Today I had an update on the effort to turn Stage Center into a children’s museum. I figure this expanded questions and answer bit with Tracey Zeeck, co-organizer of Children’s Museum of Oklahoma might be of interest:
Q: What is the latest development on efforts to place a first right of refusal deposit with the OKC Community Foundation?
A: Unfortunately we were not able to agree on terms.
Q: Why couldn’t you work within their timeline and requirements?
A: OCCF had generously offered us First Right of Refusal for $25,000, which would essentially give Children’s Museum of OKC FRR for 5.5 months. While we were pleased that they saw enough value in our effort to offer this, their timeline simply didn’t match ours. As anyone could guess, a fundraising effort of this magnitude (est. $30,000,000 to fully complete the project, and open the museum to visitors) requires a much greater time commitment than just a few months. That said, we did counter with an offer to pay their $25,000 fee if it meant that we could extend the FRR to one calendar year. They declined.
The one-year effort still puts fundraising in a relatively aggressive time frame, but we feel like it’s reasonable, given the current interest in the project. We believe that a year would give us time to do foundational work to ensure success, such as running a feasibility study, creating a targeted strategic fundraising plan, getting materials prepared and a committee trained for fundraising effort, getting meetings set with potential funding partners before their budgets are finalized for 2013, and then going out and gathering those financial pledges so that we can get to work building the Children’s Museum of OKC!
Q: Does this mean your effort is doomed?
A: Absolutely not. In fact, it means the opposite is true. Instead of sitting and waiting, we can now forge ahead with our current fundraising efforts on our own terms
Q: How is fund raising going?
A: With such a limited time (remember we just kicked off the project the first week of February for an RFP that was due Feb 29th!) we developed our entire scope with a “dream funder” in mind. We envisioned a potential superhero who exemplifies the independent spirit of The New OKC. Someone willing to work toward the universal good that we’re trying to accomplish through this project. Opening the doors to every child, from every walk of life. And we built the project with that fictional character in mind. Then we identified who that superhero actually might be. And while I obviously can’t name names, I can tell you this: To date we’ve presented to this like-minded organization for the naming rights and are now on phase two of a grand proposal, at their direction, incorporating their next-level suggestions. Honestly, whether they end up partnering with us or not, this idea shaped our efforts, and that alone was a gift, for it resulted in our creating an extremely inclusive project based on the goodness of our then-fictional hero.
Q: What is the extent of public support for your campaign?
A: Let’s first put it into perspective: With no budget whatsoever, most everyone in OKC knows about our project, although it didn’t even exist until February of this year. That’s fast. As a PR person, I’ve never seen anything so naturally explosive as the love for this project. People stop me in the grocery or at the park to ask if I am ‘the children’s museum lady” and give me their phone number or email address so they can help when the time comes. Of course, it still feels as if some don’t believe we can do it. Which doesn’t surprise us, nor does it inhibit our efforts in the least. Oklahoma City is a place where a single person can make a difference. Imagine then what 1000 people can do.
Q: How much of an organization have you built in trying to save Stage Center, turn it into a children’s museum?
A: We have incorporated (Children’s Museum of Oklahoma City, Inc.) and we’re working on getting our 501(c)(3)status, which, as you may know, can be a relatively lengthy process. Fortunately we have the help of attorneys, civic and government leaders, business people, museum experts, child advocates, community folks, and even some family foundations making up our interim board of directors, and they’re willing to put their hearts and dollars and sweat into this as well. And then there are the fans. OKC enthusiasts who want nothing more than to have a safe engaging place for their families to play and grow together, downtown, in our generation’s most iconic building.
Q: What’s next?
A: We continue to move forward, of course. As parents, we teach our children to share, to take turns, to be honest, and to stand up for what’s right. We quote The Lorax, that “a person’s a person, no matter how small.” Now we’re in a position to behave the way we ask our kids to behave. We’re committed to seeing this through, and seeing it through correctly. We’ll continue to partner with other cultural organizations and child advocacy groups too, for we believe that a high tide raises all ships. The more we do for families and culture and preservation in Oklahoma City, the richer all of our lives here will be.