Case | HBS Case Collection | October 1997 (Revised March 1998)

Appalachian Mountain Club: Transforming Governance

by Walter J. Salmon and Jaan Elias


Starting in 1988, the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) began a controversial transformation in management and governance. For its first 112 years, the AMC's structure had resembled that of a country club--volunteer leaders directed the club's operations and its small, paid staff. However, with the club slowly sinking in debt and operations spinning increasingly out of control, a group of members persuaded the membership to take the governing, volunteer council out of the direct management of the organization, hire a new executive director as CEO, and institute a "corporate-style" board of directors charged with policy and oversight. During the next six years, the revamped AMC sprang back to life. The board and the executive director instituted new budgeting procedures, initiated marketing programs, and hired more professionally-trained staff that helped erase the debt, double the membership, and triple the endowment. However, challenges remained. At the end of 1996, the reorganized board experienced a generational transition in leadership as the terms of the last of the directors who had been present during earlier transition expired. This transition provided a good milestone from which to assess the board's role within the organization and its relationship with the expanded staff and membership.

Keywords: Budgets and Budgeting; Transformation; Corporate Governance; Employee Relationship Management; Recruitment; Leading Change; Organizational Culture; Labor and Management Relations; Nonprofit Organizations; Education Industry; Entertainment and Recreation Industry;


Salmon, Walter J., and Jaan Elias. "Appalachian Mountain Club: Transforming Governance." Harvard Business School Case 598-066, October 1997. (Revised March 1998.)