We should build a nonprofit-themed theme park!


theme parkHi everyone, I am still in Hawaii on vacation. However, that does not mean I can slack off on writing a blog post on Monday. Consistency is very important. As I often tell my son, “Son,” I would say, “whatever you decide to do, always be consist–aaarrrgh, why did you bite Daddy’s toes?! Do you think that was funny? That was not funny!”

Hawaii has been great, something I have sorely been needing for a while. The people here are so friendly and sweet, and the shaved ice tastes like happiness and childhood and unrestricted funds. I have been spending a lot of time with my wife and baby son and taken lots and lots of naps and drank a bunch of drinks that have little paper umbrellas on them. And I only checked my work emails about 20 times total.

There has been a couple of highlights on this trip. First, I met with the ED Ryan and Development Director Cheri of Hands In Helping Out (HIHO), a wonderful organization that recruits, trains, and matches volunteers with opportunities, all the while making the experience of volunteering fun for everyone involved. We went to a raw vegan restaurant, and while chewing on some “escargots” made from mushrooms and cashews, we grumbled about restricted funding and the lack of support of critical things like volunteer management. Even in paradise, nonprofit directors are frustrated with certain things, like all of us in the mainland are. “Funders only want to support NEW programs, forget tried and true ones,” we grumbled, using flaxseed crackers to scoop up some raw olive tapenade.

On one of the days, we went to the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC), a nonprofit theme park that teaches visitors about the different Polynesian cultures. In different “villages,” you learn about Samoan, Tongan, Fijian, Hawaiian, Aotearoan, Marquesan, and Tahitian cultures. Visitors get a chance to throw spears, make coconut bread, start fires with sticks, make hats out of palm fronds, learn different dances, and gain basic understanding of cultural norms, such as which door one must use when entering a Fijian temple.

It was pricey to spend the day there, but well worth it. And it made me think, “Dude, we should totally have a nonprofit-themed theme park!” Think about it, we have all sorts of theme parks. Some, like the PCC, are actually educational. While others–Ghost Town in the Sky, Dollywood, Holiday World–are wacky or just insane. If people can make an entire theme park out of Legos or vampires or Smurfs, I don’t see why we can’t have a park that exposes visitors to all the fun that is nonprofit work. We need to start thinking of ways to get kids to want to grow up to be nonprofit warriors.

Nonprofit Land

Bring your family and spend an unforgettable day in Nonprofit Land. Fun and educational, it will be an experience you and your little ones will cherish forever!

Walk through the different Nonprofit villages and learn different skills and interact with nonprofit professionals.

In Development Village, you will be greeted by development staff, who will teach you the basics of fundraisings. Kids will each leave with a draft of an LOI.

In Strategic Planning Village, everyone will learn to write vision and mission statements and figure out how to do 3 or 5 year plans as well as 1-year workplans.

In the Operations Village, you put on nonprofit staff uniforms (jeans and a button-down shirt), and take part in different types of meetings and test your skills in solving problems. Oh no, we have cashflow issues, what should we do?!

In the Board Village, you learn Robert’s Rules and all the kids can try their hands at revising bylaws. Don’t forget to bring your strategic plans!

There are also Evaluation Village; Communications Village, where you learn to build a website with a budget of 14 dollars; Volunteer Management Village, which is run by the talented Operations Village staff; and take a tour of the HR Hut, where kids can learn about the 403b savings plan.

Nonprofit Land features lots of fun rides. For example, the Funding Rollercoaster, which goes up and down and up and down and sometimes completely stops and everyone is forced to get off. Between rides, test your skills at fun and challenging games, like Whack a’Email.

In the evening, come to our dining hall for a dinner buffet of hummus, baby carrots, ramen, and kale salads before attending a spectacular live performance featuring a cast of nonprofit professionals attending a planning retreat and wordsmithing a tagline. At the performance, you will learn the unique nonprofit skill called “Raising the Paddle.”

All this and more. Come, bring your family, and create memories that will last a lifetime.


  • I pledge my unwavering support to this plan, especially to Board Village and Whack a’Email. At Foundation Center, we’re brainstorming fun ways to “meet kids where they are” with expanding opportunities for youth philanthropy, and we totally had amusement park on our list.
    Now, to get Six Flags on board…

    • Thanks, Jen. I’m glad we’re on the same page. Maybe Kickstarter, like someone suggested.

  • I think you should add the wildly fun “8-Hour Board Meeting” where no decisions get made, we just go round and round and round and round… until inevitably someone vomits.

    • That’s a great idea, Laura. The vomiting usually starts at 1.5 hours though. Usually by me.

  • Ana Cervantes

    Love it!

  • seattlesherryann

    And a Treasure Hunt to search and scrounge for office supplies. And perhaps visitors can move thru Nonprofit Land while pulling a wagon full of event supplies or schlepping a box (or am I the only one who feels as though I am ALWAYS schlepping stuff?!).

    • Roxanne Shepherd

      You are NOT the only one who is always schlepping. As a matter of fact, the late, great Peter Donnelly (Seattle Rep and ArtsFund) once said to me while we were carrying boxes of booze to an event, “No matter what level you rise to in the nonprofit world, you always have to schlepp!”

      • seattlesherryann

        Good to know I’m in great company!

        • I’m so tired of schlepping also. But I do it, so I can use the term “schlep.” It’s fun to say.

  • Alright, where’s the Kickstarter campaign for this?! Let’s make this happen!

    Also, an addition to Volunteer Management Village: An office desk with drawers full of frozen volunteers. The volunteers can be thawed out whenever someone requests a volunteer with little to no advanced notice.

  • Jessica Frederick

    I’m worried about the line for the Funding Rollercoaster. Will Disneyland-esque “Fast Passes” be available to come back later?

    • Jessica, there is a “Relationship Pass,” which you can use to cut in line if you personally know the people running the rollercoaster.

      • Dana Jaehnert

        If that happens, do you also get an “advance” in the website challenge on minimal funds? Sounds like this Relationship Pass could help with the funding of the website & send people to the next level!