This article will review the case study written by Fullerton (1995) about the Atlantic Waterfowl Celebration (AWC), a non-profit organization that held the annual waterfowl ecotourism festival with the same name. The case study takes on the perspective of Carol Currie and Lew Clarke, which were the leaders of the organization in 1994 when they realized that the event had not been as successful as they had expected. The next annual event was only 8 months ahead and the organization was in various difficulties in financing and marketing.

The root problem of the Atlantic Waterfowl Celebration case study

In my opinion, the root problem of the case study is the lack of clear strategic planning of the organization. It had established a view on its three pillars (art and cultural aspect, outdoor activities, and environmental education), but had no formal mission statement (Fullerton, 1995). The organization tried to grasp what is the right next step for the organization but never laid out the bigger picture of what it wanted to achieve or what vision it had for the longer term.

Clear strategic planning and management are essential for AWC, not only to ensure that the event can have sound financial planning but also to provide a precise guideline on how to approach the event. Ecotourism requires suitable strategic planning in formulation and implementation to ensure that future expansion can be carried out in alignment with the principle of sustainable development (Wearing & Neil, 2009). It should also point out the strategic competitive advantage compared to its competitors (Dess et al., 2020). In this case, the event would have a clear view of its competitive advantage over other birding events or similar wildlife festivals that might become direct competitors.

The fundamental causes

The fundamental causes were the lack of experience and resources of the organization. In 1989, AWC was established as a non-profit organization (Fullerton, 1995). However, there seemed to be no organization members that had a great experience in managing a non-profit organization. The mission of a non-profit organization is to support a cause and provide a public benefit (Heaslip, 2023). The organization should measure its success using these metrics so that donors can be informed about what they have achieved.

Instead, they always focused on the difficulties in fundraising and the situation that forced them to do more with fewer resources (Fullerton, 1995). The limited resources and experience led the members of the organization to have a tunnel vision on the part of issues, such as difficulties in financing, attracting visitors, and determining the right event for the festival. Their ability to secure a steady source of funds seemed to be declining over the years as well as their ability to attract visitors. It added to the fact that they seemed to have no specific metrics to show the donors what they want to achieve and how it creates values and benefits for the general public.

Possible alternatives

Various possible alternatives can be provided for AWC to address the issue. However, the main problem that should be addressed is the lack of clear strategic planning and management. The organization should set a solid vision and mission statement to have SMART objectives. It will provide specific guidelines for the member of the organization to move forward with the plan.

After dealing with the main issues, the organization can address the smaller issues using alternatives as follows.

  1. Highlighting the event’s economic impact and cultural benefit in every fundraising to raise the awareness of the donors. A positive public perception of the industry might be fostered by ecotourism’s economic and cultural benefits, which could also encourage or improve community support for environmentalism and the target species and other wildlife (Lawton, 2009).
  2. Targeting a bigger organization for a steady source of funds, such as the World Tourism Organization (WTO), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). These organizations are actively funding projects or organizations that support sustainable wildlife causes.
  3. Targeting a wider geographic market but focusing on a special niche. Direct exposure to clusters of otherwise widely dispersed potential customers increases the financial feasibility of specialist ecotourism enterprises (Lawton, 2009).
  4. Collaborating with other birding events, instead of competing. In 2006, there were more than 200 birding festivals in North America alone (Mazurkewich, 2006). Competing for a small market share may hurt all these festivals. However, they can all collaborate together to grow the market size using shared resources and platforms, better event scheduling, and cross-promotion.

These alternatives can be implemented only after general guidelines from strategic planning have been laid out.

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Recommendation of the plan of action for the Atlantic Waterfowl Celebration

In its first conception, the AWC was a small/medium-sized project (SMP). Jessen (2012) pointed out several characteristics of SMPs, such as having an unclear budget and plan, inexperienced team members, insufficient planning and management, and the majority of the team members being part-time employees. These characteristics fit the early AWC. However, as the event was getting bigger, Carol and Lew felt the necessity of better management. While the resource was diminishing, the project was getting larger.

My first recommendation is for the organization to establish clear strategic planning, which can be a structural recommendation. My response to the case would change if the Atlantic Waterfowl Celebration wanted to keep its event small and local. Since the leadership urged to move forward with the event, it is necessary to have better management of the organization. Carol and Lew’s plan of action was too focused on part of the issues and failed to see the interconnectedness of the issues. For instance, their plan to increase revenue by raising the ticket price backfired badly because they did not deeply analyze the nature of the industry.

The strategic planning should consist of a solid vision and mission statement, followed by SMART goals and objectives. Then, the organization should have specific metrics that can be presented to the donors and sponsors related to the impact and benefit of the events for the general public, the local economy, as well as wildlife conservation. It is important to have a steady source of funds, so the organization should start targeting a bigger wildlife or ecotourism organization that actively provides funds for smaller projects, such as the WTO, WWF, and WCS. Strategic planning should also become a compass for what the event should provide for the tourists.

Importance and relevance of the case

The case study involves a non-profit organization that was struggling to hold a wildlife conservation event. The main issue was that the organization is too focused on what to do instead of its higher purpose. This is a common issue in small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Since SMEs generally have limited human and financial resources, they tend to have a tunnel vision on how to improve profits or cut costs, instead of how to create better value and have a sustainable competitive advantage. The case study is very important and relevant in a general business study due to this fact.

Based on the insight from this case study, SMEs should learn to focus on creating the best value using their limited resource and gain a competitive advantage. By only then they will thrive in the market and grow as an enterprise. While it was an SMP at its early conception, AWC was growing to become a large event and required better management. This is also what it takes for SMEs to grow to the next level.


Dess, G. G., McNamara, G., Eisner, A. B., Lee, S. H., & Sauerwald, S. (2020). Strategic Management (10th ed.). McGraw-Hill Education.

Fullerton, G.L. (1995).  Atlantic waterfowl celebration. Acadia Institute of Case Studies. Acadia University. School of Business Administration.

Heaslip, E. (2023, February 6). Nonprofit, Not-for Profit & For-Profit Organizations Explained. US Chamber.

Jessen, S.A. (2012). Project leadership -- Step by step: Part I.

Lawton, L. J. (2009). Birding festivals, sustainability, and ecotourism: an ambiguous relationship. Journal of Travel Research, 48(2), 259-267.

Mazurkewich, K. (2006, April 1). Wild West Is Now for the Birds. WSJ.

Wearing, S., & Neil, J. (2007). Ecotourism: Impact, Potentials, and Possibilities (2nd ed.). Elsevier.

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