By C.J. Hirschfield, Executive Director of Children’s Fairyland
When you run a popular theme park geared toward unlocking young children’s imaginations like Children’s Fairyland in Oakland, California, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day: scraped knees, puppet shows, animals, summer camp — you get the idea. It’s very difficult to step away and thoughtfully reflect on the many business challenges we face in an effort to ensure the relevancy of our 65 year-old nonprofit, located in the heart of a vibrant urban city.
Clorox gave Children’s Fairyland the opportunity to do just that by sharing some of its rising talent from around the world. It was an exciting opportunity that we couldn’t refuse. The Clorox Diamond Leadership Institute (DLI) took Fairyland’s business challenges and ran with them.
The Clorox volunteers listened thoughtfully to us and did their homework. Their talents were broad and wide-ranging, and their outside perspectives resulted in different approaches and fresh ideas. They took a close look at our relatively new family membership program, honed our strategic branding, suggested improvements to our food and store operations, and provided their recommendation on the advisability of moving forward with a bold new theater concept.
Here’s what we loved about the experience, aside from the project outcomes; that team members represented a very diverse group, clearly enjoyed working with each other, fell in love with our mission, and exhibited an enormous amount of enthusiasm and humor. Not qualities one usually associates with a large corporation that’s over one hundred years old. One DLI member actually presented her team’s most excellent findings in the form of a fairy tale. We loved it!
Their work left us with a rich array of suggestions to review and implement. Since then, we have successfully rolled out a new membership level, resulting in a new revenue stream. We have also incorporated a number of the strategic branding team’s ideas into recent grants and reorganized our operations team to be able to more closely focus on our enterprise efforts.
The Clorox team gave us an enthusiastic “thumbs-up” on a breakthrough project we had been considering and provided us with valuable break-even financial projections. We are now looking at partnering with another nonprofit on the venture, and the information provided by the team will be crucial to crafting our proposal for sponsors/funders.
We can’t thank Clorox enough for all of the time and talent shared with us. Truly, it is the gift that will keep on giving, as we move toward implementing the suggestions offered by the teams. The depth and quality of the work, not to mention Clorox’s generosity and deep commitment to Oakland, is inspiring.
We understand that Clorox’s mission is to “make everyday life better, every day,” whether it’s in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, around a barbeque, or in our case, at a storybook theme park that serves our community’s youngest kids, and brightest future.
C.J. Hirschfield has served for 13 years as Executive Director of Children’s Fairyland, where she is charged with the overall operation of the nation’s very first storybook theme park. Prior to that, she served as an executive in the cable television industry, as vice president of Industry Affairs for the California Cable Television Association. As a former chair of the Oakland Library Advisory Commission, she’s particularly happy to be running a magical land devoted to storytelling, books and reading. C.J. is former president and current board member of the California Attractions and Parks Association, and serves on the boards of the Lake Merritt/Uptown Business Improvement District and Visit Oakland. She and her Oakland native husband David Stein raised all three of their kids here, and are happy to live in Adams Point, right next to Lake Merritt. C.J. writes a weekly column for the Piedmont Post and Oakland Local, where she loves to showcase the beauty of her city and its people.