Monthly Archives: March 2010

10 STEPS TO DEVELOPING A SUCCESSFUL MUSEUM, THEATER/NONPROFIT PLAN– AND WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

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Many of my readers do not know that a large part of my practice is devoted to consulting to museums, performing arts centers and other cultural and nonprofit venues. There is sometimes a disconnect between developers and nonprofits.  After all, if you are in the business of making money, why would you include a non-money making business in your project?

I once had a client who hired me to do a museum business plan for his very successful consumer product.  When the report was finished and initial schematics presented, he asked, “Why should we build a museum when it won’t return 20% on our investment?”

The arts make good business.  They lead many educated and affluent consumers to our projects and they contribute mightily to the programming and animation of public spaces.  Nonprofits are good citizens.  In a world where developers may be seen as unpopular, including nonprofit spaces in a commercial project is a strong inducement to securing needed entitlements.  Still, many commercial developers do not understand that nonprofits face the same planning and marketing issues as commercial entities.  Until about 50 years ago, nonprofits figured they didn’t have to do business plans because they were just going to lose money anyway.  So why have a plan?

Nonprofits must have a well-articulated carefully planned strategy for capital, operating and future funding or they will not receive ANY funding in the first place – not from friends, government, dispassionate individuals nor foundations!  Nonprofits are businesses, just like any other.  And the last thing you want as a developer is to have a failing tenant in your center.

So here are 10 steps to look for when evaluating a proposal from a nonprofit. Also, for nonprofits, these are the steps you should take before presenting to a developer or planning an expansion or new facility:

  1. Have a realistic and defensible business plan.
  2. Determine the annual operating deficit.
  3. Project attendance and per capita revenue/expense within normal ranges.
  4. Study national comparable museums, including your favorite models.  Know attendance, operating budget, per capitas, other important metrics.
  5. Know your market, including the all-important market area demographics and psychographics.  There are now reputable services that provide these trade area metrics for very little money.
  6. Study 990s.  These are your best friends.  They are the income tax returns that nonprofits must file and they provide you with all financial information for your competitors and comparables.  They are public record!
  7. Take time to study comparables in the local market.  Most important for these comparable studies are annual attendance, budget, and resident trade areas.
  8. Make sure to include changing gallery space in your design.  Return visitation is key to your nonprofit and residents will comprise the majority of your attendance.
  9. Interview executives at the models you envy.  They normally will assist if you are outside their market and they can be a wealth of knowledge.
  10. Finally, get professional help because you are not objective!  A good consultant can save you thousands in mistakes!

How Target Saved My Birthday

As a corollary to my last blog, I am thrilled to provide a recent real world and personal example of a first class retail experience I had with the group that owns the “Cheap Chic” category.  Of course, I am talking about Target.  My husband, older son, and I were on my birthday trip to Truckee to visit my youngest son.  We weren’t leaving until 9PM because of family scheduling nightmares.  We decided to split the 10-hour trip from Ojai, in Southern California, to Truckee in Northern California into two legs.  For the first leg, we would drive about three hours to stay in San Luis Obispo (SLO), made famous by a recent episode of “The Bachelor.”  (Don’t lie; you watch it just to see how awful Vienna will be, what slutty and inappropriate thing she will say, and how much she will embarrass herself when Jake isn’t looking.)

We took off at 9PM on a Thursday evening.  I had two bags packed – one with my essentials (make-up, shades and meds) and one with my clothes.  I always count on my husband to pack the car.  (That’s the man’s job, right?)

So we took off and spent a lovely first night in a SLO hotel where I only brought in my “essential” bag.  The next morning, after a good night’s sleep and an early start, we went out to the car to begin the next day of our journey.  We put all the bags in the back of the 4Runner and I noticed we were short one bag.

“Did you pack my red rolling bag?” I queried Charley, my husband.

“No, I thought you had everything in the ‘essentials bag’!”

“Are you kidding me!??”  Has he met me? I am extremely high maintenance.  When I travel, especially to a cold place, I bring along coordinated outfits including no fewer than three pairs of shoes, no matter how short the trip.  And I am not one of those people who can do black, white (or tan), and one additional color.  Oh no, I need the pink shirt, the red sweater, a couple of jackets, etc, etc.

There I was, on my birthday trip, with no clothes!  And I was wearing ratty old sweats (for the drive), and a pink sweater and jacket from Sears!  (Remember my last blog about Sears?  This is what I bought along with a pair of red sandals that I, incidentally, didn’t bring to the snow.  Oy vey!)

So I stressed for a few minutes and then decided what the hell – there was nothing to be done, another excuse for retail therapy!

Now realize – I had no clean underwear, no socks, no sweaters, and nothing dressy for my birthday dinner… nothing but what was in my essentials bag.  And we were traveling on I-5 through the Central Valley of California, not really a stopping mecca.  Not a Nordstrom to be found along the way – not in Stockton, not in Modesto, not in Sacramento, nowhere!

“Why don’t we look for a Wal-Mart?” suggested Charley.  “We can have lunch and you can get what you need.”

Again – have we met?

But then I got the bright idea.  “Let’s look for a Target!”  They are my favorite when I go ‘cheap shopping,’ which is a bunch more often since the recession hit.

So we looked for the distinctive logo (which up until then I didn’t realize was a real target!).  When we found one, I was thrilled.  I was on a mission to get a whole trip wardrobe for under $150.

What would I need? Underwear, jeans, black tops, and a pair of black sweat pants.  Remember, I had jackets and shoes, so I was good in those areas!  While the boys went to get lunch at the Starbucks in the Target, I picked out two pairs of jeans, a black tank, a black paper-thin long sleeve tee, a black cotton V-neck sweater, three pairs of undies, and a new comfy pair of black sweats.  All fashionable, all reasonably well fitting, and none of them cheap looking!  I am thrilled to say, I wore all the pieces for five days on the trip, even to my fancy birthday dinner!

And so here’s to you Target, for saving my birthday trip, and being the best in class. Oh, and by the way, I had a ball with my husband and two boys, a trip to remember, uninterrupted by a forgotten suitcase.