Nov 30, 2015
In this episode of the Nonprofit Leaders Network Podcast series we welcome Ellen Rosenthal of Conner Prairie, close to Indianapolis, Indiana.
Conner Prairie has transformed from a very traditional outdoor history museum into a vibrant, busy family and educative destination, providing immersive learning about nature, technology, arts and crafts and the natural environment, all in a historical context. They are also the summer home of the Indianapolis Symphony. With visitations last year of just over 360,000 they are now one of the most visited outdoor history museums in the country.
Here are some of the highlights from our talk:
RETHINKING PURPOSE OPENS DOORS TO GREATER IMPACT
We believed at Conner Prairie that we were educating visitors by spewing information at them, but we were turning them off; they really didn’t want to take in reams of information when they were trying to have a fun day out. So we had to rethink what we were really trying to do, what was our mission and function in the community.
We used taped recordings of honest visitor experiences to show how they were confused and bored with our current offering, and how, when we changed that to encourage people to explore, be hands-on, and follow their interests, it resulted in much deeper engagement and satisfaction. It enabled us to move from what we thought we were doing into understanding what we really could accomplish, and that became the start point for our transformation.
STOP ASSUMING – AND HAVE A GREATER IMPACT
As hard as we try as organizations to make assumptions about what our clients, customers or visitors think, until we really observe their behavior, stopping talking to ourselves, and honestly look at what is happening we will not get a true picture. We have to go beyond focus groups and traditional feedback forms, and find ways to look at how people are actually behaving, responding to our offerings. It is hard to do, but essential to bring about true transformational change.
BE PATIENT. BIG CHANGES DON’T HAPPEN OVERNIGHT
At Conner Prairie we started this change in 2003. It probably took six or seven years for everyone to be really on board, including managing a significant governance dispute; when you start something like this you are in for the long-haul. Alongside the mission and offering change, there was a lot of other realignment and skills diversification happening at the same time. When you are working at capturing the hearts and minds of the employees and volunteers at a non-profit through periods of major change it can be a long and hard process. Their motive for being with you in the first place relates directly to their own identify and their belief in what you are doing. Being sensitive to that and making significant change to your organization takes time and sustained effort.
Visit www.SocialGoodInstigators.com for the transcript and additional show notes.
ocialGoodInstigators.com for the transcript and additional show notes.