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Thoughts on Creating a Stable Funding Model for an Interactive Science Museum

There is more than one kind of sustainability…
This presentation focuses on the • Creation of a business model that will provide long term sustainability Rather than… • Net Zero Energy and other excellent sustainability goals – also worthy of discussion!

Point of View
• Museum master plans and founding teams are often focused on the site, facility and opening programs.

• Operating revenue and organizational plans may be considered secondary (and less interesting).
• Early development of a sustainable business model supports a vibrant “Day 2” institution, helping to achieve the mission over long term.

Sustainable Business Model Key Features
• Serves the mission – directly and indirectly
• Diversified; mitigates risk • Responsive to changing conditions

• Aligned with organizational and operational plans
• Part of the culture of the institution • Deeply rooted in the community

3 Kinds of Revenue
• Public Funding – government grants, contract fees and/or direct subsidy of operations, program, R&D. • Contributed Income – Donations, Bequests, Private Foundation Grants and Endowment interest. • Earned Income –revenue from institutional enterprises including admissions, membership, rentals, cafés, retail, corporate partnerships, sale of goods and services, licensing, etc.

National Science Museum Model

• Majority public funding
• Free admission • Large collections • High operational costs to maintain

• Corporate sponsors for some exhibitions • Earned income relatively small % of total

Regional Science Center Model
• Majority earned income
• Admissions • Membership • Concessions

• Significant contributed income • Minority public funding

Global R&D Center – Exploratorium Balanced Revenue Model
• Substantial public grants
• NSF ($75M+), DOE, etc. • Decreasing as % of total

• Significant contributed income
• Including private foundation grants

• Earned income increasing at new site
• Gate-related (admissions, membership, retail, concession) • Corporate Partnerships, Rentals, Global Studios

Some Questions to Consider in Relation to Business Model
• What is your mission?
• Target audiences, demographic • Regional hub? • Commitment to R&D

• What is your funding landscape?

• Public: local, regional, national • Contributed – Donors, Private Foundations • Visitor Services • Rentals • Community & Corporate Partnerships

• What is the revenue potential of your site ?

Initial MICBA Observations
Based on Limited Information • Rich array of programs including Teacher Institute, Outreach, Public Programs, Workshops, etc. • Nested in Bio District of scientific and educational innovation with many resources, contributors • Prominent international destination city • Balanced revenue model seems appropriate and desirable (many parallels to Exploratorium)

MICBA Earned Income Opportunities
• Admissions • Pricing – consider split strategy for locals & tourists • Offer add-on experiences • Membership • Segmentation strategy – not just transactional • Integrate pricing with gate • • • • Café & Food Court Concessions – integrate catering Store – make street accessible – feature proprietary products Rentals – design spaces for events Corporate Engagement – start early, hybridize

• Create senior positions focused on earned income, contributed income and public funding; hire early

• Make site-based earned income and associated operations a priority for architectural design
• Engage potential corporate and community partners in early planning for MICBA and its programs • Look for ways to leverage MICBA as regional hub and digital studio – scale of impact matters

In Conclusion
• MICBA’s mission to awaken public interest, deepen understanding and increase personal agency with regard to science, technology and environmental sustainability is fabulous and muchneeded. • A sustainable business model will simultaneously fund and help to implement this mission. • Invest early and reap the benefits for years to come!