Marie Selby Botanical Gardens retires long-term debt with help from their Living Museum model

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Marie Selby Botanical Gardens retires long-term debt with help from their Living Museum model
Botanical Garden’s efforts to combine fine art and nature lead to increased attendance and memberships. Image courtesy of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.

SARASOTA, FLA.- Last week, the Board of Trustees at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens approved the final payment on the organization’s long-term debt. In 2008, Selby Gardens carried debt and a line of credit totaling more than $2 million. Today, Selby Gardens has zero long-term debt and a zero balance on its line of credit.

Leadership attributes the financial turnaround to two primary operational changes: the implementation of The Living Museum operational model and the creation of revenue sharing partnerships for ancillary services. Over the past four years, these changes have resulted in a 70 percent increase in earned revenues from admissions, membership, rentals and retail.

“For non-profits to be sustainable in the long-term, it is important for them to diversify their revenue streams and ensure they are prepared for the future,” said Jennifer Rominiecki, president and CEO of Selby Gardens. “That is what Selby Gardens is doing and it has proven to be a successful model, allowing for the organization to advance its mission well into the future.”

The Living Museum operational model, the terminology for which is under review for a trademark, features a changing schedule of rotating exhibitions showcasing horticultural and garden displays. For example, the Jean & Alfred Goldstein Exhibition Series, introduced in 2015, features master artists and examines their relationship to nature in the never-before-seen context of a botanical garden. Curated by Carol Ockman, Ph.D., curator-at-large for Selby Gardens, these exhibitions draw on the strength of curatorial partnerships and loans from institutions across the globe. Past exhibitions have included gallery showings of works by Andy Warhol, Marc Chagall and Paul Gauguin, with unique garden design elements that connect the outdoor gardens to the indoor displays of art. Selby Gardens recently announced Salvador Dalí: Gardens of the Mind as the next exhibition in the series. Featuring works from the master surrealist’s FlorDalí series, on loan from the The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, as well as several works on loan from Sarasota collector Keith D. Monda, Gardens of the Mind is set to open on Feb. 9, 2020.

Since 2015, when The Living Museum model was launched, Selby Gardens has seen a 55 percent increase in admissions. Membership has increased by 67 percent to nearly 14,000 member households. As a result of revenue generated by The Living MuseumSM model, Selby Gardens has been able to hire two additional botanists and expand educational programming. Further, new outreach programs for underserved youth in the Sarasota community are in the works. Selby Gardens expects to begin traveling exhibitions nationally in 2022.

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