Lise Aangeenbrug is stepping down as executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association to become the National Park Foundation’s chief program officer, Aangeenbrug told OBJ today. She will leave OIA August 19 and begin with the National Park Foundation September 12.
“I wasn’t looking to leave OIA, but the more I learned about the position [at the National Park Foundation] and what they needed to have done, I came to the conclusion that it was a really great fit between my passion and skill sets and what they needed,” she said. “I’m still very passionate about what’s possible with the outdoor industry, but I’m really drawn to driving immediate results on the ground for national parks.”
Aangeenbrug has helmed OIA since February 2020, and previously served as executive vice president of the National Park Foundation from 2016 to 2018.
“It’s bittersweet for me,” she said of leaving OIA. “I love the outdoor industry, and OIA plays a really important role, this is just a chance for me to do something very direct in protecting our parks.”
What She’ll Be Doing
The National Park Foundation is the congressionally chartered charitable arm of the National Park Service and works with more than 200 affiliated groups across the country that raise funds for specific parks. As the National Park Foundation’s chief program officer, Aangeenbrug expects to be charged with figuring out how to balance the needs of the National Park Service, visitors’ needs, and projects that donors want to fund.
“It’ll be combining all of those things and figuring out how to deliver in a timely and effective and strategic manner,” she said. “It’s everything from fixing the roof on the Lincoln Memorial to telling more complete stories at our parks. Half of the park system is focused on culture and history.”
The National Park Foundation addresses history and culture, landscape and wildlife conservation, resilience and sustainability, climate change impact, youth engagement, and the Parks of the Future initiative—all issues with which Aangeenbrug has deep experience. “This position really brought together all of the things I’ve been working on throughout my career that I really care about,” she said.
Leaving OIA in a Good Place
As for the timing of her departure, Aangeenburg feels the moment is right. “I’m leaving [OIA] in good hands,” she said. “We have a strong board. The business model change has been in place for a year and is working. We’ve really strengthened our advocacy work. Things are just in a stronger position than two and a half years ago at OIA, especially coming out of COVID. I don’t think I would have left a year ago if this position had been presented to me, but now’s a good time. I feel like I’m leaving it in good shape and my [departure] won’t be leaving it in a lurch.”
Aangeenburg cites the reorganization of membership dues at OIA as a major accomplishment that has benefited the trade organization.
“There may need to be refinements, but generally having the members pay higher fees for things they deeply value, such as our advocacy work, or Climate Action Corp, or the enhanced research, has been successful,” she said. “Our revenue is tied to delivering products to our members that they badly want from their trade organization, instead of it just being pass-through revenue from Outdoor Retailer. There’s a deeper connection now between members and OIA.”
When asked about the future of Outdoor Retailer and its moving back to Salt Lake City, Aangeenbrug said she’s taking a wait-and-see approach. “With as many members as we have, everyone has different wants and needs. But we do know that for our small- and medium-sized members, trade shows are still incredibly important.”
Of all her accomplishments at OIA, though, Aangeenbrug said steering the organization through the pandemic was the most important, in her view.
“Getting OIA through COVID and dealing with those unique challenges [was critical],” she said. “The organization was able to pivot and help our members figure out how to get PPE loans. We then quickly researched how the industry was changing…during the pandemic—how participation was changing.”
The Future of the Trade Association
Aangeenbrug said she will not be involved in the selection of her successor at OIA, but that she hopes OIA will continue to increase its work toward advocacy for the outdoors while supporting outdoor-industry businesses.
“OIA understands that, as outdoor businesses grow, they reach a point where they can become more active in advocacy,” she said. “Business success and outdoor stewardship go hand in hand, and I hope to see that continue. As the conservationist David Brower said, ‘There is no business to be done on a dead planet.’”
As for her time in between positions, Aangeenbrug is going to spend some time bikepacking and hiking in the upper peninsula of Michigan.
“I need to get outside and practice what I preach,” she said.
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