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Children's Creativity Museum Is Powered by Pro Bono

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The Children's Creativity Museum has become one of the premiere education destinations in the U.S. With unique programs from its imagination lab, animation studio, and other innovations, it has become a hotspot for creativity among Bay Area youth. It was not always quite so hip, however. Near the end of its first decade, it plateaued with a budget around 1.7 million, and just passed its 50,000 visitor mark. So how did what was then called Zeum (ZEE-um) make the turnaround into a youth art and cultural center that went far beyond traditional art to reflect the technological innovation in San Francisco? That's the power of pro bono.

Many organizations receive pro bono assistance from the legal world. Super savvy organizations get pro bono in other forms -- from strategic managers to graphic design and marketing professionals. Children's Creativity Museum has taken pro bono to a whole new level by signing on Imperial Storm Troopers -- Loaned Employees direct from the Death Star -- whom they were able to secure for a marketing event through a licensing director who serves on the board.

"I think our board has always been really good about looking at how its make-up matches the needs of the organization in terms of experience and expertise," reflects ED Michael Nobleza on the value that the board has been able to provide in pro bono services.

Pro bono is engrained in the Museum's culture, dating back to the Zeum's turnaround under the tenure of Michael's predecessor, Audrey Yamamoto, who recognized the need for a revamped identity. Another board member -- a partner at Bain -- secured a donation from the company as well as some consultants who conducted in-depth research on family destinations and cultural attractions, and helped develop what eventually became the 2010- 2015 strategic plan.

Once implemented, the strategic intent to establish Zeum as a top U.S. destination led its leaders to recognize the need to have a clear and more compelling name to match. Yet another board member, provided a connection with Landor, a top strategic rank consulting group which has completed a rebranding project for Yahoo!. Landor donated a quarter of a million dollars' worth of research, which led to the development of an all-new brand. So on October 15th of last year, Zeum re-launched itself as the Children's Creativity Museum.

Today, the Children's Creativity Museum's board secures pro bono resources at a rate of nearly ten-times that of cash grants. It's become part of the basic strategic thinking in the organization, and has changed the way they think about fundraising. As Michael says, "There's been much greater attention paid to relationship-building and to our needs for in-kind donations and pro bono services. It's not just about the funds we raise, but about the social capital we're bringing in."

"We've learned that corporations and local businesses are really interested in being social investors. And I think that there has to be a kind of fundamental shift in how we think about businesses as partners -- away from that one-way relationship where you're basically begging for money toward the idea that we can be actual partners in this work."

The Children's Creativity Museum is a featured organization on our Powered by Pro Bono Nonprofit Leadership Series, highlighting organizations that maximize their impact by leveraging pro bono resources. The series celebrates the launch of Taproot's new book and program, Powered by Pro Bono.