To our supporters and the entire community:
Anxiety, fear and grief pervade our world. The COVID-19 crisis has upended every aspect of our lives.
All of us are experiencing pain in our own way. For me, this is a profoundly painful letter to write. I am sharing difficult news about Minnesota Children’s Museum, our dedicated employees and the actions we are taking to try to ensure that our organization weathers this global crisis.
At the same time, I’m writing with a measure of hope and gratitude. I am thankful for the support from this community that has made Minnesota Children’s Museum a true statewide asset and one of the best children’s museums in the nation. I’m hopeful that we will rally to preserve the museum and the other cultural organizations that help make our state so great.
I have served as president of Minnesota Children’s Museum for 10 years and have seen our mission come to life every day — in the joy of our visitors, the passion of our employees and volunteers, and the generosity of our donors.
For the past four decades, Minnesota Children’s Museum has provided playful learning experiences to more than 12 million visitors. We take pride in ensuring that our museum is accessible to all families, regardless of income or the special needs of each child. Our museum in downtown St. Paul, which we reinvented less than three years ago with a major expansion and renovation, contributes to the cultural and economic vitality of our region.
As the COVID-19 crisis grew, the museum announced a two-week closure, through March 27. At the same time, we shifted the focus of our website to sharing play-at-home tips and resources about how play can help families cope during times of stress.
That closure is being extended. We will look to guidance from state officials about when it will be prudent to re-open. For planning purposes, the advice we’ve gotten is to assume the closure will last three months.
The closure puts the museum in a dire financial situation. The museum is a nonprofit organization that relies on ticket sales, memberships, exhibit rentals, donations, grants and other sources of income for its operating revenue.
The closure comes during our busiest attendance season, making the impact all the more severe. We are projecting that a 12-week closure will diminish the organization’s income from March through June by more than $2 million.
We are taking immediate steps to put the organization in the best position possible to re-open and continue our mission of sparking children’s learning through play.
The first set of actions drastically reduces the organization’s expenses and are intended to preserve as much operating cash for as long as possible, while still maintaining a bare minimum of operations.
These measures are devastating and terribly sad to implement:
- Furloughing 75% of our employees, effective March 29
- Reducing salary and hours for everyone else
- Suspending exhibit development and production, including the creation of “Wallace and Gromit: Get Cracking!” and “Shaun the Sheep: Flock this Way!”
- Halting our programs for under-resourced families
- Suspending our volunteer programs
As the organization’s president, I am personally taking a 75 percent pay reduction.
Another set of actions is intended to bolster our cash position. We will be aggressive in pursuing any and all opportunities to improve our revenue outlook:
- Seeking contributions from individuals, foundations and corporations
- Exploring loans and grants from disaster relief funds
- Requesting expedited payments on multi-year grants
- Encouraging our member families to renew and others to join the museum
These steps will help. But they are no guarantee. The museum faces severe risks that pose threats to our future:
- The closure could last more than three months, further depleting the museum’s operating cash and threatening the organization with insolvency
- The museum will likely have to navigate through a lingering period of economic downturn, which could result in lower than normal attendance and philanthropic support
- The museum’s exhibit rental program, in which other museums and attractions lease exhibits from us, could suffer as our peers cut costs as well
- COVID-19 could return in the fall, potentially prompting another closure or serious disruption
I am asking for your help. If you are able, please join a community-wide effort to ensure a strong and vibrant Minnesota Children’s Museum. Click the button below for information on how to support us. We’ll get through this together.
President, Minnesota Children’s Museum