Can Lessons From a 1929 Mansion Increase Your Funding?

Read this post to discover how several small improvements made by Bok Tower Gardens tripled its revenue at the Pinewood Estate attraction even during a recession.

The Opportunity

Besides wonderful meandering gardens and a singing tower to enjoy, Bok Tower Gardens, located in Lake Wales, Florida, owns Pinewood Estate. The Estate is a 12,000 foot 1929 mansion. Historically, the Gardens offered daily tours at specific hours. Interested guests paid an extra fee inside the Visitor Center before a docent guided them through the Estate.

As you can imagine, the Gardens found that keeping a large, historic estate in tip-top shape was pricy. For several years, staff and board members explored how to increase income and visitors to this interesting attraction before they instituted two minor changes:

  1. They offered a combo ticket option at the front gate, where the Gardens admission is collected that included the Gardens and the Estate. They continued offering tickets at the Visitor Center, and they also sold tickets at the Estate’s front door.
  2. After adding signage and creating a brochure, they positioned the docents inside Pinewood Estate and opened the site for four hours daily.

The Results

In three years, Pinewood Estate tripled its revenue and attendance. What else? Jennifer Beam, Director of Visitor Services and Programs, shares, “Pinewood Estate, is now a regular part of the Bok Tower Gardens experience, rather than a step-child.”

With two reversible changes that cost less than $2,000, Bok Tower Gardens substantially improved its funding. This means of increasing income is a category our consulting firm identifies as “Improve Your Process.” To tap into similar opportunities, examine what you currently do. Then, make adjustments. Measure how they impact the amount of income you earn.

The Profitable Nonprofit Opportunity

How else can you learn from and adapt from Bok Tower Gardens’ success? First, believe that you have options and that small, medium, or large changes may hold the potential to earn new funding. Then, consider these options:

1. Study, With An Attitude.

Ponder and study your setting and current processes. Ask questions like:

  • What simple changes might you make to invite customers to invest more in your mission?
  • On an experimental basis, what if you changed something that has always been done a certain way?

2. Space Design.

Bok Tower Gardens reminds us that space impacts dollars earned. By adding a combo option for the Estate at the Front Gate, guests had the opportunity to pay once. For out-of-town visitors who had just finished a considerable drive, the value of electing to add the Estate to their visit was readily apparent. What space change might trigger funding increases for you?

3. Combine and Profit.

If you charge more than one admission fee, explore a combo ticket even though the Gardens did not contemplate offering a discount on this ticket.

4. Divide and Profit.

Take the opposite approach. Contrary to the Bok Tower Gardens example of offering a combo option, consider offering separate options if you now charge only one fee. Visitors from afar may prefer not to do it all, especially those arriving late in the day. Would an “un-combo” work at your non-profit organization?

5. Shop and Learn.

Don’t just shop at other successful museums and retail establishments. Instead, observe as you shop. What kind of customer experience do they offer? How might you adapt or tweak their process for your non-profit organization?

Every day, good nonprofits find ways to improve their funding streams. One way to improve your income is to tweak a process like Bok Tower Gardens did. Even if their model fails to fit your needs, consider new options so you, too, can become a profitable non-profit.

Read about the seven sources of nonprofit income.

For more answers, check out this Nonprofit  CEO Library.

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