Organizers are overflowing with optimism that a multimillion dollar expansion to the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium in Draper, Utah, will help spawn the next generation of scientists.
Their enthusiasm for generating a greater interest among kids in science comes with a cost: an estimated $25 million for the new 80,000-square foot Science Learning Center, $1 million of which has already been provided by the Loveland Foundation to fund initial planning. The new facility will include space for classrooms, summer-camp programs and labs where an additional 80,000 students per year — from kindergarten through college — can learn.
With the help of a crowdfunding campaign, the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium hopes to begin construction of the new facility in the fall. By the time the expansion is completed in 2020, the Science Learning Center will feature as its centerpiece a 165-foot-tall, 190-ton stage component that the rock band U2 used on tour between 2009 and 2011. Considered the largest stage in music history, the “Claw” will rise to four times the height of the aquarium and serve as an attention-grabbing architectural element that officials hope will attract more visitors to the expanded offerings of the campus.
Rather than raise the price of admission to cover the cost of the ambitious expansion, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which relies on donations and grants for funding, launched the crowdfunding campaign to help pay for Phase 2 of the 9-acre Science Learning Center.
Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of the free crowdfunding platform YouHelp.com, said crowdfunding is a great way for nonprofits to centralize fundraising efforts toward a specific project in a large capital building campaign. By raising small amounts of money from a larger donor pool, crowdfunding can garner support for capital building projects that might consist of land acquisition, construction, or the purchasing of supplies.
Plus, crowdfunding campaigns don’t cost much to operate. Hikind said that unlike some crowdfunding operations that charge a fee ranging from about 3 to 8 percent of each donation, YouHelp is free. Donors do have the option of adding a “tip” to their donation to help keep the platform running.
In the process of gaining new contributors, crowdfunding campaigns can also serve as a stage – not unlike the “Claw” — to foster a sense of community and, in this case, to support the promotion of science, technology, engineering and math subjects, often referred to as STEM, not only in Utah, but throughout the United States.
Home to more than 4,000 animals representing 625 species living and thriving within five unique habitats in the landlocked state of Utah, the aquarium educated some 830,000 visitors, in 2017, about biodiversity and conservation of ocean ecosystems.
Aquarium officials believe that building the Science Learning Campus will encourage even more guests to learn about the natural world and understand the need for conservation of the living planet. To strengthen those experiences, the new campus will include a five-story Asian Cloud Forest Habitat & Endangered Species Conservation Center, interactive science stations, new indoor and outdoor animal exhibits, and high-tech laboratories and classrooms.
YouHelp.com, a free fundraising website, offers the best in crowdfunding capabilities to forward-thinking nonprofits, small businesses, entrepreneurs, and individuals seeking to generate revenue and awareness for capital building campaigns. The YouHelp process is simple: create a profile, a fundraising goal, add high resolution images and a compelling message that prospects will find worthwhile — and launch. If the idea is deserving, and the campaign is promoted properly, contributors will pledge their support.
About the Author: Staff Writer for YouHelp