Tahoe Fund: Creating a Clear Future for Lake Tahoe

How Tahoe Fund set a new, ambitious strategic direction by answering the question “who and what do we need to become?” to preserve the treasured jewel of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.


“We’ve been in existence for 10 years; we need to take this organization to the next level. It’s time. We are ready to go big.”

– Tahoe Fund Board Member

The Challenge:

Tahoe Fund accomplished what no single organization had: it brought together legislators, agencies, organizations and non-profits to coordinate meaningful and long-term positive effects for Lake Tahoe’s sustainability, its residents, and visitors. However, exponentially increasing the organization’s impact through 2030 required strategic decisions, tough choices, and steadfast alignment.

The Outcome:

A 10-year strategic roadmap for Tahoe Fund to increase its impact and scale the organization with clear outcomes and roles for the board and staff.

The Vision:

The Tahoe Fund envisions a Lake Tahoe where the natural and human environments are in balance and a growing community of passionate supporters enjoy and cherish this mountain treasure.

The Approach:

In its first ten years, Tahoe Fund enjoyed unprecedented success positively impacting Lake Tahoe, its residents, and visitors. Still, their team understood the need for a clear vision of success and a focused set of strategies or risk the all-too-common reality of diminishing impact and relevance in its second decade.

Having established themselves as a unifying, neutral collaborator in the political eco-system of organizations working to protect Lake Tahoe, Tahoe Fund grew beyond the adolescent phase of a non-profit and was ready to exponentially increase its efforts and impact. However, without a strategic plan to establish Tahoe Fund’s focus and organizational design, the risk for the organization was to become involved in too many programs and fall short of the impact essential to insure a bright future for the mountain lake.

Tahoe Fund asked OnStratey’s team of Chief Strategy Officers to guide the planning process and develop the 10-year strategic plan to further focus the organization’s effort and impact. Each member of the staff and board recognized that the right focus can drive greater impact than in its first decade. Here was our approach:

  • Board Input Survey: OnStrategy conducted both interviews and implemented an in-depth survey of the Tahoe Fund’s 30 board members to quantify the board’s alignment regarding the organization’s vision of its future success and to identify a narrowed set of potential strategies and focus areas for the organization’s plan.
  • Strategic Planning Committee Guidance: The board was committed to crafting a planning process and a plan that answered the many high expectations of the entire Tahoe Fund board. OnStrategy worked closely with the Strategic Planning Committee to create the process, co-create the plan content and solicit the board’s direction and input throughout the entire process.
  • Board Retreat: With vistas of the Lake to inspire the board and key stakeholders, our team facilitated a 1-day planning session to gain input and direction on what the Tahoe Fund must do to achieve its vision. The session started out with very broad and creative thinking, but ended with specific strategies and goals the organization could act on.

The Deliverables

The Tahoe Fund’s strategic planning process provided a consensus-building opportunity among the staff, board and its stakeholders. The process resulted in a powerfully-focused strategic direction that clearly identified Tahoe Fund’s role and purpose while respecting the efforts of all stakeholders in the region.

As a non-profit, Tahoe Fund sought to focus its planning efforts and budget on the highest-impact outputs that would be actionable. The deliverables were designed to guide decisions, persuade stakeholders and raise the money needed to increase Tahoe Fund’s impact.

  • 10-year Strategic Plan & Roadmap: A detailed plan providing strategic direction, rationale and actionable goals for board and staff to follow and to adapt as needed.
  • 1-Page Plan: A one-page summary of the interrelationships of the Tahoe Fund and its stakeholders and who plays what roles in the focus areas of Tahoe Fund’s plan.
  • Implementation Approach: An implementation system Tahoe Fund board and staff can easily self-manage, evaluate and report on progress.
  • Community Rollout: The community’s engagement and buy-in influenced the strategic plan’s design and format so that it will be easy and powerful for the community and the Tahoe Fund’s stakeholders to understand what the organization will achieve and how it will succeed.

The Results

Together with OnStrategy, the board and staff of Tahoe Fund advanced their thinking from theoretical conversations to a tangible plan with specific goals and activities. The strategic roadmap made the vision clear and achievable, without making it any less aspirational.

  • Future Focus: A strategic roadmap that lays out a sequenced, multi-year path for the staff and board, as well as provides clear communication of roles and responsibilities and links individual contributions to the larger priorities.
  • Board Alignment: Agreement to the direction and approach regarding the Tahoe Fund’s efforts to support the health and vibrancy of Lake Tahoe as well as its role in the larger eco-system of non-profits and government agencies working on complementary efforts and programs.
  • Organizational Design & Doubling Staff Resources: Defining what capacity and skills are needed to deliver the organization’s strategies, near- and long-term plan.
  • Community Stakeholder Buy In: Acknowledging that Tahoe Fund is one of the several organizations collaborating to achieve significant results and that there are complex inter-dependencies among all stakeholders, gaining input from stakeholders and mapping relationships was a critical and productive part of the planning process.
  • Living Plan: An implementation approach establishing a process for monitoring the progress, measuring performance and adapting the plan.

Convinced? Let’s build something together.


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