/ How a nonprofit is prospering in spite of COVID-19

When the COVID-19 pandemic began in Utah earlier this year, lots of organizations found themselves in the position of having to make some crucial decisions, fast.

One of those organizations was one of the state’s most beloved nonprofits, Loveland Living Planet Aquarium (LLPA), which is home to more than 4,500 animals and was in the midst of a major expansion project that began in response to its popularity.

Fortunately, leadership knew exactly where to start in order to make those important decisions: with data. By leveraging its data—and in particular, its data platform—the aquarium was not only able to stay financially afloat during a crisis, but keep its animals safe, take care of its employees, and run its facilities efficiently.

“The beauty of having Domo was that while we had to close for a short time at the start of all this, and most everyone had to work from home, we could all still access the data and information we needed to make some really key decisions,” said Heather Doggett, LLPA’s chief operations officer. “It was a life-saver.”

LLPA is highly functional thanks in large part to the Domo for Good (D4G) program, which connects mission-positive nonprofits with Domo customers and tools that can help. 

For LLPA, the benefits to program membership lie mainly in Domo’s technological services, such as real-time reports, a responsive app, and custom alerts.

“We have a colony of penguins, and it’s very important that their water is kept clean and recycled, that it has the right balance of chemicals in it, and that the temperature is always right,” said Gary Christensen, LLPA’s chief financial officer. “If any of the systems we use to monitor those things malfunction, we are alerted immediately—and that means we can act immediately, for the wellbeing of the animals.”

It’ll never be a secret as to how the animals are doing, either.

“We have an animal welfare assessment form that animal managers fill out, and that feeds into an intuitive dashboard that is displayed on a screen, in the middle of our workspace,” Gary said. “So, everyone is able to see how the animals are doing, at all times.”

LLPA employees also have the ability to perform animal welfare checks while away from the office. That’s because data on any part of the business is accessible through the Domo app, a mobile-first piece of technology that has opened up a whole new world for aquarium personnel.

“You can be anywhere—in the park, on a hiking trail, at a grocery store—and still see what’s happening,” Heather said. “It allows our directors, for example, to drill straight into attendance numbers and adjust staffing accordingly. It’s really powerful to be able to make those kinds of moves in the moment.”

LLPA is now able to flex more muscle than ever. In July, the organization saw its expansion project come to fruition with the unveiling of the Science Learning Campus, a nine-acre addition that includes an amphitheater, outdoor exhibits, and gathering spaces.

At the same time, LLPA implemented a system to track how many visitors the new plaza receives each day and where those visitors are coming from, which has allowed the aquarium’s marketing team to better determine how its budget should be spent.

“We’re an organization that’s growing,” Gary said. “By virtue of that, we have tons of different datasets. Having a platform that can pull from our ticketing system, from our general ledger system, and from our media and marketing systems, is huge. The Domo for Good program has come through in a really big way for us.”

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