Web Bonus: More Than In the Swim
The Georgia Aquarium opened in November 2005. But already the organization is running where other institutions like it are just learning to walk. It’s able to accommodate multiple, large-scale special events at one time, has partnered with area schools and universities to develop one-of-a-kind educational programs, solely relies on e-communications to keep in touch with constituents, and has an advanced Web-based ticketing system.
Its ability to do these things has a lot to do with a $250 million gift from Bernie Marcus, co-founder of The Home Depot, to build and support the aquarium. Because of Marcus’ gift, the organization will never need to rely on fundraising to sustain its operating budget, according to Kristie Cobb, director of membership and annual programs for the aquarium.
Here, Cobb discusses the benefits of this fundraising structure, the aquarium’s special events and programs, and its Web focus.
FundRaising Success: What is the bonus of a financing structure where fundraising doesn’t mean life or death for your organization?
Kristie Cobb: It’s really remarkable that somebody like Bernie could give a gift with the foresight to say [that] development is important. Obviously, because he gave the gift he did, he knows that philanthropy from the community is very important. But he just wanted to make sure that the aquarium could continue their operations without relying on the next donation to make that month’s salary, or to be able to replace a pump, or to be able to have a new animal. And so a place where the fundraising structure is focused on programmatic growth and scientific research around the world is a remarkable place to be.
FS: Do you do any fundraising?
KC: We have a very unique thing that we do here at the aquarium that has been successful for us this year. We have a ballroom space. It’s 16,000 square feet and has a separate entrance from the main aquarium. We can accommodate events for up to 1,000 and the room can be subdivided into three smaller rooms.