Speed Fundraising: Science Center Receives Operating Support in the Blink of an Eye

Just a handful of weeks after signing up for BIG Online, the North Alabama Science Center, Sci-Quest, has received a check for $5000 from a new source it found in BIG Online. The grant to cover general operating expenses was received from the Caring Foundation, the charitable giving arm of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Alabama.

Wesley Wright, Chief Development Officer at Sci-Quest says his organization has been working for some time to build a relationship with Blue Cross & Blue Shield, which is also the center's health insurance provider. "When times are tough, we always look to our vendors to play along with us and help us out as much as we can."

Although service providers and vendors make natural donor prospects, there are no guarantees that they will support your organization. "I think it's one of the things where if you cultivate effectively and appropriately your vendors will help you out."

If you're going to tap a supplier's pocketbook, however, you've got to be sure that their charitable interests converge with your own. Sci-Quest was able to see through the Caring Foundation's BIG Online profile that it put a premium on math and science education.

"For one, they want to steer more people into the healthcare profession and you can't really enter that field without a good math and sciences background."

How to Raise Money While Wearing Many Hats
Wright has been Chief Development Officer at Sci-Quest since May 2003 and maintains responsibility for the bulk of the Center's fundraising activities, including sponsorships, special events, annual appeals, government grants and - of course - foundation and corporate donations.

Because he wears so many fundraising hats, BIG represents a major efficiency gain for Wright. "It's just a huge time saver when you're prospecting especially when you're trying to assess the odds of winning a grant."

The ability to assess the prospects of winning a grant is a critical attribute of BIG Online and one that isn't always recognizable. "You can look in (BIG) and see who they've given to before and that helps you to assess probabilities."

Wright is very straightforward about the overall impact that BIG has had on his organization. "We love the service. I have been able to go through and between the Online Search and the Grant Development Services, been able to pinpoint more funders, read between the lines and get a lot more information without having to spend hours searching for one foundation or corporation."

Critical to any successful fundraising effort is the ability to articulate those attributes that make your organization unique. Wright is quick to point out that the three year old center is the only science museum serving the ten counties of Northern Alabama and Southern Tennessee. Its 150 interactive exhibits and newly constructed flagship Immersive Theater, help mark Sci-Quest out as a modern and forward looking institution.

"We really try to focus on bringing new instructional and educational technologies into the museum to actually get students interacting with science and not just pushing a button and reading some signage."

BIG Picture: When you're looking for financial support in tough economic times, try approaching your major service providers and vendors. But don't forget to do your homework first.

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