Monday, January 4, 2010

Help Them Take You Home: Nonprofit What If

Over the holidays, we visited the Florida Aquarium. If you want to study a nonprofit practicing entrepreneurism, visit here. You’ll see the Odwalla machines in the lobby, the pre-penguin show video about how to enhance your visit and paid advertisements on the back of the restroom stall. If you take notes, you’ll easily fill a sheet of paper with ideas for your nonprofit to consider to boost your income.

My favorite was an exhibit about home aquariums. It nicely linked bringing what you see and learn at the site back home. Several displays on the history of small aquariums were available, plus examples of home aquariums based on various themes.

This exhibit offered The Aquarium benefits like:
–Access to new sponsors. While home aquarium stores and suppliers might have interest in supporting the aquarium at large, they would naturally have greater interest in an exhibit highlighting home aquariums.
–The examples of home aquariums offered a collection of low-cost exhibits to offer smaller donors.
–The variety of small aquariums allowed sponsor to pick one that fits their tastes. One was labeled, “More with Less.” One called “Shocking Orange” might be designed to match a donor’s preference.
–A long-term opportunity to connect aquarium visitors with the organization’s mission (in part “to inspire stewardship about our natural environment.”) What better way to help people appreciate the aquarium’s work and nature than to learn the challenges of building and maintaining an small aquarium?

Besides the collection of entrepreneurial ideas, the exhibit provides us another opportunity to play another round of Nonprofit What If. Remember how to play Nonprofit What If? Take a successful concept used elsewhere and consider how you can apply it at your nonprofit for fun, profit and mission enhancement.

How might you help your customers (including your volunteers) to further connect with your mission at home or elsewhere in the community? How about a display about how to create puppets for a puppet theater? For an orchestra, an exhibit on homemade instruments or highlighting local quartets of amateurs would add value. For social service providers how about a sponsored exhibit in your lobby for people to learn while they wait?

In this New Year, how will you help your customers bring more home? For help brainstorming ideas, see

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