The View From Here

100,000 Reasons We Appreciate Your Support

Written by: developer

A few weeks ago, the Space Foundation surpassed a critical milestone in the pursuit of our mission when we celebrated the 100,000th visitor to the Space Foundation Discovery Center in Colorado Springs. Perhaps even more significant, as our fiscal year ended on June 30, we exceeded the design capacity of the Discovery Center (40,000 per year), in just our fourth year of operation -- four years ahead of schedule!

Achieving our goals and objectives in STEM education is of crucial importance to our mission, "To advance space-related endeavors to Inspire, Enable and Propel humanity."  The space awareness and STEM education programs that we conduct locally, nationally and internationally Inspire the next generation of explorers (and our communities), Enable their parents and teachers, and collectively Propel us forward -- both as a global space community, and as a human family. An important part of our raison d'être is to help shape the work force of the future, certainly for the benefit of the space community, but more largely for the benefit of society.

This is where we invest, and re-invest, our resources. It is where we provide the charitable benefit to society that justifies our existence as an IRS 501(c)3 non-profit organization. And, as successful as the Space Foundation has become as an operating organization over the past three decades, education and space awareness remains a labor of love and charity that depends upon the support of our donors. This is why I say that we have 100,000 reasons to be appreciative -- of our corporate partners, our Space Symposium and other program participants, the organizations and individuals who donate to the Space Foundation, grant makers, Swigert Society members, Discovery Center sponsors and others.

The Space Foundation Discovery Center dream began with a vision that was embraced by our community, which transformed into a collaboration among the Space Foundation, El Pomar Foundation, the Ackerman Trust, the Colorado Springs Economic Development Corporation, the State of Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, Bryan Construction Company and others. That vision has evolved into a 47,000 square foot headquarters and Discovery Center. The center is built around unique, hands-on, interactive learning labs made possible by the sponsorship of industry leaders like Northrop Grumman, Analytical Graphics Inc., Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Battelle, DigitalGlobe, the Kansas Cosmosphere, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, NASA and others; from foundations like El Pomar, the Anschutz Family Foundation, Chapman Trusts, the Gaylord Foundation, the Lagasse Trust and others; by the philanthropic support of our many individual donors, Combined Federal Campaign donors, AmazonSmile™ shoppers, our board of directors and the individual leadership giving of our Swigert Society members.

Supporters of fundraising events like Yuri's Night, and the upcoming Colorado Space Heroes Hall of Fame Gala, also make a huge difference in marshalling the resources required to tackle the space awareness and STEM education challenges we seek to address. Increasingly, local business like Ent Credit Union and the Cripple Creek & Victor Mine Company, are also helping us move the needle.

The Space Foundation, itself, remains the largest contributor to our space awareness and education enterprises, either self-funding programs, or re-investing in programs, platforms, labs, facilities and, most importantly, in people -- the teachers, trainers, docents, volunteers, curators and others who make it possible for us to deliver world class STEM education experiences locally, regionally, and around the world.

Most of the 100,778 visitors we have seen since opening the Discovery Center are students on formal Space Foundation field trip or instructional programs. Other important groups include summer camp programs (both those of other organizations, and our own camp programs, started this year), families, homeschool groups, tourists and other non-profit organizations that take advantage of our meeting and conference spaces. The Discovery Center is even becoming somewhat of a social focus in the community, with various groups using our unique, space environment to create memorable meetings, banquets, parties and other events.

While I'm certainly proud of our team and its accomplishments, the purpose of this column isn't really to brag. It's to let everyone know how hard we work to be good stewards of your support. And to encourage everyone to continue to think of the Space Foundation as a powerful and effective charitable organization, worthy of your support -- in whatever form that may take.

An important part of crossing the 100,000 visitors barrier, is that we also surpassed our designed annual capacity of 40,000. We are currently evaluating ways that we can grow that capacity, and everything from physical growth to team growth to enhanced digital and distance delivery is on the table. (Team growth is already a fact, as we've doubled the number of teachers on the team, and added other Discovery Center, curatorial, and events staff just to handle our current backlog of demand.) An important outreach program, Space in the Community, will also double in scale this year as we announce additional communities and sponsors in the months ahead.

We have always been passionate about space awareness and STEM education, and we are going to continue to work to earn your trust, increase our capacity and have a material, positive impact in the world. This is not just because we are do-gooders, although, of course, we are! Bryan DeBates' "Second View" this month lays out both the scholarly rationale and economic imperative that underlie our initiatives. I hope you'll take the time to read it here.

And, of course, I hope you'll continue your support of our vitally important work. You can donate, or become a member of the Swigert Society, immediately on line. You can also contact me, or our Director of Philanthropy, Gina Taranto, to explore funding student scholarships, sponsoring facilities or programs, donating artifacts or records or even to plan a gift from your estate.

100,000 people can't be wrong. And, the View From Here is that we have 100,000 reasons to appreciate your support!

This article is part of Space Watch: August 2016 (Volume: 15, Issue: 8).