Thriving In A Non-Profit World During Challenging Economic Times

Original Post: Working Mother Magazine

By Joy Rose, Founding Director Museum Of Motherhood, NYC

Engaging students, volunteers, academics and experts has proved to be the secret ingredient for our 501c3 non-profit survival at the Museum Of Motherhood during our start-up year. Salaries are often limited or non-existent, but enthusiasm runs high and there’s always a collaborative energy circulating throughout the gallery space and programming efforts.

With the challenges non-profits face during difficult economic times, utilizing the skills of individuals who understand the overall mission of your non-profit business can be a deal-maker.

Standing at the entrance of the Museum exactly one year from when we opened, I hardly have time to pause. The space is vital and bustling with families from the surrounding community, a few straggling tourists, and toddlers jumping on and off the tricycles and riding vehicles in the play area.

I remember the first time I saw the underground Gymboree space with its primary colors and trampoline mats. We’d inherited the former gym in the heart of Manhattan’s upper east side, from New York Franchisee owners Deb Whitefield and her partner Barry Hanson. They were on board with our concept of a community museum, but with little funding and only three weeks to prep the space to open, I wasn’t sure where to begin. I remember wildly sketching renderings, snapping photos and ripping up magazines in an attempt to envision how we’d transform 2,5000 square feet of damp, empty footage into a museum space. We had $5,000 in the bank. We had a vague notion of some of the programming and exhibits we hoped to introduce, but very little idea on how to make it all look and feel museum-worthy.

Most days a year a ago were very quiet. Sometimes a week would go by and no one would walk in. Hurricanes raged through the fall. The walls and ceiling leaked. Scaffolding around the building’s perimeter kept our entrance mostly hidden from sight. Many nights I went home feeling unsure and exhausted. Yet, at the same time, I felt so happy to be able to facilitate the birth of this incredible vision; The first ever Museum Of Motherhood. Wow. I knew I was living my dream of bringing some the HERstory of  women and education about the multicultural family to a physical, tangible location.

Fast forward to one year later. I realize community engagement not only helped M.O.M. survive the first year, but has been the key to our ongoing success. With three full-time interns starting up this fall; two field work interns from the School of Social Work at Hunter and Columbia U. in New York City, one psychology major from Manhattan College and a dozen or more other intern/volunteers from Dr. Athan’s graduate level psychology class at Columbia Teacher’s College and an assortment of community experts, including Richard Shulman, SCORE volunteer, Dr. Jennifer Genuardi, pediatrician, Sara Raff, early childhood education specialist and newcomer psychiatrist Dr. Elyse D. Weiner to our ‘Meet The Expert’ series, we are really rocking and rolling.

With our recent acceptance to the American Museum Association’s MAP Program, and the abundance support of our friends and volunteers, the Museum Of Motherhood is poised for an even more exciting second year.

Smith College Students will be visiting in October and our new Student-Run Blog and Webisode Series launch next week in partnership withMingleMediaTV. Won’t you stop in and visit us the next time you’re in New York City or on the web:

Community Interns, Experts, Volunteers, Friends and Advisory Members are all welcome at M.O.M.


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