Strategic Organizational and Conservation Consulting

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Info & Updates


“MAYES | WILSON & ASSOCIATES helped us identify 19 policies that were needed, and having these policies in place will make the Trust more capable of fulfilling our mission of protecting rural landscapes and wildlife corridors. MWA was very flexible and creative in their approach to working with us, yet detail-oriented and thorough. I have already recommended them to other groups.”


— Busy, Conservation Trust for Florida



Sara Wilson

On Board at Urban Ecology Center

Pursuing her passion for connecting people and nature, Sara was recently named to the Urban Ecology Center’s Board of Directors. She also serves on the organization’s Impact Committee and the Community Advisory Committee.

The Urban Ecology Center fosters ecological understanding as inspiration for change, neighborhood by neighborhood.



Leading Nonprofit Leaders

Sara Wilson was selected to lead an Executive Director’s/ CEO’s circle for the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee. This group of peers meets regularly to discuss issues facing nonprofit executive leaders.


Ask an Expert

In August, 2015, Sara Wilson was the guest presenter for an “Ask the Expert” call on "Focusing Board Energy: Out of the Weeds, On to Big Ideas" for the Land Trust Alliance-Midwest Program. More than 25 nonprofit leaders from the land trust, nature center or water conservation sector participated in the call. A recording of the presentation is available courtesy of Land Trust Alliance-Midwest Program,  Heart of the Lakes, and Gathering Waters.


Wilson named to Land Trust Alliance’s 
Saving Land Editorial Board 

In May 2015, Sara started a three-year term on the Land Trust Alliance’s Saving Land Editorial Advisory Board, joining other thought leaders from across the county who set the strategic direction for the content of Saving Land, the quarterly magazine of the Land Trust Alliance.  


MAYES WILSON office wins Design Award

MWA headquartersSara Wilson’s mixed use “Bike Path Building” which houses the Midwest offices of MAYES WILSON and her personal residence was one of 18 properties recognized by the 2015 Mayor’s Design Awards for projects that contributed to the built environment within the city of Milwaukee. The property, an example of Sara’s commitment to sustainability and a light footprint, won in the “Live. Work. Play.” category. The existing building was rehabilitated using recycled and low-impact materials, all rain water is recaptured and used on the green roof and gardens (see previous article), and the west side of the property, adjacent to Oak Leaf bike trail is being planted with Wisconsin natives in partnership with the Urban Ecology Center. 


Milwaukee Consultants Forum makes its debut

Consultants at tablesSara Wilson and several other founding members of the Milwaukee Consultants Forum recently led a world café style discussion with the members of Milwaukee’s Agency Executives Group. The process was designed to generate solutions for nonprofit leaders in the area of financial sustainability: the ability to generate resources to meet the needs of the present without compromising the future, and programmatic sustainability: the ability to develop, mature, and cycle out programs to be responsive to constituencies over time. Ideas included looking for opportunities for collaboration and partnership, making tough decisions to continue or discontinue programs based on mission impact, and increasing board engagement. 


Maggie Baum Named Communications Director for River Alliance 

With the start of a new year comes some news about the MWA team. Our strategic communications consultant Maggie Baum recently was named as the Communications Director for the River Alliance of Wisconsin, a statewide non-profit with a simple – though not easy – mission: to save rivers. The group works across Wisconsin advocating and helping keep our rivers clean and has some really cool events including the annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Madison.  Although we are sad to see Maggie move on, as you might imagine we’re big fans of the great work being done by the River Alliance and can’t imagine a better place to put Maggie’s talents in conservation-oriented strategic communications to good use. If your organization is in need of strategic communications or other support, please get in touch to learn more about how our streamlined, team approach helps conservation groups of all shapes and sizes meet their goals and objectives across the many different areas in which they work.


Magill Weber’s Article in Saving Land

The winter 2015 issue of the Land Trust Alliance’s Saving Lands magazine features an article by attorney and MWA Consultant Magill Weber. "Caves, Commons & Conservation" features a variety of once-in-a-career conservation transactions on public commons and hunting properties, and on lands with caves, historic battlefields, and vineyards. Weber provides drafting tips and other points to consider when your organization is contemplating a specialty easement. Download the article.


Connecting Kids to the Natural World

MAYES | WILSON President and Principal Consultant Sara Wilson recently joined the Impact Committee of Milwaukee’s Urban Ecology Center. The purpose of the Committee is, in part, to evaluate the impact of programs on the community and the Center. She is excited about the work that is taking place at the Center, in particular its rigorous analysis of the benefits of active outdoor play, and its efforts to increase the connection between children from Milwaukee’s urban neighborhoods and nature.

Three years ago, the Center’s Menomonee Valley branch launched a project to begin activating underutilized urban parks to promote healthier, more active lifestyles for kids. The center did a baseline study before the program was launched, and followed up after kids had participated in the program and experienced the natural space. Each day the Center engaged kids in learning, exploring, and active outdoor play or play in the natural area. The programs appeared to elevate the kids’ activity levels, thereby promoting healthy behaviors, so the Center decided to analyze and quantify the impact. Program evaluators included Medical College of Wisconsin, Center for Urban Initiative and Research, Menomonee Valley Partners and the Urban Ecology Center.

The study confirmed that kids love and value nature. Urban Ecology Center's director of education Beth Heller says on UEC's website. "Generally speaking, they believe it makes them healthier, teaches them new things, calms them down when they are upset, and offers them freedom, excitement, and yes, time to be dirty." Another significant finding is that the Urban Ecology Center’s programming is working. Kids who participate in the Neighborhood Environmental Education Project tend to become less afraid of nature and are likely to come back to the Center to play. The consequences of physical inactivity are a global problem; the evidence shows that this model of connecting kids to nearby nature is a viable solution.

To hear more about the project, listen to a recent interview on Milwaukee Public Radio.


MWA is on the Way to River Rally 2014!   

Image of kayaker in PittsburgThe MWA team has been hard at work preparing for the 14th annual River Rally in Pittsburgh May 30-June 2. River Rally, co-hosted by River Network and Waterkeeper Alliance, is the nation’s largest annual gathering of grassroots environmental leaders working to protect and restore our most valuable natural resource – fresh water. The MWA team, which helps conservation organizations of all shapes and sizes achieve big dreams, will share their strategic expertise at three different sessions: Magill Weber is co-presenting “Strategies for Success: Urban Greenways” on Sunday June 1 at 9:30am; Sara Wilson and Magill Weber team up for “You did a Strategic Plan – Now What?” on Monday June 2 at 1:30pm and Sara Wilson will present “Get ‘Em Engaged! Tips on Increasing Board Engagement” Monday June 2 at 3:30pm.

In addition, we can’t wait for the sharing of resources and creative ideas that happens when so many committed and talented people gather around a critically important cause. We hope to see you at River Rally, or feel free to get in touch any time to see if our services – which range from strategic planning to board development to conservation advocacy and beyond – might help your organization gain solid footing on the path to success.


The Culture of Conservation Conferences  

RiverMAYES | WILSON & ASSOCIATES is kicking off the new year by training at a number of upcoming conservation conferences. We are extremely proud to be collaborating on upcoming presentations with conservation groups from across the country, including Friends of Lafitte Corridor in New Orleans, Cincinnati Groundworks in Ohio, River Revitalization Foundation in Wisconsin, Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust in Massachusetts, Land Conservancy of Ridgefield in Connecticut, and Freshwater Land Trust in Alabama, at conferences in the next few months.

Preparing for these conferences gets us thinking about how a simple thing like attending a conference can profoundly change the effectiveness of a staff member, volunteer, including board member of nonprofit organizations.   While staff and board members might attend for the strategy—the practical skills, specific knowledge, and networking opportunities—conferences also reignite the passion for conservation.  Attendees leave feeling energized and ready to take on the challenges of conservation with renewed vigor.
At MWA, we will be the first to tell you that conservation is not easy work, nor is it for the faint of heart.  There are times when everyone needs a little inspiration, knowledge, or even a kick in the pants.  This is why we are thrilled to participate in dozens of state, regional, and national conferences across the country every year, where we volunteer our time to provide training to hundreds of non-profit staff and board members. It motivates and inspires us to meet leaders in the fields of land and water conservation, river restoration, environmental education, and urban revitalization, and to share stories and exchange creative ideas.  We look forward to seeing you at a conference very soon.


 More Partnership News, More Services! 

BelleThe excitement and the service offerings continue to grow at MAYES | WILSON & ASSOCIATES as Belle Bergner joins our team. One of our ongoing strategic initiatives at MWA is to continue to modify and expand our services to meet the most critical needs of the organizations we serve. Belle’s expertise as a 15-year veteran of grant writing and conference/event planning – with specific training in biology, ecology, and environmental management – is another step in offering more comprehensive services to clients. Belle helps groups not only meet their grant funding and event goals but also to raise their profile for future success. She has facilitated fundraising efforts in excess of $7 million for her clients, developed and managed projects that have restored hundreds of acres for conservation, and planned conferences from top to bottom for 150-600 attendees. Belle’s passion derives from the beautiful natural places in which she has traveled and that she has helped clients preserve and protect. Be sure to check our Belle’s full bio as well as more details about our expanded Grant Writing and Conference/Event Planning services. Welcome, Belle! 


 Free Download: New Article on Effective Board Building 

Article coverSara Wilson’s new article, ‘Board Building: Inviting People with a Shared Vision,' published in the Land Trust Alliance’s Summer 2013 board newsletter, is now available as a free download on our Resources page. In the article, Sara shares her extensive expertise on recruiting board members for skills, compatibility and engagement, and describes simple, step-by-step, cost-effective solutions for board recruiting. Sara has more than two decades of experience working with land trusts and conservation non-profits, helping organizations large and small build better boards and improve organizational performance. If you have questions, or if your organization’s board is in need of guidance, please contact us directly for a free 30-minute phone consultation.




May 10 Celebration Marked Official Office Opening

Opening photosEarlier this month, MWA had a great turnout  for our Open Office event in our new mixed -use space, which we appropriately and affectionately named the “BikePath Building.” We were thrilled to have so many clients, friends and colleagues join us for a Friday Happy Hour (or two!) with delicious food, drinks, and meetings of old and new friends.

A highlight of the event was the official introduction our new conservation consultant, Magill Weber, who joined our team in February. MWA Co-Founder and President Sara Wilson also introduced colleagues with whom MWA is in the process of forming strategic partnerships to expand the already broad range of services MWA provides to non-profit organizations and conservation groups. Stay tuned here for more information on those announcements in the weeks and months ahead.


MWA Expands Consulting Team With Addition Of Phoenix-Based Magill Weber

MagillMAYES | WILSON & ASSOCIATES, LLC (MWA), a leading provider of non-profit organizational development and conservation consulting services, announced the addition of Magill Weber to its team on May 10, 2013. Weber will be based in Phoenix and will work on behalf of MWA throughout the United States.

“Magill will play a crucial role in all of our organizational development, strategic conservation, and advocacy services,” said Sara Wilson, President and Principal Consultant. “She brings a unique and valuable skillset, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a strong track record of facilitating and implementing successful conservation and land use projects across the country.”

An attorney, veteran conservation advocate, and Wisconsin native, Weber brings a strong understanding of the legislative, administrative, and agency processes, a strong background in developing public and private funding for conservation projects, and a creative approach to strategic planning. Before joining MWA, she served as a project director and government relations staffer with The Nature Conservancy in Arizona and California for several years. Prior to that, she was an attorney with two leading law firms, Jennings, Strouss & Salmon in Phoenix, and Michael, Best, and Friedrich in Madison.

“Magill’s experience in advocacy includes projects at the local, state, and federal levels, in the areas of land use, water policy, renewable energy development, and smart growth,” said Wilson. “Her legal expertise, experience building strategic coalitions around conservation issues, and strong strategic conservation planning vision are major assets for our clients.”

Weber has more than 15 years of conservation and legal experience, with a background in conservation biology. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Bates College; a master’s degree in biology from The College of William & Mary’s Center for Conservation Biology, where she studied the spring stopover ecology of Blackpoll Warblers on the Coastal Plain of Virginia; and a law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School. She is licensed to practice law in Wisconsin and Arizona.

“I’m thrilled to be joining MWA because of the firm’s strong commitment to working on land and water conservation, non-profit organizational development, and quality of life issues in the Great Lakes region and around the country,” said Weber.


Spring: A Time for Big News and New Beginnings!

Mayes Wilson & Associates LogoIt’s been a busy Spring at MAYES l WILSON & ASSOCIATES. We’ve been hard at work getting settled in our new office space and launching our brand new website. Our office is a multi-use space that also includes a small commercial rental space. If you or someone you know is looking for a flexible and innovative office space, we hope you’ll get in touch.

We are also thrilled to announce the addition of  Magill Weber to our team as a consultant. Magill has more than a decade of experience as an attorney, conservation lobbyist, and conservation project director, most recently with leading conservation organization The Nature Conservancy. Welcome, Magill!


New Office, New Home

water catchment systemSara Wilson recently relocated just off the Oak Leaf bike trail, south of the Urban Ecology Center. The mixed use building houses the MWA offices, offers commercial space and serves as Sara’s living space. The building includes a roof garden with a state-of-the-art water catchment system in which all rainwater is captured and reused to irrigate the garden. Read more in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about how this system is the first of its kind in a Milwaukee residence