Non-profit Institutions in the time of Coronavirus

In the US, the museums are non-profit museums generally created by wealthy people decades ago when they thought about creating national institutions of art like Europe. These gifts to us exist with money from the private sector so even giving $1 to them makes a difference.

The world has changed so drastically in the past 5 days, more than we know. There are a lot of organizations that have not changed the way they do business such as museums and parks that continue to raise private capital (big donors) just as they have since the doors opened. There are many other verticals that have been slow to the process as well but I am going to focus on non-profits.

We could see a massive economic downturn in the months ahead. The MET will lose $100m and does not see opening their doors again until July. I do not see a private donor writing the Met a $100M check during unstable times but I would certainly like to be proven wrong.

There will be others in this vertical who will find themselves in the same spot. I have been writing about the need to change the mentality of non-profit organizations for years. How to create revenue around the asset they are sitting on while engaging the broadest audience possible including those who can give and those who can’t. The kick to make a shift is here, whether they like it or not, is now.

The winners will be the ones who have the organizational skills and forward-thinking people on the board or on the team to make some creative decisions to bring a museum or park or any non-profit into a new world. A world where cash is still needed to run these amazing assets but the capital must come from the community connecting with them in new ways such as e-commerce, events, and other ways besides hoping a donor comes up with all the cash.

It is time to be creative and forward-thinking. We all love the museums and parks that exist in our city and when we all come out of hibernation we will want to enjoy them even more. Steps to think out of the box should begin now.

Comments (Archived):

  1. lisa hickey

    I remember you writing about non-profits — and even how the MET specifically needed to change.And I had an idea yesterday. Some museums are already giving virtual tours, which I think is a good first step. But WHAT IF you could take a virtual tour with a friend or group of friends who are anywhere in the world? You all log on at the same time, you see the same things together, you can discuss them with your friends.Honestly, if every museum did that — I would be visiting them all the time. I’d go to museums around the world as often as I used to go to movies. More often, probably. “Hey Sue, you still in quarantine? Let’s go to a museum!” They could charge a nominal fee, and upsell for events, personal guided tours, gift shops, etc.The technology is all there — it’s been there for years. And we no know that YES, you can change the behavior of millions of people overnight.The future is here. Today.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Love it

    2. LE

      A really good idea, could use one of these robots which one person controls:https://www.doublerobotics….It’s your idea but I am thinking that if you contacted that company (or similar) they would donate a few units just for the publicity angle.

  2. jason wright

    Do people still go to museums? Oversized safety deposit boxes stuff full of loot taken by force from their native cultures. Out of context, out of time.

  3. awaldstein

    Dunno about it relationship to the pandemic but the trend in Non profits I like a great deal is investing in for profit startups that drive change along their passion points.We see this in the conservation and SDG space and I love it.Be interesting to see this done in the arts as well, investing in artists to let them create and get a foothold.

  4. Pointsandfigures

    I know museums that are looking at buying hi grade muni bonds now. Can find yields of 3.5%! The other thing that museums ought to be aware of is that if there is flight from their state like Illinois, their donations are likely to drop. To establish residency in a new state often the rec is to donate to a charity in the new state. Hence, Florida and Texas charities are filling their coffers while Illinois, NY, Conn, NJ, CA charities are not happy.Speaking of a museum, if you’d like to support one here is the link:…WW2 museum had to shut down. Hope they reopen soon. They do run it like a business. Really amazing staff.