate business meeting from program

  • Articles in Enterprise