Six weeks into her appointment as the new executive director of the Washington State Recycling Association (WSRA), Anne Baunach is sorting through the recycling industry with a single focus: how she can help drive her member-organization dream, strategically plan and achieve its goals approaching its 40th anniversary.
Founded in 1976, WSRA has more than 500 members—a unique mix of organizations and individuals and a cross section of the industry including government, private businesses and nonprofits.
Baunach has a 20-year background in association and nonprofit organization. Most recently she was the director of Advancement for Agros International, an organization that focuses on alleviating rural poverty in Central America. There, she was responsible for fundraising, marketing and information technology.
She has jumped right into strategic planning effort to identify new program objectives, activities and new funding sources.
Waste360: What attracted you to the recycling industry?
Anne Baunach: I have been in traditional nonprofit organizations working on behalf of poverty issues and was really interested in making a transition to environmental work and also moving from the fundraising side to an executive director role. As I was seeking a position and as (WSRA) was looking for their next executive director, we found each other through the website idealist.org.
As a mother of two children and as someone who lives in Washington state where our natural environment is so important, I just recognize for my children’s future, it’s important that we’re thinking differently about environment that it’s not throwing everything into the landfills and figuring that someone down the road is going to do something different. I decided it was time for me to focus on my local area in a different way and the environment is such an important part of the beauty of the Pacific Northwest that it was just very intriguing to me.
Waste360: How’s it been since you started in the position?
Anne Baunach: It’s been wonderful. I’ve had the opportunity to sit down with our board of directors at our annual strategic planning retreat where we’re really starting to plan and dream about the next phase of the organization’s history.
I have been able to be involved in my first educational event that we did on the recycling of mercury light bulbs and what’s happening in the state as well as getting out and meeting with our members across the state. It’s really been exciting to be planning and dreaming and seeing what this next phase of our organization’s history is going to be like.
Waste 360: That’s great. So what are some of the things that you can tell us about the strategic planning effort?
Anne Baunach: One of the things that we’re really focusing on right now is looking at the industry, the changes that have happened in the last five years and we want to figure out who is not at the table. We have a real commitment to diversity, not only in the types of organizations, but we are focused on making sure we have a healthy balance in our membership.
We do an annual conference that brings together people from throughout the state and we are talking to our members and making sure that the conference is meeting their needs.
Then finally, the industry is changing and the educational needs of our members are changing, so we are, as an organization, trying to figure out how we can best serve those educational needs, what programs do we need, and do we need to offer more certification opportunities.
Our biggest challenge as an organization is making sure that we are continuing to meet the needs of all of our members.
Waste 360: What is the benefit for members to be a part of your organization?
Anne Baunach: The benefit is to be able to network with others who are committed to recycling.
Waste 360: You bring fresh eyes to the industry. What’s your first impression?
Anne Baunach: It’s an industry where things are changing constantly whether it’s the regulation and legislation in the industry, it’s an ever-changing, ever-evolving industry which makes that need to network, talk, partner, just that much more important.
Waste 360: How many employees do you have?
Anne Baunach: There are two of us here. Thus the real need to rely on our members to be very actively engaged and to help us with this work—especially when it comes to conference planning and events planning. It would be impossible to do it all with just two of us. So we have very active members who are helping with conference planning, event planning, developing a marketing planning—it’s definitely a partnership with the members.
Waste 360: You are both named Anne, right?
Anne Baunach: It’s a requirement to work here. It’s a little confusing when people call here. We’re trying to figure out the system to make this all work.
Waste 360: When you’re not working, what kinds of things do you like to do?
Anne Baunach: I am very involved in my community which is a suburb of Seattle called Auburn where I serve on the Auburn School Board having been elected four years ago. I am very involved in educational issues, especially public education issues in the state of Washington.
Then on a personal note, I love reading and gardening and walking and playing with my dog. My children are both at the stage now where they have just headed out of the house. My youngest is a sophomore at college and my daughter is a senior at college and so we have an empty nest which is making for lots of fun times with my husband, Jay.