Living History Farms is a 500-acre, interactive outdoor history museum that seeks to educate, entertain and connect people of all ages to Midwestern rural life experiences, and it’s our first of five nonprofit finalists from Des Moines. Responses below are courtesy of Sammy Smithson, sponsorship and events associate at Living History Farms. Vote for Living History Farms here!
Q: Why do you need an office makeover?
A: Living History Farms values its role in the community and the responsibility we have to provide valuable, accessible programming. We have been fortunate to have the majority of our current office furniture donated to us, but that was over a decade ago and we are in great need of updates. With donors, prospects, members and volunteers visiting this office on a daily basis, it’s important that the space look cohesive, professional and well-kept.
Q: How do you devote ethical business practices to fulfilling your mission?
A: The organization is transparent about its operations. We make our 990 and audited financial statements available to the public on our website. Board, management and staff must annually disclose potential conflicts and interest and review and sign a code of ethics policy. LHF’s Board has also adopted the Iowa Principles and Practices for Charitable Nonprofit Excellence.
Q: What are some positive examples of your influence on the community?
A: Since 1970, LHF has served the Des Moines Metro community. Each year, we welcome over 100,000 visitors from all over the world, approximately one-fourth of which are schoolchildren. We also have a robust college intern program as well as an active volunteer corps of more than 800 people who assist with hands-on interpretation activities, special events, and historic and education programs. Our ability to draw tourists to the area has been recognized by FlipKey, a TripAdvisor company that named us a one of the “Top Historical Spots Worth Traveling For.” Midwest Living Magazine also named LHF as the “#1 Great Place in Des Moines to Take the Kids!” In 2015, we were given the William J. Peterson/Edgar J. Harlan award from the State Historical Society of Iowa. We also received the Golden Silo award from Silos and Smokestacks in 2013 for outstanding interpretation. LHF’s annual local economic impact, as measured using a calculator devised by Americans for the Arts, is more than $5 million and supports more than 140 local jobs.
Q: Please demonstrate your leadership.
A: LHF has always been a magnet for influential persons and for exciting initiatives. Highlights in our first 48 years include hosting Saint John Paul II in 1979, launching Farm Safety for Kids with First Lady Barbara Bush in 1991, welcoming President Barack Obama in 2012 and hosting U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue in 2017. In 2015, the State Historical Society of Iowa honored LHF with the William J. Peterson/Edgar R. Harlan award for our significant long-term contribution to Iowa History. Our organization is also a leader in encouraging the next generation’s love of history and contributions to the museum field. Our Education Director is on the Governor’s Advisory Board for Social Studies Standards. The LHF college internship program has provided college credit and valuable hands-on learning experiences to over 400 individuals, the majority of whom have either entered the museum field or gone on to teach in the formal education system.