MOMS SEE A NEED
The dream of a Pikes Peak Children’s Museum (PPCM) was resurrected in the spring of 2005 by a group of local moms who had experienced the wonder of children’s museums in other cities and saw a need for one in Colorado Springs. In fact, of the top 50 metro areas in the U.S., Colorado Springs remains one of only six without a permanent children’s museum. The moms who founded the PPCM had backgrounds in the nonprofit sector, law, project management, hospitality operations, tourism, and finance. To put it mildly, they were a smart, energetic, and driven bunch of women. They pooled their expertise and, around kitchen tables and over large pots of coffee with toddlers crawling at their feet, they moved forward in turning their dream of a children’s museum in Colorado Springs into a reality.
As they sought to accumulate seed money and raise community awareness for the museum, they spoke at more than 100 local venues. They presented their vision for the museum, requested funds, and answered questions. They networked in the Pikes Peak community and strategized ways to keep the possibility of a museum at the forefront of citizens’ minds. These women attained 501(c)3 designation for their blossoming organization and were ready to start serious fundraising when, in 2008, the housing market collapsed and an economic recession set in.
PPCM WORKS THROUGH A RECESSION
Once it was clear that the crippled economy could not support a burgeoning Children’s Museum, the museum founders modified their game plan. They took small steps to stay active in the community with events like NOON Year’s Eve, the museum’s annual (and now, much beloved) New Year’s celebration for kids. They continued to spread their vision through focus groups with Colorado Springs community leaders. While the community was united in its desire to see a children’s museum open in the Springs, funding was scarce.
MAPPING THE FUTURE
In order to plot the most effective next steps, in 2013 the museum’s board of directors retained the Denver-based Kellogg Organization to perform a fundraising feasibility study. The study results found that, through private fundraising, Colorado Springs could support a 10,000 square foot children’s museum with a price tag of $3-5 million, though more groundwork would be needed before launching a capital campaign. Additionally, the study recommended that the PPCM establish a strategic advisory committee composed of a small number of wise, interested, and influential citizens who could advise the PPCM board of directors on appropriate near-term steps. The PPCM board followed this advice and created a strategic advisory committee composed of the following individuals: Steve Bartolin, Steve Cox, Susan Edmondson, Sally Hybl, Karen Palus, Gen. Gene Renuart (USAF, Ret.).
Over the course of three meetings with the PPCM board, the strategic advisory committee recommended that the PPCM begin operations in a satellite location using world-class and popular traveling exhibits rented from other children’s museums across the country. Among other benefits, running a satellite location would make a case for the demand for a children’s museum in Colorado Springs, establish a tangible, grass roots PPCM presence in the community, and provide greater credibility for fundraising activities.
In the spring of 2015, in accordance with the recommendations of the strategic advisory committee, the PPCM board created a partnership with the Space Foundation. The Space Foundation, headquartered in Colorado Springs, includes a space museum called the Discovery Center. Among the many benefits of this partnership, the PPCM now has a location to house traveling exhibits, office space for the museum’s one part-time employee, and front desk staff to welcome attendees to PPCM exhibits.
LAUNCHING THE FIRST EXHIBIT
Using private donations, grants, and funds from the 2014 IndyGive! fundraising drive where the museum raised $18,320 with 100% board participation, in October, 2015 the PPCM opened Adventures with Clifford the Big Red Dog, an exhibit designed by the Minnesota Children’s Museum, at the Space Foundation Discovery Center. Clifford was wildly successful, seeing more than 7,000 visitors during the 13 weeks that the exhibit was open.
PPCM’s second exhibit, Super Kids Save the World, opened in the Summer of 2016.
BIG MOVES IN 2016-2017
With the help of the new Education Director, Erica Bettross, whose museum experience was priceless to PPCM, she was able to start many programs with the support of the board. During this time she helped to bring on mobile curriculum, a birthday party program and in July of 2017, PPCM held it’s first week of Summer Camp, #GrowingUpWild. Because we were able to implement all of this programming, we were able to interact and educate even more children in the Colorado Springs area.
WHERE ARE WE NOW?
PPCM is definitely going through quite a bit of change with the board. Many members terms have ended, lives are taking different paths and personal/professional goals have moved members into different directions. However, there is still a strong board of 6 determined and passionate women who are ready for the next steps. The end of 2017 was used to concentrate on the 9th Annual Noon Year’s Eve event. Another important feat for the end of 2017 was to update the business plan, 3-5 year projections and begin to prepare for the 2018 year. It was also important to begin to rebuild the volunteer base and a new volunteer procedure was put into place. PPCM also took on it’s first full time intern and was able to partner with UCCS students with the Bachelor of Innovation program to help design a possible future exhibit for the museum.