When African Americans could not play on American baseball teams, they formed their own in 1920—The Negro Leagues. And 20 years ago the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum was founded to help preserve the rich history of these sports legends.
When it initially opened, the museum was housed in just one room in the Jazz District of Kansas City, MO. In 1994, it expanded to a 2,000 square-foot space and in 1997, the museum expanded to a new $2 million, 50,000 square-foot building.
But now, like many non-profits, the museum is struggling in the economic downturn. “The museum is not in major financial straits and reports of such have been exaggerated,” says Dr. Raymond Doswell, Vice President of Curatorial Operations for the museum. “However, the museum does face challenges, many of the same challenges that most other museums and non profits have been facing since the down turn in the economy. These challenges have forced many of us to rethink strategies to build our memberships and expand the reach of our programs locally and nationally.”
According to Doswell, the museum fund-raising blueprint is still in the works. “The museum is working through its strategic planning for short term and long term goals for, including fundraising,” he explains. “The process is still in its early stages, but a number of initiatives have already begun, including improvements to the museum store, membership programs, and development strategies. Early results are very positive.”
The museum receives from close to 50,000 visitors and several hundred members each year. It has a staff of eight, a licensing program, traveling exhibitions, several educational programs and special events. Besides donations and paid admissions, the museum also generates income through licensing. “The museum does enjoy the benefits of managing its own licensing program, where we authorize wholesalers to create Negro Leagues themed products, membership programs, and wonderful corporate sponsorships,” says Doswell. “Yet, as is reflected in the museum industry, the museum is in a stretch were these initiatives have not been as robust as in years past, but we are trending positive thanks to the aggressive actions of our leadership.”
As their 20th anniversary nears this Sept., Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is counting on a few extra innings.