Hancock Shaker Village Receives Grant

$1 Million from Kresge Foundation

By: - Jan 10, 2011

Shaker Shaker

Hancock Shaker Village (HSV) President and CEO Ellen Spear announced today that the living history museum has received a $1 million grant from the Kresge Foundation. The grant was awarded as part of its Sector Leaders investments, an invitation-only component of the Kresge Arts and Culture Program’s Institutional Capitalization initiative. It recognizes HSV’s work as a visionary organization pursuing transformational projects designed to shift its business model and to serve as a field-wide example of leadership.
“Kresge recognizes that many cultural organizations, while balancing their budgets still face critical capitalization issues that constrain their ability to fully achieve their mission,” said Alice Carle, program director of the foundation's arts and culture program. “Appropriate levels of capitalization that allow an organization to grow or reinvent itself is standard in the for-profit sector, but has not routinely been considered best practice in the nonprofit sector. Kresge wishes to reverse this trend by supporting cultural organizations that have completed the thoughtful, exploratory process to reinvent their business models. We will make only one or two Sector Leader investments per year. Hancock Shaker Village is a shining example of such an institution and we are proud to help it move boldly into a sustainable future.”
“The Board and Staff are honored to have the Village designated as a Sector Leader. We are grateful to the Kresge Foundation for this national recognition and we look forward to sharing our experiences with the field,” said Ellen Spear, HSV President and CEO.
Over the past two years, HSV has begun implementing a comprehensive business plan that calls for the development of new and diverse sources of revenue and for capitalization that will build sufficient reserves to allow for the constant updating and reinvention that was the hallmark of the Shakers and that is also an attribute of the companies Jim Collins cites in his book, “Good to Great.”
HSV has been working on ‘product development’¾subtle and not-so subtle changes in its daily interpretation to include discussion of broad Shaker principles and to create new delivery techniques and new content knowledge in its staff around the themes of sustainability, land stewardship, innovation, use of renewable energy, the importance of local agricultural sources, reverence for a thing well made, and the importance of community. Visitors to the Village will begin to experience this new approach during the 2011 season.
HSV will use half of the Kresge grant to seed its Building Reserve Fund and half to research and launch promising new business initiatives. “We are taking steps to move away from the outmoded museum business model of dependence upon admission and gift shop revenue,” said Spear. “Instead, we are using our resources to address community needs while generating revenue from new, sustainable sources, such as with a new architecture curriculum for K-5 that is under development, and the new Master’s Degree program in Historic Preservation in partnership with the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.”
Spear said the Village will invest in its website to expand its service to the public and its revenue generation potential. In addition, it is considering several new business initiatives, including expansion of its licensing capabilities and food and agriculture-related enterprises. As new ventures take hold, HSV will seek other investors to help move initiatives to the next level. Along with the business initiatives, the Village will invest in national branding to build recognition and involvement in its new ventures.
The HSV Master Plan calls for undertaking major restoration work on the site’s 18 historic buildings over the next 20 years. The Building Reserve Fund will ensure that after the work is complete, there will be sufficient capital for ongoing maintenance. “Every time we do a major restoration project, we will put aside 10% of the cost of the project for building reserves for the future,” said Spear. “We would like to build the fund to $5 million.”
Hancock Shaker Village’s story has already been featured at several national conferences as a model for the field. At the 2010 conference of the American Association for State and Local History, a presentation was made to the field on the Village’s progress, as well as at this year’s Seminar for Historical Administration, held in Indianapolis.  In 2011, HSV will present information at the American Association of Museums conference.
“Sharing information with our colleagues in the history field who are grappling with the same sustainability issues that we are is an important part of our public service. We learn so much through these exchanges and look forward to continuing our work as a sector leader with this support from the Kresge Foundation,” said Spear.