Creating Extraordinary Ideas to Attract Extraordinary Donors
Instead of waiting for the next big idea to happen and the next generous donor to appear at your door, why not create and find your own extraordinary ideas and donors?
Dr. Jeffrey Patchen, president and CEO of The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, talked about identifying and developing transformational ideas and donors at Blackbaud’s 2008 Conference for Nonprofits held last month in South Carolina.
How do you know extraordinary ideas when you see them? Patchen said they come in many forms but often share many of the same core values. He went on to describe a museum project that started as a traveling exhibit and has now taken its place as a permanent exhibit backed by a scholarship program. Why? Because it was mission-based, he said, and directly related to the museum’s mission of creating an extraordinary learning experience that has the power to transform the lives of children and families.
Exceptional ideas must also be content- and vision-rich, and compelling, he said, referencing the National Geographic Maps: Tools for Adventure travelling exhibit that immerses visitors in the world of maps through artifacts and interactive experiences; and the museum’s iconic Dinosphere, which takes visitors back to the late Cretaceous period among real dinosaur specimens.
But, Patchen warned, ideas must be feasible, as well as relevant and unique.
“Not only do they have to have meaning to your supporters but you must be able to actually fund, build and maintain operations,” he said, suggesting that the best way to get an extraordinary idea off the ground is by involving other providers and deliverers, and like-minded partners.
Finally, ideas must inspire people, Patchen said, offering as an example the museum’s popular Fireworks of Glass exhibit by internationally known artist Dale Chihuly, which features an 18,000-pound, 43-foot-tall blown-glass tower comprised of more than 3,200 individually blown, brilliantly colored pieces of glass.