Montana Natural History Center, Inc.

Connecting People to Nature

aka MNHC   |   Missoula, MT   |
GuideStar Charity Check

Montana Natural History Center, Inc.

EIN: 81-0472379


Our mission is to promote and cultivate the appreciation, understanding, and stewardship of nature through education.

Ruling year info


Executive Director

Mr. Thurston Elfstrom

Main address

120 Hickory St STE A

Missoula, MT 59801 USA

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Subject area info

Natural history museums


Natural resources

Environmental studies

Population served info

Children and youth


Preteen girls

Adolescent girls

Low-income people

Show more populations served

NTEE code info

Single Organization Support (B11)

Natural History, Natural Science Museums (A56)

What we aim to solve

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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?

Visiting Naturalists in the Schools (VNS)

Visiting Naturalists in the Schools connects professional naturalists with fourth- and fifth-grade students in classrooms across western Montana. Each student receives a journal to record observations, practice nature journaling, and develop their reading and writing skills. Our naturalists teach and mentor students by encouraging ongoing inquiry and curiosity about the natural world. Our curriculum is aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards that also contribute to curriculum goals in literacy, critical thinking, and communication. Donations and grants cover 90% of the cost of providing this program – the school is asked to cover 10%, but scholarships are available if needed.

Population(s) Served
Low-income people

We offer full-day, week-long, nature-themed camps that run all summer long for 1st-5th grade kids. Each week features a different theme where the kids explore various aspects of local nature. Pre-K Family Camps share the same weekly themes as the bigger kids’ camps. We provide scholarships for families who would otherwise not be able to afford this program.

Population(s) Served
Working poor
Low-income people

The STEEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Environment, and Mathematics) Program aims to inspire the next generation of female scientists through hands-on learning and real-world experiences. We run a 2-week STEEM camp each summer. Through this program girls build trust, confidence, and courage in the fields of science, technology, engineering, environment, and math. These fields have a disproportionately lower percentage of PhDs earned by females; this program aims to close that gap in our community. Scholarships are available for families that would not otherwise be able to afford the program.

Population(s) Served
Low-income people
Adolescent girls
Preteen girls

The Wings Over Water (WOW) Osprey Program brings STEM research into middle and high school classrooms across the U.S. and sparks student interest in biology, physics, chemistry, math, and engineering through the study of Ospreys. The program starts by building STEM capacity for teachers through a week-long workshop in Missoula. Teachers return to the classroom with a rich curriculum which is built around Next Generation Science Standards and can be tailored to each classroom’s needs. Grants and donations make this program free for participating teachers.

Population(s) Served

Twice a month on Saturdays during the academic year we hold drop-in programs for kids of all ages. The kids learn all about animal tracks and how to identify them, examine various kinds of skulls, compete in Animal Olympics and learn about the specialized things that animal bodies can do, and so much more! Every month features a new topic. The exploration and activities are suitable for a wide age range, so the whole family can be involved!

Population(s) Served
Children and youth
Young adults

The miniNaturalists Pre-K program engages young children in the exploration of the natural world through fun hands-on activities and games. The program emphasizes observation, sensory skills, and imagination to cultivate a positive connection with nature at an age when children are just beginning to investigate the world around them.

Population(s) Served
Infants and toddlers

The Master Naturalist Program is designed for adults who want to stoke their curiosity, deepen their knowledge of the natural world, and give back to their communities in new ways. We offer a range of programs to fit the needs of a diverse community, but all the classes share a common goal of providing participants with the skills to interpret Montana’s flora, fauna, and landscape. Scholarships are available for people who would not otherwise be able to afford the program.

Population(s) Served
Low-income people

Every week since 1991, Field Notes, written by naturalists, students, and listeners, has inquired about Montana’s natural history. Field Notes airs two times per week on Montana Public Radio: Wednesday at 3:55 p.m. and Saturday at 11:54 a.m. Field Notes is also available as a podcast! Subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth
Non-adult children

In partnership with the National Association for Interpretation, MNHC offers a Certified Interpretive Guide course for present and future interpretive program educators. Through classroom and field sessions, this course teaches the fundamentals of program development, delivery, and excellence in interpretation.

Population(s) Served

Learning and nature exploration aren’t just for kids! We provide nature-based education for adults who are fascinated by the natural world and want to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of Montana’s wild places and creatures, become better writers, and hone their artistic abilities. Topics include geology, Indigenous culture, nature journaling, biology, and many others.

Population(s) Served

Where we work


Montana Natural History Center, Inc.
Fiscal year: Jan 01 - Dec 31

Revenue vs. expenses:  breakdown

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info
Note: When component data are not available, the graph displays the total Revenue and/or Expense values.

Liquidity in 2021 info

SOURCE: IRS Form 990


Average of 2.78 over 10 years

Months of cash in 2021 info

SOURCE: IRS Form 990


Average of 3.2 over 10 years

Fringe rate in 2021 info

SOURCE: IRS Form 990


Average of 15% over 10 years

Funding sources info

Source: IRS Form 990

Assets & liabilities info

Source: IRS Form 990

Financial data

SOURCE: IRS Form 990

Montana Natural History Center, Inc.

Revenue & expenses

Fiscal Year: Jan 01 - Dec 31

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info

Fiscal year ending: cloud_download Download Data

Montana Natural History Center, Inc.

Balance sheet

Fiscal Year: Jan 01 - Dec 31

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info

The balance sheet gives a snapshot of the financial health of an organization at a particular point in time. An organization's total assets should generally exceed its total liabilities, or it cannot survive long, but the types of assets and liabilities must also be considered. For instance, an organization's current assets (cash, receivables, securities, etc.) should be sufficient to cover its current liabilities (payables, deferred revenue, current year loan, and note payments). Otherwise, the organization may face solvency problems. On the other hand, an organization whose cash and equivalents greatly exceed its current liabilities might not be putting its money to best use.

Fiscal year ending: cloud_download Download Data

Montana Natural History Center, Inc.

Financial trends analysis Glossary & formula definitions

Fiscal Year: Jan 01 - Dec 31

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info

This snapshot of Montana Natural History Center, Inc.’s financial trends applies Nonprofit Finance Fund® analysis to data hosted by GuideStar. While it highlights the data that matter most, remember that context is key – numbers only tell part of any story.

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Business model indicators

Profitability info 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Unrestricted surplus (deficit) before depreciation $36,722 -$57,212 $89,937 $185,759 -$134,219
As % of expenses 5.5% -8.0% 12.8% 27.6% -16.0%
Unrestricted surplus (deficit) after depreciation -$37,684 -$137,033 $16,949 $123,569 -$184,694
As % of expenses -5.1% -17.3% 2.2% 16.8% -20.8%
Revenue composition info
Total revenue (unrestricted & restricted) $819,220 $596,006 $789,052 $939,615 $817,668
Total revenue, % change over prior year 33.6% -27.2% 32.4% 19.1% -13.0%
Program services revenue 11.2% 20.1% 16.2% 9.3% 22.7%
Membership dues 0.7% 0.1% 0.1% 1.4% 2.4%
Investment income 0.3% 0.4% 0.3% 0.2% 0.3%
Government grants 3.0% 0.4% 1.5% 24.9% 3.0%
All other grants and contributions 79.8% 74.0% 78.6% 61.6% 67.6%
Other revenue 5.0% 5.0% 3.4% 2.6% 4.0%
Expense composition info
Total expenses before depreciation $669,521 $711,316 $700,597 $672,844 $836,429
Total expenses, % change over prior year 8.7% 6.2% -1.5% -4.0% 24.3%
Personnel 71.5% 70.3% 73.1% 78.3% 74.0%
Professional fees 8.8% 7.4% 5.7% 4.9% 7.0%
Occupancy 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Interest 0.0% 0.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0%
Pass-through 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
All other expenses 19.7% 22.2% 21.1% 16.8% 19.0%
Full cost components (estimated) info 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Total expenses (after depreciation) $743,927 $791,137 $773,585 $735,034 $886,904
One month of savings $55,793 $59,276 $58,383 $56,070 $69,702
Debt principal payment $0 $0 $25,000 $0 $0
Fixed asset additions $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
Total full costs (estimated) $799,720 $850,413 $856,968 $791,104 $956,606

Capital structure indicators

Liquidity info 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Months of cash 1.8 0.7 0.8 3.3 6.2
Months of cash and investments 3.7 2.4 3.1 6.1 9.0
Months of estimated liquid unrestricted net assets 2.7 1.7 1.9 5.5 3.9
Balance sheet composition info 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Cash $97,850 $39,970 $48,039 $186,059 $434,327
Investments $108,188 $102,603 $131,751 $157,539 $194,004
Receivables $113,887 $64,285 $85,587 $227,100 $60,179
Gross land, buildings, equipment (LBE) $1,885,436 $1,886,524 $1,945,781 $1,945,781 $1,898,602
Accumulated depreciation (as a % of LBE) 22.6% 25.9% 29.1% 32.4% 33.4%
Liabilities (as a % of assets) 1.9% 3.9% 3.6% 4.1% 8.9%
Unrestricted net assets $1,608,580 $1,471,547 $1,488,496 $1,612,065 $1,427,371
Temporarily restricted net assets $142,395 $76,520 N/A N/A N/A
Permanently restricted net assets $0 $0 N/A N/A N/A
Total restricted net assets $142,395 $76,520 $101,724 $206,596 $356,695
Total net assets $1,750,975 $1,548,067 $1,590,220 $1,818,661 $1,784,066

Key data checks

Key data checks info 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Material data errors No No No No No


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

Form 1023/1024 is not available for this organization

Executive Director

Mr. Thurston Elfstrom

Thurston Elfstrom has spent the past 20 years developing digital experiences to market the State of Montana as a vacation destination. Thurston grew up in western Montana and earned a degree in Anthropology from Montana State University in 1993. Prior to joining the staff at the Montana Natural History Center, Thurston worked in cultural resource management archaeology before coming to work at the Montana Office of Tourism. Returning to Missoula in 2008 he coincidentally uncovered his passion for the community, philanthropy and fundraising. When Thurston and his wife, Suzanne, have a few spare moments, they like to run the trails in and around Missoula. Thurston has also been known to wet a line in his travels around the state and afterward, seek out a craft beer in local breweries.

Number of employees

Source: IRS Form 990

Montana Natural History Center, Inc.

Officers, directors, trustees, and key employees

SOURCE: IRS Form 990

Show data for fiscal year
Compensation data
Download up to 5 most recent years of officer and director compensation data for this organization

There are no highest paid employees recorded for this organization.

Montana Natural History Center, Inc.

Board of directors
as of 05/03/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board of directors data
Download the most recent year of board of directors data for this organization
Board chair

Katie Guffin

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No


Fiscal year ending
There are no fundraisers recorded for this organization.