FMR's 2016 Strategic Plan

Executive summary (pdf)

Our mission

Our vision

Our core values

Our program goals

   - River Corridor
   - Water
   - Land Conservation
   - Stewardship and Education

Organizational goals

   - Building influence & impact
   - Communications & outreach
   - Diversity & inclusion
   - Youth engagement
   - Development
   - Our people, our staff


Friends of the Mississippi River engages citizens to protect, restore and enhance the Mississippi River and its watershed in the Twin Cities region. 


We envision a river recognized and celebrated for its intrinsic values. A river where the water is clear, clean and safe to swim in, where fish and wildlife are healthy and abundant, and where scenic bluffs and cultural treasures are protected. 

This is a river where residents and visitors can escape the rush of daily life to find solitude in a hidden backwater, mystery beside ancient mounds, and the wonder of paddling past towering bluffs. Here, you can catch fish that are healthy to eat. You can stroll through oak savannas and sand prairies alive with the diversity of our natural heritage. Here, historic sites speak to the timeless connection between people and the river.

We envision a river accessible to all and a community that actively embraces this river ethic, welcoming of its role as the Mississippi River’s steward for current and future generations.

Core Values

We believe all of us are accountable for the health of the Mississippi River, its creatures and the communities that live along its banks and rely upon its waters.

We believe our society must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Through thoughtful and decisive action, we inspire and engage others to protect the Mississippi River.

We cannot succeed alone. We work with others because our outcomes are better and more lasting when driven by strong and diverse partnerships.

We do what is right for the Mississippi River. Our decisions and actions are clearly and proudly aligned with our mission and values.

We pursue our mission with professionalism, bringing to bear deep understanding, creativity and technical proficiency.

Program Goals

River Corridor


The natural, scenic, cultural, historical, recreational and public values of the Mississippi River corridor are understood, protected, enhanced and celebrated by local communities working in partnership with FMR.

Goal: Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area (MRRCA) rules, plans and ordinances are clear, consistent and enforced.

• Engage state agencies, local governments and community stakeholders to advocate for the formal adoption of strong MRCCA rules
• Evaluate corridor resources and threats and prioritize a list of communities in need of greatest FMR attention and engagement
• Play a critical, impactful and timely role in the development and implementation of local MRCCA plans and ordinances for priority communities
• Organize an informal network of citizens in each priority community that can help educate public officials about the National Park, key resources and threats to the river, and the importance of strong MRCCA plans and ordinances (e.g. park proud, river guardians, river sentinels)
• Increase land in the river corridor that is protected as open space either through public ownership or conservation easements

Goal: Economic and park development in the corridor is sensitive to the river’s unique natural and cultural resources, and the decision process recognizes community input.

• Increase/extend FMR’s capacity to play a strategic and influential role in the high volume of river corridor policy, land use and development issues expected during the next five years; respond to the most pressing development issues
• Organize an informal network of citizens in key communities that can help educate public officials about the National Park, key resources and threats to the river, and the importance of strong enforcement of local river protection policies
• Provide clear communication about the principles that guide our advocacy efforts and priorities

Goal: The Above the Falls vision for continuous parks and trails along the river north of downtown Minneapolis is realized, creating improved and equitable river access from surrounding neighborhoods and economic development that enhances the public realm.

• Support the Minneapolis Park Board’s efforts to acquire and develop new parkland for the Above the Falls Regional Park
• Identify and deploy meaningful ways to engage residents and other community stakeholders of north and northeast Minneapolis in Above the Falls planning
• Lead a community process to evaluate and advocate for improved access between the neighborhoods west of I-94 and new riverfront parks

Goal: The ecological impact of invasive carp is minimized within the Mississippi National River & Recreation Area (MNRRA).

• Work with the Stop Carp Coalition and government partners to coordinate public outreach and advocacy initiatives aimed at stopping the spread of carp
• Support funding requests from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and University of Minnesota to implement state action plans, conduct research, etc.

Land Conservation


An ecologically functioning corridor of natural habitat exists along the Mississippi River and important tributaries.

Goal: Lands important to the river’s ecosystem are protected in perpetuity.

• Conduct landowner outreach
• Conduct project-specific fundraising for protection projects
• Explore opportunities to expand the program beyond the MNRRA corridor

Goal: Critical ecological functions of the land managed by FMR are restored.

• Assist communities with developing ecological corridor plans
• Conduct landowner outreach
• Develop natural resource management plans
• Conduct restoration
• Explore opportunities to expand our work beyond the MNRRA corridor

Goal: FMR’s restoration work is rooted in science and designed to have the greatest possible ecological impact.

• Develop and use a methodology to measure and understand the impact of our work
• Increase the use of experimentation to improve the efficacy of our restoration work

Goal: The Mississippi River benefits from and serves as a strong pollinator corridor.

• Convene potential partners
• Identify existing pollinator habitat and gaps
• Work with partners to address gaps




The Mississippi River meets all water quality standards and fully supports a healthy aquatic ecosystem.

Goal: State level Clean Water Act administration is strong.

Advocate for:
     — Robust implementation of Governor’s Buffer Initiative
     — Effective adoption of Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies (WRAPS) in agricultural watersheds and priority Twin Cities metro area watersheds
     — Effective implementation of the Clean Water Accountability Act
     — Effective implementation of the Twin Cities Metro Area Chloride Management Plan
     — Strong state action on priority studies, restoration plans, implementation plans and resource management strategies, as appropriate
• Work to secure state adoption of strong nitrogen standards for water quality
• Work to ensure effective implementation of the state’s Nonpoint Priority Funding Plan
• Host targeted “Clean Water Salons” with select administrative leadership
• Pursue effective enforcement of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan and Water Resource Protection Rules (WRPRs) where appropriate

Goal: State legislative outcomes reflect FMR’s priorities.

• Develop and advance a comprehensive annual clean water legislative agenda
• Host targeted “Clean Water Salons” with select legislative leadership
• Advocate for Clean Water Fund investments that reflect FMR’s priorities
• Defend against rollbacks to existing clean water protections
• Advocate for successful implementation of state perennial cellulosic biofuels policies and incentives
• Identify and advocate for state-level actions that should occur in response to the outcome of the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit

Goal: FMR's water quality education and outreach programs effectively raise awareness of water quality issues and activate citizen engagement.

• Publish and successfully disseminate the State of the River Report (SOTR), SOTR Stewardship & Policy Guides, and SOTR Teacher’s Guide
• Implement the Brewing Clean Water Program in multiple metro area breweries
• Enhance and implement Phase II of the Blue Star Award Program, with a focus on municipal policy reform
• Maintain and enhance FMR’s role as a go-to source of water quality information, with an emphasis on actively pursuing integration of FMR’s perspectives in statewide media coverage on clean water issues
• Identify and develop a diverse and effective network of clean water advocates, including farmers, rural leaders, business leaders, youth and underrepresented communities

Goal: FMR implements projects that demonstrate the potential for meeting water quality standards at the watershed scale.

• Successfully fund and implement the “Performance-Based, Producer-Led, Voluntary Pollution Reduction Planning for Minnesota Watersheds”

Stewardship & Education


Individuals and communities feel a connection to the Mississippi River and its watershed that inspires an ethic of active participation in stewardship and conservation.

Goal: FMR annually engages 4,000-5,000 people in stewardship events and outings to learn about the river and meaningfully contribute to protecting and enhancing river resources.

• Work with program funders, partners and other FMR programs to annually identify targeted audiences for stewardship programming
• Provide background information on each site/project before, during and after events via our website and social media

Goal: Participants and volunteers are prepared and eager to participate in more events and activities, share their experiences with others, and make river-positive behavior changes in their personal lives, homes and yards.

• Cultivate and sustain deeper relationships with individual volunteers and groups
• Facilitate strong and sustainable connections to our stewardship sites with local groups, schools and community members
• Expand river-friendly homes and gardens workshop offerings to include new communities and breweries
• Conduct additional follow-up communication with event participants to provide tips and ideas for personal stewardship and opportunities for deeper involvement with FMR

Goal: Stewardship events and activities support other FMR programs and efforts, including membership, fundraising, land conservation, advocacy and communications.

• Expand and enhance the FMR database in order to maximize relationships with event participants, volunteers and stewardship program partners
• Work with other staff and the database to coordinate cross-departmental communications
• Promote membership opportunities at all public events
• Promote advocacy opportunities when feasible and/or relevant at select events

Organizational Goals

Building Influence and Impact


FMR positively influences decisions that are being made that affect the Mississippi River by bringing to bear good information and a strong, diverse and well-informed network of activists.

Goal: FMR represents an informed and engaged network of members, volunteers and activists, and maintains the staff and technical capacity to organize and activate them to participate in important decisions that affect the Mississippi River.

• Develop and implement a plan to expand, support and employ our network of informed activists in locations targeted to increase our grassroots power

Communications & Outreach


People in Minnesota, especially in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, value and respect the Mississippi River. They are well informed about FMR’s work and about the ways they can protect, restore and enhance the river.

Goal: FMR strategically and effectively communicates with key audiences about the river’s importance and the organization’s work, inspiring the actions needed to protect it.

• Assess the use and value of current communications efforts
• Develop an annual strategic communications plan
• Enhance synergy across FMR programs and communications to raise the profile of individual programs and FMR as a whole

Goal: FMR’s position as the “go-to” organization for the media, policy makers and others who wish to protect the river is heightened.

• Actively cultivate relationships with the media and policy makers
• Enhance the impact of FMR’s online presence

Diversity & Inclusion


A wide range of people, reflective of our increasingly diverse community, is engaged with the river and active with FMR as Board, staff and volunteers.

Goal: FMR programs engage many diverse communities in the Twin Cities to effectively address the needs of the River.

• Identify and engage communities and constituencies that are currently underrepresented in river activities or decisions that impact the river

Goal: FMR’s Board and staff are inclusive of the cultural and racial diversity of our community.

• Identify and recruit Board members from diverse cultural, racial and geographic backgrounds and communities
• Proactively recruit, hire and retain a diverse staff
• Consider establishing an internship for minority students
• Engage minority communities in youth/citizen science to monitor the success of our restoration projects
• Take deliberate steps to foster a culture of inclusion

Youth Engagement


A new generation of river stewards is inspired and prepared to protect and restore the health of the Mississippi River.

Goal: Youth are engaged in activities that empower them to positively impact their communities, develop their leadership skills and inspire a life-long commitment to steward the river.

• Provide river-based natural resource educational and experiential programming for schools, youth groups, colleges and universities in the metro area
• Introduce and connect young people to the natural areas and water resources in their community, and engage them in hands-on volunteer activities to improve the health of the river
• Develop and expand sustainable partnerships with schools, youth-serving organizations and the National Park Service that will facilitate long-term youth involvement with FMR programs and restoration sites
• Explore and pursue ways to engage more 18-22 year-olds in FMR’s programs
• Provide or facilitate opportunities for youth empowerment, leadership and skill building
• Build evaluation into the design of FMR’s youth programs



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

Goal: Mississippi Riverkeepers ($1,000+ annual donors) giving grows by 10% and maintains 90% member retention each year.

• Develop a system for identifying and stewarding leadership donor prospects, including small family foundations, and renewing and upgrading current Mississippi Riverkeepers
• Explore opportunities to more strategically engage and leverage the board in leadership donor identification, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship
• Develop opportunities to more deeply engage leadership donors, including but not limited to serving on a committee, participating in a focus group, etc.
• Explore the development of an annual fund campaign and an Above the Falls capital campaign to grow sustained leadership giving over time
• Improve our tools and systems (i.e. database functionality) to ensure maximum efficiency and accurate data management
• Work with the Communications Manager to develop consistent Mississippi Riverkeepers language and messaging, strengthen our brand and refresh our materials

Goal: FMR doubles its membership in three years, growing its base of reliable, annual support.

• Pursue varied membership acquisition strategies, including but not limited to mass mailings, targeting our activists and volunteers, friendraisers and other membership events
• Develop a strong member stewardship and upgrade plan
• Test strategies to incentivize membership acquisition, renewals and upgrading (i.e. premiums, segmented messaging, A/B testing in acquisition and renewal letters, recognition opportunities, etc.)
• Improve our tools and systems (i.e. database functionality, renewals process, etc.) to ensure maximum efficiency and accurate data management
• Seek funding to support capacity-building efforts and prioritize funding for membership growth activities in annual budgets
• Work with the Communications Manager to develop consistent language and messaging, strengthen our brand and refresh our materials

Goal: Mississippi River Legacy Society (MRLS) membership is doubled, ensuring sustaining support for our mission.

• Develop a system for identifying, cultivating, soliciting and recognizing MRLS prospects.
• Develop meaningful recognition opportunities and compelling MRLS materials to share with prospective members, local community foundations and professionals who work in the estate planning sector.

Goal: Institutional giving grows at a pace that meets the demand of our expanding programs.

• Continuously and proactively seek new institutional donors
• Overhaul and expand our corporate sponsorship program
• Develop and launch a robust business membership program to grow unrestricted support and community awareness from local business engagement
• Develop a plan to broadly and effectively promote employee giving and employer matching opportunities
• Develop a corporate giving policy

Our People, Staff


Friends of the Mississippi River is a great place to work – we hire extraordinary talent, cultivate a supportive and flexible working environment, value individual and organizational ambitions, and achieve excellence.

Goal: Friends of the Mississippi River attracts and retains dedicated, creative and expert staff.

• Competitively and appropriately compensate staff
• Ensure that the conditions in which staff work and the tools they are provided allow them to thrive
• Devote organizational resources to fostering a transparent, intentional and supportive culture
• Value, foster and recognize employee development
• Maintain a staff care committee to advance and monitor progress