Dallas Museum of Nature & Science in the Running for Award Recognizing Best Example of Nonprofit Collaboration

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Lodestar Foundation Cites Creation of MNS Through Merger of The Science Place, Museum of Natural History and Dallas Children's Museum as 'Notable Feat'

The successful 2006 merger of the Dallas Museum of Natural History, The Science Place and the Dallas Children's Museum has placed the resulting Museum of Nature & Science in the running for The Collaboration Prize, a $250,000 award to be presented to the successful collaboration in the nonprofit world.

Created earlier this year by The Lodestar Foundation in association with the Arizona-Indiana-Michigan Alliance to increase nonprofit efficiency, the cash award will go to one of 30 semi-finalists selected from a pool of more than 644 nominations.

Evaluators noted that the unique merger formed "...one all-encompassing museum with greater attendance and quality of educational content. The staff consolidation saved $600,000 in the first year and the ratio of benefits to salaries went from 17.6 percent to 10.5 percent, without reducing quality. This merger was accomplished within nine months, a notable feat considering the complexity of combining three freestanding organizations."

Lodestar collaborated with academic teams at three partner universities - Arizona State, Indiana University and Michigan's Grand Valley State University, known collectively as the AIM Alliance - to select the 30 semi-finalists. A group of nonprofit and business leaders, chaired by Sterling Speim, president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, will choose eight finalists. The winner will be announced March 5 at a seminar on collaboration among nonprofits sponsored by the Association of Small Foundations in partnership with Lodestar.

"The collaborations that were evaluated are saving these nonprofits real dollars in administrative overhead, staffing and all kinds of other costs that are having an incredibly positive impact on, not just their bottom lines, but also their ability to focus their resources on carrying out their important missions," said Lois Savage, Lodestar's president.

"We were astounded by the number of nominations we received for this first-time prize," said Lodestar board member Jerry Hirsch. "Although we expect the economic crisis to increase the urgency some nonprofits feel to conserve resources by collaborating, we also want this prize to demonstrate that even during prosperous times, collaboration is often a strategy that should be considered. Regardless of overall economic conditions, funds for nonprofits are never unlimited and efficiency should therefore always be an imperative."

In the fiscal year immediately following the merger to create the Museum of Nature & Science ticket sales of more than 928,250 made it Dallas' most visited cultural institution by a significant margin, according to numbers gathered by the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs. Of that number, nearly 400,000 were children (393,081).

MNS received the Stanford Financial Excellence in the Arts Award in 2007 for exemplary fiscal management from the Office of Cultural Affairs and the Stanford Group Company.

MNS invested nearly $1 million to create two new dinosaur exhibitions [Texas Dinosaurs: Fossil Dig and Texas Dinosaurs: Science at Work], three new MNS Children's Museum galleries (Come and Explore Your Town, Come and Explore My House and Come and Explore Your Backyard), and refurbished the Hands on Physics exhibit. In addition, all three buildings in its Fair Park campus experienced many renovations and upgrades.

As a research institution, MNS also delivered a high volume of dinosaur finds in Alaska by its curator, Dr. Anthony "Tony" Fiorillo. Described as "the biggest find of my career," Fiorillo and a team of scientists, found dinosaur bones, dinosaur footprints, fossil bird footprints and much more that will reveal many details regarding the 70-million-year-old polar ecosystem. This work was featured in this fall's premier episode of the PBS program NOVA.

"This merger allowed us to take an integrated approach to the presentation of science and nature that is relevant to the community. We are gratified to be among the semi-finalists for this prestigious recognition from the Lodestar Foundation and are eagerly awaiting the final results," said MNS CEO Nicole Small.

About the Museum of Nature & Science:
The Museum of Nature & Science, formerly the Dallas Museum of Natural History, The Science Place and the Dallas Children's Museum, is a non-profit educational organization located in Dallas' Fair Park. In support of its mission to inspire minds through nature and science, MNS delivers exciting, engaging and innovative visitor experiences through its education, exhibition and research and collections programming for students, teachers, families and life-long learners. The MNS campus includes the TI Founders IMAX® Theater and a cutting-edge digital planetarium. The museum is supported in part by funds from the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, the Texas Commission on the Arts and EDS. To learn more visit http://www.natureandscience.org.


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Craig McDaniel
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