Nonprofit Spotlight

Madison Community Foundation’s Community Impact grantmaking program is a learning experience for all involved.

Thanks to its component evaluation report, the comprehensive process enables organizations to gather information on what works and how they can better accomplish their goals. Because their stories can both inspire and instruct, we regularly highlight grant impact and share lessons learned with both donors and other nonprofit agencies. 

Light Up the Night

"GLEAM: Art in a New Light," is now an annual tradition.

New GLEAM artistic displays are a delightful addition to Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Any person walking through Olbrich Botanical Gardens on a beautiful fall evening is bound to hear oohing and aahing. This is a common reaction of visitors to GLEAM, Art in New Light, an annual exhibition of illuminated sculptures and installations set up at the Gardens by regional artists and creative professionals. The experience was made possible, in part, through a $10,000 MCF Community Impact Grant.

When Olbrich Botanical Gardens proposed the GLEAM project, they had a couple of objectives in mind. They wanted to refresh interest in the Gardens and reach more people with their beauty. They also wanted to provide an opportunity for local and other artists to add to or enrich their skills as they constructed art highlighting the concept of light.

Staff and artists worked together to create a visual experience that would reach guests in a new way. They also designed activities to provide opportunities for the artists, form connections between artist and community members, and leverage the increased interest GLEAM brought to the Gardens to raise additional funds.

The result was breathtaking. During the two months of the GLEAM exhibit, Olbrich recorded over 43,000 visitors, a 24% increase in attendance. An estimated 14% were completely new visitors to the Gardens. When asked to attach a feeling to their experience, 30% chose Inspired, 26% chose Dazzled and 20% chose Contemplative. Visitors left comments like, “So beautiful. I might never have been introduced to this meditative place without this special event.” Facebook followers and gift shop sales increased and sale revenue surpassed goals. Lighting designers also reported positive experiences.

In future years, Olbrich Botanical Gardens intends to shift funding of GLEAM more towards admission sales. Their experience taught them a few things that they can use to enhance the visitor’s experience even more. They hope to continue dazzling and inspiring the community for years to come. 

To see how you can make an impact, visit Ways to Give