The Museum of Nature and Science is on a Roll - Just Don’t Call it a ’Nonprofit’
Business comes easily for museum CEO Nicole Small.
The fact that Dallas’ Museum of Nature & Science was a finalist for its second national award in two years based on management prowess shouldn’t be a surprise.
Nicole Small, the museum’s 35-year-old CEO, holds impressive business credentials. And she says that moving from dot-coms to dinosaurs some years ago wasn’t much of a leap.
“Little did I know at the time, that experience would serve me well when I came to the museum,” Small said. “We’ve gone through a merger and created a startup.”
Right out of college, Small worked for the prestigious consulting firm McKinsey & Co. At age 26, she made Fortune magazine in an article about MBA grads from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management. She and two friends set out for San Francisco to start their own company in the heady tech days of 1999. Their company quickly sold and merged into another dot-com.
Her latest “startup,” created in 2006 under her leadership by merging the Dallas Museum of Natural History, The Science Place, and the Dallas Children’s Museum, is doing well by several accounts. The Museum of Nature & Science won the Stanford Financial Excellence award in 2007 and was a finalist for the Lodestar Foundation award based on its successful merger of nonprofits, while raising $115 million (and counting) toward a $155 million expansion.
Don’t use the nonprofit word around Small, though. “We don’t say ‘not for profit.’ That means you aspire to lose money,” she says. “We look at it as a public service organization with opportunities to reinvest. You don’t do that by losing money.”