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Case study
Foundation & Friends

Growing the support of Sydney's most iconic gardens


The Foundation & Friends of the Botanic Gardens is a non-profit organisation responsible for fundraising and supporting the Botanic Gardens of Sydney. They are dedicated to growing a strong, supportive community to advocate for and support the Gardens and their vital horticultural, scientific, educational and cultural work.

While their operating context had changed significantly in recent years, their strategy had not. They saw the need to draw on their community's diverse voices to create a new strategy that could enable a new phase of growth.

In response, Snowmelt partnered with the Foundation & Friends to lead a comprehensive strategic review. With a deep examination of their stakeholder relationships; Snowmelt assisted in articulating their purpose, vision and plan to enhance their impact. Our work resulted in a long-term strategic blueprint, enabling the Foundation & Friends to have a clear path to achieve their community engagement, organisational growth, and sustainability ambitions.

The challenge

For the past 40 years, the Foundation & Friends have proudly supported the Garden's critical horticultural, scientific, educational, and cultural efforts. As the unique connector between the community and the Gardens, they manage relationships with various stakeholders, including members, donors, volunteers, and visitors. Moreover, they help ensure that donations are effectively used to support a sustainable and influential vision for the Gardens.

The Foundation & Friends faced two main challenges: first, they needed to refresh their value proposition for members, donors, and volunteers, especially considering the numerous other important cultural and environmental causes available to the residents of Sydney and surrounding areas. Second, the Botanic Gardens of Sydney needed clarity around the distinct roles and responsibilities between the Foundation & Friends and the Gardens. Overcoming these challenges would ensure the continued support of the Gardens' important work.

"In my time at Foundation & Friends, I have not seen this level of analysis in what we are doing, or what we can do."
Ian Breedon, Chair of the Board, Foundation & Friends of the Botanic Gardens
What we did

Snowmelt facilitated a series of stakeholder research and strategic conversations with diverse community groups. This created a clear vision for the future and plan for engagement of the Foundation & Friends' many stakeholders. The process used a set of provocations about how the organisation could be configured, and a synthesis of the responses to these revealed the most important elements for the foundation of the strategy.

Key activities

  • Engaged 100+ members, volunteers, donors, team members, executive leaders, board members and visitors in workshop and interview formats.
  • Conducted a series of strategic conversations with the Foundation & Friends board to explore challenges and opportunities.
  • Framed a long-term purpose, mission and plan to enact change.
  • Identified shared interests and tensions across diverse stakeholder perspectives.
  • Designed a shared frame of reference to explore critical relationships, dynamics, provocations, projects and impact.
  • Codified the strategy, communicated it and brought it to life with key stakeholders.

An articulated purpose

that resonates with the community, stakeholders and relationship between the Gardens and the Foundation & Friends

A clear vision

to guide activities, new ideas and future opportunities in line with their purpose

Identified projects and focus areas

to help realise the vision and enable the long term success of the Gardens
"Snowmelt took us on a flexible path of discovery and ensured Foundation & Friends had a robust and ambitious roadmap for the future."
Peter Thomas, CEO, Foundation & Friends of the Botanic Gardens
Project Insights
  1. Stakeholder engagement matters most in complex environments, especially when working across multiple organisations, with part-time staff, and with volunteers. Where they are present, these perspectives must be captured to ensure the strategy that is developed considers their perspectives and has the requisite variety for work. In this instance, holistic engagement of donors, volunteers, visitors to the Botanic Gardens and others signalled a change in how the Foundation & Friends would engage with members and beyond.
  2. Perspectives evolve and mature over time, benefiting from time to reflect and new information as it emerges. Our process engaged the Board of the Foundation & Friends in a series of conversations that built on each other and ongoing research, allowing us to iterate and adjust the profile of the strategy as development progressed.
  3. Visual artefacts are powerful tools to make the consequences of decisions apparent and tangible. Using a single, visual frame of reference helped to quickly explore and highlight the second-order effects of different strategic choices.

We brought the Foundation & Friends vision to life with a visual representation of the organisation

This representation included the building blocks of the current organisation (key assets, capabilities and partnerships), its stakeholders and key enabling activities. It was used to work through and explore a variety of unique scenarios, and consider what other changes might be required to enable or as a result of these.

We developed a system map to facilitate a strategic dialogue with stakeholders
This map allowed us to highlight differing relationships, actions and outcomes
Team intro

Start a conversation

Dr Tim Tompson
Co-founder and Principal
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