French Lick West Baden Museum

Biggest little show in town

aka French Lick West Baden Museum   |   French Lick, IN   |  www.flwbmuseum.com

Mission

The French Lick West Baden Museum is dedicated to educating and enlightening residents and visitors of the French Lick West Baden past and present cultural heritage, to preserving that heritage, and enhancing quality of place and life for all.

Ruling year info

2010

Director

Patty Drabing

Associate Director

Dawn Lofland

Main address

469 S Maple St Suite 103 P O Box 250

French Lick, IN 47432 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

61-1564035

NTEE code info

History Museums (A54)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The towns of French Lick & West Baden have fascinating, offbeat histories revolving around two grand historic hotels. It all started with migrating buffalo, nutrient-rich mineral licks, and pungent water that someone figured out was good for your health. The area then became Las Vegas before Nevada was ever a state. Add home to a major circus company, one of the country's best-known basketball players & world-class golf courses just for good measure. The French Lick West Baden Museum chronicles all that & more. It has grown dramatically since its founding as a temporary display in 2007. It has become an increasingly important part of the local community both culturally & socially but, based on our research, has come nowhere near to reaching its potential. The museum has been operating at a financial deficit that must be reversed. It has a two-tier challenge: increasing visitor rates & increasing membership/volunteers; two very different publics.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Circus Day

We honor the victims of the Great Circus Train Wreck of 1918 where we lost 86 performers. Roaming Circus performers & fun for all ages.

Population(s) Served

Where we work

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

The French Lick West Baden Museum is in small-town French Lick, Indiana, in rural Orange County abutting even smaller West Baden. It is about an hour away from the nearest interstate highway in the rolling hills of southern Indiana. The county once had a solid manufacturing base that disappeared, leaving agriculture & tourism as the main economic engines. Tourism languished as the once grand West Baden Springs Hotel was a deserted, dilapidated shell & the French Lick Springs Hotel was in a steady state of decline. The local economy was in a sad state until the Cook company came in & bought the hotels in the late 1990's & started a massive renovation, building a casino & championship-level golf course in the process. That also spurred others to build additional attractions such as an indoor water park, indoor go-karting & a wild animal park. As a result, the tourism business continues to grow in the area. The French Lick West Baden Museum must do a better job of establishing itself as a key part of the "total destination." Giving visitors more to do in the area means longer stays, which benefit all players in the tourism sector. Thus the museum, as a non-profit, should be worthy of business & civic support. The museum cannot survive on admissions & memberships alone. Like many nonprofit organizations, it faces many challenges. Many of those challenges can be addressed with additional funding, therefore a large segment of the plan focuses on these efforts & how to create more revenue for the organization. Key challenges are inadequate funding, limited space, lack of paid staff & volunteers. Secondary issues such as planning challenges & the ability to take advantage of grant writing opportunities. In many ways, the French Lick West Baden Museum finds itself a victim of its own success.

The primary goal is to increase awareness of the museum & its programs; in order to increase revenue, we need to start by increasing attendance & membership. The secondary goal is to establish & set a direction for a new "Friends of the Museum" group in order to organize & run fundraising events, including a donor campaign, recruit volunteers, create more quarterly programs. Objectives for the secondary goal being to establish a core Friends of the Museum group of at least ten people & to coordinate the first Friends run fundraising event. To achieve the goal of increasing attendance, mass media, digital outreach, social media, & creative partnering will be utilized. Increased motor coach tour visits serve as a key means of increasing attendance. The museum will partner more directly with the Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau & French Lick Resort in soliciting these motorcoach tours. That includes improved publicity material, shared staffing at marketing events & improved followup complete with video resources. Another opportunity involves attendance among French Lick Resort (two historic hotels) & French Lick Villas (timeshare guests). Producing a museum video for the resort marketing channel & updating & improving promotional material: rack cards, displays & discount passes are all part of the packaging. The museum has never used testimonials in its marketing despite getting widespread praise from visitors for the quality of its exhibits & presentation. The quote "What an unexpected delight!" uttered by a recent guest will serve as a tag line for marketing materials. While the museum solicits visitors from outside the local area as members, the bulk of the membership is understandably local. To achieve the goal of increasing membership, a variety of local print & broadcast media, direct mail, digital & social media, & in-person contacts must be used. Related print, digital & video materials will be updated with the driving message "Keep our amazing History Alive". A membership drive will be held in the spring as a lead up to the annual member's party in May. The publicity message will key in on the improved benefits that come with membership. Additional member events will also be proposed. Included in but not confined to that membership drive will be a promotion to "Honor Your Family History" by buying an engraved brick in the museum entryway. Many spaces are available so it could be a significant economic boost. The promotional material needs to be updated as well.

In research with the board, it became apparent that this "Friends" group is urgently needed. The creation of a recruiting/fundraising brochure themed around the "Help Keep Our Amazing History Alive" message is step one, followed by a digital & mass media recruiting efforts. Volunteers will be organized by & flow through this group, freeing up staff to pursue administrative & other important duties, such as writing grant applications, membership maintenance & donor follow-up. The first full-on Friends event would likely be the May members party. Next comes the Circus Day event in June. Circus Day is built around the area's rich circus history & the museum's amazing circus diorama display. The first Circus Day was a small affair & proved to be a success both attendance-wise & financially. There is no financial obligation with the Friends group as there is with museum membership, but people can & would be encouraged to be members of both. The "Friends" will play an important role in donor campaigns as well. With a targeted campaign to create more awareness of the French Lick West Baden Museum within the proper publics, more visitors & volunteers/members will be recruited; generating more revenue. The donor base will also expand. The Museum IS a quality attraction, valuable resource & source of pride within the community. The mission is to make that fact better known & accepted within the target publics. Then, by increasing the museum's profile & role with ongoing events, it becomes a social force as well. Tourism is vital to these small communities & partnering with other related entities is essential to tourism success. By raising the museum's profile, it will become a more valued piece of what draws visitors here & keeps them in the area longer.

Board members have become more actively & directly involved in the operation & oversight of the museum. Individual members have been taking on specific areas such as communications, finance, programs, etc & working directly through the staff. The board is also more actively involved in setting the budget & further strategic planning. The Friends of the Museum is headed by a board member & is serving as a fundraising, event planning, & volunteer recruitment & coordination arm. Almost immediately, the museum operation has become more organized. The staff has developed an action plan on priorities, volunteer needs & their best use. While the top responsibility has been making sure day to day operations runs smoothly, the second priority has been revenue generation, especially seeking out & successfully executing grant applications, followed by events. Volunteers have helped free up the director from the front desk to work on said grants. While there isn't staff available to offer docent-led tours on a regular basis, the technology exists to offer pre-recorded voice-guided tours. A grant has been awarded to put such an offering in place & the initial groundwork is being laid. We've established the French Lick West Baden Museum Historic Preservation Award. Historic preservation is vital to the well-being of the French Lick West Baden communities but no one has given out such an award locally. Not only is it good positioning for the museum but yet another way to raise its profile as the keeper of local history. The award was announced in April & used as an element to promote the member's party in May where it was presented. We've been seeking out opportunities to work more closely & visibly with the French Lick Resort & Villas for those two primary sources of museum guests. Met with managers ab both facilities & see what else we might offer to more effectively connect with their guests. Added a video spot on the resort marketing channel. Reminded HR that resort employees get free admission to the museum with company ID. Made museum visits part of their training. We've worked with the resort group sales to make sure the museum is included as an offered activity for resort hosted meetings & conventions. We've made sure all printed collateral visible & available at both hotels. We are seeking out opportunities to work more closely & visibly to promote the museum within CVB channels such as upgrading the museum kiosk at the Visitors Center, adding video, integrate discounts into future rack cards which are now more prominently displayed. We are sending event listings & feature material to CVB for inclusion on their website & outreach materials. We are also working more closely with the CVB on the solicitation of motorcoach groups. We are also doing the same with Indiana Landmarks. Our newsletter has become an engaging, dependable quarterly publication. A print version is mailed to members & it's also uploaded to our website & facebook page.

Financials

French Lick West Baden Museum
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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French Lick West Baden Museum

Board of directors
as of 11/9/2019
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board co-chair

Dr Gerald Ritter

French Lick West Baden Museum

Term: 2018 -


Board co-chair

Steve Rondinaro

French Lick West Baden Museum

Term: 2018 -

Angela Jones

Springs Valley Bank& Trust