We sat down recently with Mike Yankovich, Gretchen Kerr, and Amy Burt of the Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus to reflect on our work together. We asked them to take us back to the beginning.
Twelve years ago, our hero’s journey began, as many do, with a quest for knowledge. Feeling a bit like the cartoon character “Underdog,” the Museum knew they had potential to make a more notable impact on the community yet weren’t quite sure how to get there. The facility was a bit too crowded—a theme that would emerge again in later years. Their search for answers led them to Corona Insights, as the Museum endeavored to gather customer insights to determine how to make the most of the available space, enhance quality, and solidify their reputation.
“Prior to our expansion, you helped us recognize that we had work to do to be more inclusive and welcoming, and to think entrepreneurially. We needed to be bold, to step up as a community leader and advocate for early childhood concerns, and to look for opportunities to invest in ourselves instead of looking to others to invest in us. So many of those fundamentals we didn’t have in place yet. The research told us things that were difficult to hear and informed the introspection that we needed.”Mike Yankovich, President & CEO
That initial investment in market research paid dividends in the near-term and set the museum up for the next portion of their hero’s journey – expansion. It also solidified a partnership between the Museum and Corona that continues today. Their leadership team has been in place for 14+ years – on par with Corona’s.
By 2008-2009, Museum leadership was in the early stages of talking about a facility expansion. “What we learned through working with Corona in the market studies helped us home-in on what was important in terms of what our community members wanted to see and what amenities mattered to them,” recalled Amy Burt, VP of Development & Communications. “The next survey we did in 2010 was instrumental in determining where we wanted to be. We had big pivotal questions that we needed to nail down before moving forward – and the survey got us the answers we needed,” remarked Amy. The other firms working in museum market research at the time were national – and they didn’t understand the local community like Corona.
Gretchen Kerr, COO, noted, “The Corona studies really helped solidify what we wanted. Your ability to aggregate information and help us prioritize decisions was instrumental in helping us move things forward.”
It’s important to recall that the Museum was contemplating an audacious $16 million capital campaign during the worst economic recession in decades. “We were at a point where the community needed us to do this; we didn’t have a choice. We were the most crowded museum in the country. Our guest experience was no longer what we wanted it to be and there was community desire for us to do more. It was time,” said Amy.
The Museum realized they were capable of doing more than they’d ever imagined. “It took a tremendous amount of resiliency. We were so personally invested and passionate about it – and the community needed it so desperately. We felt that there was enough commitment from the community to see the capital campaign through,” recalled Gretchen. Market conditions also changed in their favor. As other organizations pulled back on capital campaigns because of the recession, philanthropic space opened up for the Museum.
“Sooner or later, we learned that you just have to take the leap.”Mike Yankovich, President & CEO
The Museum’s tenacity and audacity in 2009 positioned them for their most recent leap 10 years later—their 2030 Master Plan. A year-long planning process facilitated by Corona Insights looked out 20 years and planned for 10 years. To ensure the Museum remains vitally relevant, board and staff explored the community of today and looked ahead to imagine the Denver metro area of tomorrow. That time horizon was critical given the changes occurring across the community, as illustrated in the maps provided here. The long-term planning of the 2030 Master Plan process is already informing day-to-day operations. “Now we are poised to be participants in critical community conversations and to serve as leaders in bringing others to the table,” said Gretchen.
During the planning process Mike commented to Karla Raines of Corona, “we knew you would push us beyond our comfort zone and help us imagine what might be.”
As we wrapped up our conversation, we asked Amy, Gretchen, and Mike to share a few words to describe Corona.
- Amy – I think of Corona as being well-connected, data-driven and insightful. You keep your finger on the pulse of each community and bring in relevant perspectives and experiences that are really helpful. You are relationship driven and look at all the moving parts to inform the bigger picture.”
- Gretchen – I think of Corona as personable and invested. The relationship becomes more than just that of a client and consultant, you become an organizational partner. The fact that Andrew, Molly and other members of the Corona team come to our events and support the Museum is just one example.
- Mike – I think of Corona as conveners. You welcome a diverse group of people with diverse interests and magically channel that into something substantive with focus and energy. As a facilitator – your ability to take a dynamic AND passionate group and build on some area of consensus to get things done is remarkable.
“We’ve received tremendous recognition for what we have achieved. Now we have excellence combined with maturity to take us to the next planet in our solar system, and to continue on our journey to the moon and back.”Mike Yankovich, President & CEO
More about the Master Plan
In 2015, the Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus completed a large-scale expansion fueled by guest demand, a need for greater capacity, and strong community support. Despite a prolonged recession, the Museum successfully raised more than $16 million to expand its facility, campus, programs, and exhibits. Today, we have achieved results beyond our wildest dreams. Attendance since expansion is years ahead of the conservative estimates we calculated — and we anticipate continued growth.
With the tailwind of success behind us and the opportunity to think fearlessly about the future, we engaged in a year-long master planning process to envision what the Museum could become. To the Moon and Back provides a big-picture look at the Museum’s ambitious organizational direction from now until 2030.
Throughout 2019, to help celebrate our 20th Anniversary, we are profiling our staff and select clients. Click here to view all of our interviews.
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