South Florida Museum & Bishop Planetarium Inc
201 10th Street West
Bradenton FL 34205

To engage and inspire learners of all ages; we protect, interpret and communicate scientific and cultural knowledge of Florida, the world and our universe.


CEO/Executive Director Ms. Brynne Anne Besio
Board Chair Mrs. Jeanie Kirkpatrick
Board Chair Affiliation Volunteer
General Info
Tax Exempt Status Public Supported Charity
Incorporation Year 1954
Awarded competitive grant from Community Foundation in the last 5 years? Yes
State Charitable Solicitations Permit Yes Nov 2017
State Registration Yes Nov 2019
Financial Summary
Note: Revenue includes the value of in-kind contributions/donations
IRS Letter of Determination
IRS Documentation Letter for South Florida MuseumView
Other Documents
Whistleblower PolicyView
Impact Statement
Museum attendance reached 71,580 in 2017, our highest on record. Public program attendance is strong with most operating at capacity. Science cafes, live star talks, lectures, special admission days and discounted family nights provide accessible opportunities for diverse constituents. The Museum is home to a VPK class as a satellite to Ballard Elementary School.
More than 12,000 students visit annually for standards-based field trips, and, beginning in 2014, all Manatee County 4th graders have the opportunity to go on a field trip to the Museum with admission covered by a Museum donor.
An exhibition we created with nationally-renowned artist Clyde Butcher featuring environmental conservation themes continues to travel throughout Florida. We continue to be a Smithsonian Affiliate and meet their high standards.
New Planetarium shows are introduced regularly to showcase the state-of-the-art Planetarium projection system and consistently get rave reviews.
Home to a manatee rehabilitation program since 1998, we have cared for more than 30 sick, injured or orphaned manatees.
Our donor base continues to grow, enhancing our sustainability. Our summer fundraising campaign exceeded the goal in 2017 for the 7th year in a row and had strong repeat support.
Continuously enhance visitor experiences and expand service to underserved communities, young children and families.
Continue construction of new wing housing an early learning area for ages 2-8 to open in 2019.
Strengthen institutional capacity by diversifying revenue streams and increasing donations, memberships and attendance.
Contribute to manatee rehabilitation and inspire environmental stewardship.
Develop regional awareness of the Museum and participation in our vibrant complex for scientific, cultural and natural history education and preservation.
Needs Statement
  1. More than $100 per day is needed to feed the rehabilitating manatees. Hundreds of pounds of fresh romaine lettuce is needed weekly. The food bill can reach $75,000 annually for three manatees.
  2. Our daily school programs are a key enrichment activity for students in science and natural history. Support a class field trip the Museum for $500.

  3. The Museum provides free access to under-served communities as much as possible. Underwrite a day of impactful learning for $700.
  4. Funds to continue conversion to LED light bulbs throughout the Museum ($10,000).  Caring for our collections by rehousing our older collections into archival boxes (average cost for an intact collection would run $300.)
  5. Our Connect Capital Campaign funds new, unique resources that include the Mosaic Backyard Universe, a new wing focused on children 2-8 and their families. It will offer opportunities to explore and understand the world around us in a familiar setting, a 6,000 square-foot backyard that will invite and encourage investigation and interaction with the simple wonders of nature.
Background Statement
The South Florida Museum, which includes the Bishop Planetarium and Parker Manatee Aquarium, is the largest natural and cultural history museum on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Stunning life-size dioramas and dramatic exhibits tell Florida’s story from the prehistoric to the present. The state-of-the-art Bishop Planetarium Theater accommodates diverse programs, from lectures to live performances and films, but the main attraction is its remarkable space exploration and astronomy resources. The Aquarium is home to sick, orphaned and injured manatees that are cared for as part of a collaborative rehabilitation network. The Museum is not eligible for funding from the state or federal government directly for the manatees' daily care, we must rely on help from caring donors to aide the recovery of this endangered species.
Founded by residents who wanted to preserve local history, the Museum was incorporated as a Florida non-profit in 1946 and opened its doors in 1947. The original collection was purchased from local amateur archaeologist Motague Tallant by the area Chamber of Commerce. The Tallant Collection of Florida’s First Peoples Artifacts remains a centerpiece of the Museum. The Museum’s current Board includes 2nd and 3rd generation members of some of the founding families.
More than 71,580 people visited the Museum in 2017, including youth organizations and thousands of school children. Our emphasis on educating people of all ages drives programming. In addition to teacher training and formal educational programs, a wide variety of public programs is offered including “think + drink” science cafés, Family Nights, lectures, live star talks and summer camps. Permanent exhibits focus on Florida’s ecology and natural history, early 20th-century medical practices and showcasing the Museum's collections. Temporary exhibits are mounted in several galleries and changed regularly to provide new experiences for visitors and to highlight diverse aspects of science, history and culture. The Museum, the county's most popular cultural attraction, helps power the area’s economy as a tourist destination and by helping to build a more vital downtown through arts and culture programs and creative community collaborations.
Areas Served
Areas Served
FL- Manatee
FL- Sarasota
FL- Charlotte
FL- DeSoto
FL- Hardee
FL- Hillsborough
Areas Served Comments

Guests come from all U. S. states, US territories and many countries. 70% of our visitors are from Florida.

We serve more than 12,000 area youth through school field trips, outreach, home school programs, science and history camps and programs in: archaeology, paleontology, astronomy, marine biology, and environmental studies.
School programs serve students from the following counties: Manatee, Sarasota, Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Hardee, Polk, Hernando, DeSoto, Charlotte, Highlands, Hendry.
Service Categories
Primary Org Type Arts,Culture & Humanities
Secondary Org Type Animal Related
Tertiary Org Type Education
Statement from the Board Chair/Board President

There is so much going on at the South Florida Museum that it’s difficult to decide where to begin. I am honored to lead this Board when there is so much happening. I have the opportunity to see people from around the world enjoy the Museum and benefit from it regularly. I also know what’s coming, and it’s incredible.

We’ve been helping people explore the world around them for generations (since 1947) – engaging audiences, encouraging understanding and inspiring all ages to connect to the past, present and future of the planet we all share. We are now creating the museum of the future – a home to exciting new exhibitions, programs built on innovative technological advances and new spaces that connect us more deeply to our community. The new Museum will be a model for the museum community to follow – an exciting and innovative hub for learning and exploration and an extraordinary educational resource for the community. We began construction on our Mosaic Backyard Universe, an early-learning resource, in 2017.

SFM is an anchor attraction in downtown Bradenton and a vital part of the region’s educational, tourism and business landscapes. The only natural history museum on the Gulf Coast, we feature a state-of-the-art digital Planetarium and a manatee rehabilitation Aquarium. As we approach the age of 70, we are creating a new unique STEAM (science-technology-engineering-arts-math) focused early learning center, exhibition renovations, and a new gathering space with a café, thus adding value for visitors and residents.

The Museum continues to be an important educational partner and resource for primary, secondary and higher education in the region. Our formal education programs — which are all standards-based for science and social studies — are created with the input and support of educators and administrators in public and private schools. The Manatee County School District includes a field trip to the Museum in its formal curriculum for all fourth grade students and asked us to host a VPK class. We partner with Ringling College of Art and Design, USF and New College, to provide undergraduate and graduate student opportunities and professional development for teachers. We also have popular home school programs and summer camps.

Several exhibitions are presented during the year to ensure a different experience each time someone visits. Popular evening programs include “think+drink” science cafes, live star talks, Family Nights and lectures. New programs for kids are now offered Saturdays.

There are some 60,000 objects in our permanent collections, each with stories to tell that enhance people’s lives with knowledge of history, culture, science and the natural world. For now, the Museum can’t share all the stories the objects and animals have to tell – there’s simply not enough space or time. What if we could? What if you could choose what stories to investigate, based on your own interests? And what if you and your kids could explore and develop new stories of your own? In the new future you will be able to!

If you haven’t visited the Museum recently, I invite you to connect with us. Learn more about our programs, Campaign and expansion online at and please, stop in for a visit. You’ll be glad you did.

— Jeanie Kirkpatrick, President Board of Trustees

Statement from the CEO/Executive Director

For nearly 70 years, the South Florida Museum has been a vital educational resource and major attraction for the visitors and residents of southwest Florida and an anchor institution for the downtown Bradenton area arts and cultural community. As a private nonprofit, it is the only natural and cultural history museum on the west coast of Florida providing the opportunity for visitors to also experience a state-of-the-art planetarium as well as a rehabilitation aquarium for manatees. With our unique resources, visitors can explore the far reaches of the universe, the natural history of our planet and its life, and the sweeping historical and cultural stories of humankind – building universal, global and local connections from our own distinctive Florida perspective.

The South Florida Museum focuses on bolstering lifelong learning through a variety of high-quality, innovative educational programs utilizing the themes of our exhibits and current scientific events and discoveries. We provide learning opportunities for all ages as well as teacher training.

As one of the key cultural and arts organizations in the area, we participate in the collaborative efforts of Realize Bradenton, Inc., the cultural development movement to build and promote a vibrant downtown, both area convention bureaus and a variety of other partnerships.

We are bringing new resources online over the next 2 years unlike any in the region. The Mosaic Backyard Universe will be a new wing that provides children ages 2-8 and their families with opportunities to explore and understand the world around them in a familiar setting: a 5,000 square-foot backyard that will invite and encourage investigation and interaction with the simple wonders of nature. The Connect Capital Campaign was created to help us raise the funds needed to begin this phase of construction and take the next step in the Museum's evolution in its role as a vital and treasured community resource.

The Museum’s rehabilitating manatees are ambassadors for endangered species and environmental protection. We are the only Stage 2 rehabilitation facility for manatees on Florida’s west coast. Visitors learn about manatees, threats to them and how people can help, yet there is very little state or federal funding for this work.

Our state-of-the-art Planetarium Theater is the region's premier astronomy education facility. It is also a beautiful venue for not only Planetarium shows about the universe beyond earth, but also for live star talks, films, theater and lectures.


The Museum’s education programs support the teaching and learning goals of the pre-K to adult formal education community including public, private, parochial and homeschool programs. All are standards-based for the major science and social studies content areas (including science, technology, engineering and math - STEM), and are created with the input and support of educators and administrators in public and private schools. More than 12,000 students visit on formal field trips annually. Beginning in 2015, all Manatee County 4th graders are offered a field trip to SFM with admission covered by a private donor. Our homeschool program follows a three year cycle. We co-created and co-teach, with the USF Sarasota-Manatee, a class for undergraduates training to be teachers. Summer Camps are also standards-based and provide fun enrichment to the formal curricula for students entering K through 6th grades. We also offer teacher training for science teachers.

Budget $142,275
Category Education, General/Other Partnerships in Education
Program Linked to Organizational Strategy Yes
Population Served K-12 (5-19 years) Families At-Risk Populations
Short Term Success We are partners in the classroom for K-12 teachers in providing content to meet Florida Standards in STEM and History to help support teaching and learning objectives and performance. Our goal is to serve as many students as possible with educational resources and experiences that are not traditionally available in the classroom. Program success in the broadest sense is in exposing learners to an expanded view of their world and their place in it. In a more formal sense, success may be measured as improved mastery of standards-based learning objectives.

With the goal of focused, standards-based education, teachers are provided with an evaluation tool, but most feedback is given at the time of contact. For on-site sessions, teachers are interviewed regarding needs and goals upon arrival and again at exit. Continued process improvement allows for feedback to be applied immediately. Additionally, we provide hands-on learning for college interns in areas including ethnographic studies, education, marine mammal care, astronomy and marketing. We compare student participation year-to-year and address factors under our control (e.g. when transportation funding was found to be an issue, we sought scholarship support).
Long Term Success If we are successful, the society of the future will embrace and understand science and history and the workforce will flourish in STEM-related studies and careers. We will continue to serve the community’s needs and remain relevant as a provider of unique, engaging educational experiences. Our formal education programs will continue to have standards-based impact on students and educators. We will maintain or enhance our ability to address 100% of science standards and 75% of social studies standards for elementary school students through the Museum’s programs as the standards change. Partnerships with school systems and youth agencies will remain strong and engage and inspire the study of STEM topics, and art and history will be more closely linked to science. Educators will have access to current science and history content to fit their curricula and engage students. Inquiry-based learning will be prevalent in the formal education system.
Program Success Monitoring For all school related programs, teachers are given pre-program information and asked to complete post-program evaluations. Teachers are interviewed about goals for their visit upon arrival and about satisfaction upon exit. We work with the county school systems to assess program needs and satisfaction. The rate of repeat participation by individual educators is indicative of success, as is the rate of student participation in spite of shrinking school budgets for enrichment activities. We regularly receive “thank-you” cards and letters made by students describing their visit to the Museum in superlatives.
Program Success Examples
Examples of success come from teachers and students. Approximately 50% of elementary age students in Manatee County visit the Museum each year, having significant impact on science and history curricula as well as specific knowledge about the history of the students’ community. The thank-you cards and letters received from students clearly show they enjoyed visiting the Museum and illustrate a specific lesson learned.  The fact that the Manatee County School District chose the Museum as the site for its mandatory 4th grade field trip, and that our summer professional development programs for teachers are consistently filled to capacity and describe as "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunities speak to our success in working with students and educators.
Our new partnership with USF Sarasota-Manatee's School of Education to develop an undergraduate curriculum validates both our approach and results. 

The Museum focuses on bolstering lifelong learning through a variety of high-quality, affordable, innovative programs. The overall goal is to interpret Museum exhibitions for learners of all ages providing pathways for understanding universal historical, scientific and cultural concepts. Regularly-scheduled live weekend star talks and daily space-related shows are featured on the state-of-the-art Planetarium dome. Friday night Film series highlight relevant historical, scientific and cultural themes; “think + drink (science)” science cafes invite conversations with the community on diverse topics, monthly evening Stelliferous star talks and lectures are also held. Monthly Family Nights provide a variety of themed activities, and the elder community, a significant audience in our area, is served through partnerships with established lifelong learning organizations. Public programs attract new visitors and add value to memberships.

Budget $97,000
Category Science & Technology, General/Other Astronomy & Astrophysics
Program Linked to Organizational Strategy Yes
Population Served Adults Families Elderly and/or Disabled
Short Term Success

Public programs highlight current issues and concepts, making sometimes complex and intimidating scientific concepts interesting and accessible to the general population. They also provide forums for exploring multiple facets of issues and cultural phenomena. They are relevant in the everyday life of community members, and provide enjoyable, active learning opportunities about topics of current interest. Family Nights showcase Museum exhibits and collections, are targeted to working families and frequently involve partner organizations. These themed programs, often produced in partnership with local visual and performing arts groups like ArtCenter Manatee, provide access to diverse audiences. The monthly “think + drink” science cafes have a loyal following and attract new attendees with diverse topics. The interactive format provides the opportunity for on-the-spot program evaluation and adjustment. Continued growth in attendance is an indicator of success.

Long Term Success

These programs foster awareness and understanding of scientific concepts and current scientific thinking, expand awareness of specific cultures, link art and science, and serve people of all ages. They also connect people to the Museum’s core mission and role in the community, which is to serve as a resource for learning and preservation. Fees are kept to a minimum to make programs and the Museum as accessible as possible to our many audiences. Program collaborations feature local artists and organizations, providing innovative and diverse experiences and expanding audiences for all participants. The “think + drink” science cafes and Stelliferous star talks have minimal frees and engage participants in discussion with experts and among themselves, fostering comfort with complex scientific and cultural concepts.

Continued growth in attendance and sold-out programs indicate success. 
Program Success Monitoring

Program success is evaluated in several ways including attendance. These programs cover the “hard” costs of staging them (exclusive of staff time), and attract audiences not familiar with the Museum in addition to serving regular attenders. Interaction with participants is a hallmark of the Museum’s programs, providing regular opportunities for in-person satisfaction surveys and evaluation. Relevance to current societal issues is also monitored (for example, a film series highlighting the military is being presented in conjunction with the Legacy of Valor initiative in 2013). Programs operate at capacity regularly.

Program Success Examples

Audiences for the Museum’s public programs grow over time, with a cadre of regular participants for all and a consistent influx of new attendees. “Film Fridays” is an excellent example of successful program development. The series was “born” after a trial on weeknights in 2009, it was reworked for Friday nights with a lower admission fee in 2011, and as a result attendance more than doubled, providing a unique and affordable ‘date night’ in downtown Bradenton. The “think + drink (science)” series has a dedicated following, many of whom bring friends, expanding the audience in the most credible and sustainable way, word-of-mouth. Participants’ input is also solicited for topics and guest speakers. Lectures by local scientists and experts in fields related to exhibitions have been very popular. Sold-out crowds and consistently positive input from attendees are signs of the success of our programs. 


The Museum’s exhibitions and collections form the soul and skeleton of our mission and allow visitors to follow Florida’s story from 4.5 billion years ago to the present, learning from the geological, fossil, archaeological, historical and environmental records. These resources form the basis of our programming. Permanent exhibitions provide a core context while several changing galleries host temporary exhibitions throughout the year so visitors can always experience something new. The East Gallery is designed to showcase multiple different exhibitions each year. Recent topics include “Mystery of the Mayan Medallion,” underwater photography by National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry and Clyde Butcher’s “Cuba.” Other exhibitions are also offered in smaller galleries throughout the year and frequently are connected to community organizations.

Budget $299,765
Category Arts, Culture & Humanities, General/Other Archaeology
Program Linked to Organizational Strategy Yes
Population Served Families K-12 (5-19 years) Adults
Short Term Success

The Museum’s exhibitions set the stage for the experiences visitors have. They are conducive to educational and enjoyable programs, and also invite visitors to explore and discover on their own. Temporary exhibitions broaden the scope of content, complement the permanent exhibitions and feature topics of interest that spark curiosity. Recent temporary exhibits have included “Dinosaur Discoveries”“Sportsology,” and “50 Greatest Photographs,” featuring photographs from National Geographic Magazine. We try to showcase the work of local artists and provide access to diverse subjects. Attendance at opening receptions helps us evaluate interest and satisfaction levels of both new and regular visitors.

Long Term Success

The Museum is the keeper of the community’s artifacts and stories. Exhibitions must be engaging and relevant to the community at all times. As technology evolves and new communication, teaching and learning tools are created, the Museum must incorporate them into its exhibitions and programs to provide enjoyable, enriching experiences. Permanent exhibits relate to the core of the Museum’s mission, and temporary exhibits allow visitors to explore related concepts on a timely basis. Temporary exhibits can attract new audiences, prompting them to discover the Museum’s treasures and role as a resource in the community. As new exhibitions are created, the Museum’s challenge is to increase interaction and engagement and make sure Museum guests can have a new experience each time they visit. Exhibitions also serve as a “draw,” helping to generate revenue for the Museum through repeat visitation and connections to the community.

Program Success Monitoring

The success of temporary exhibitions showcased in the East Gallery can be gauged by attendance at exhibition opening events. In recent times, approximately 100 guests have attended these receptions which provide an exclusive first look at the new featured experience. In conjunction with temporary exhibitions, our gift shop special orders themed items such as books, DVDs, art pieces and educational toys which are relevant to the content of the exhibition. Interest and successful sales of these items provides another indicator of exhibition success while at the same time extending the visitor’s learning and enrichment opportunities beyond the on-site visit. Another indicator of the quality of our exhibitions is what other organizations want to partner with us, such as Audubon Florida offering a lecture in conjunction with one of our exhibitions. Educational effectiveness of the permanent exhibits is assessed through our formal education programs and general visitor comments.

Program Success Examples

The permanent exhibitions and overall visitor experience are evaluated by exit comments directed toward our visitor services staff and volunteers. Regular remarks include “I needed more time,” “I can’t believe how much is here,” and “I was here years ago and can’t believe how much has changed and been added. The exhibits are very well done. The professionalism of the exhibits and experience exceeded by expectations.” The greatest testimony is the common remark that a guest “will be back” and plans to invite others to join them to enjoy the Museum. The annual “secret shopper” report provided through the Florida Attractions Assoc. is reviewed by the management team and adjustments made as needed and feasible. These reports consistently offer very high scores, commonly 99/100. To track overall response, social media comments are monitored to review unsolicited—as well as prompted—feedback from our audiences. We consistently receive strong positive comments on TripAdvisor.

Description Since 1998, the Museum has participated in the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), caring for sick, orphaned and injured manatees and helping people get “up close” to manatees. As a 2nd stage rehabilitation facility, manatees are transferred to the Museum from a critical care hospital once their condition is stable. Although the program contributes to the recovery of an endangered species, the Museum is not eligible for funding from the state or federal government directly for manatee care, so this program requires significant private support. Since joining the MRP, the Museum has cared for more than 30 injured or sick manatees in addition. Presentations by the animal care team, exhibits, educational tours and outreach programs educate the public and school children about environmental issues and manatees and to help this endangered species.
Budget $332,645
Category Animal-Related, General/Other Marine Animals Preservation & Protection
Program Linked to Organizational Strategy Yes
Population Served General/Unspecified Children and Youth (0 - 19 years) Adults
Short Term Success In the short-term, the Museum provides a caring home for manatees until they are ready to be returned to the wild. Goals are set for each individual based on need and can include weight/size increase, specific eating habits, swimming ability, or the start or end of a behavior. Our participation in the program makes space available for newly injured animals at the three acute care hospitals in the state. Many, but not all, manatees are monitored and/or tracked after release so that lessons from each case help improve the overall rehabilitation process. Several manatees released from the Museum in recent years were monitored for a year and are considered successfully returned to the wild.
Long Term Success The goals of the program are to aide the recovery of the endangered species and to educate Museum visitors about environmental issues, threats to manatees and how humans can help this endangered species. The ultimate changes will be increasing manatee populations in the state and decreasing human-related threats to Florida manatees. Success is evaluated in cooperation with other members of the consortium including state and federal wildlife officials, scientists and educators. The partnership has created a plan for determining the successful reacclimation of manatees to the wild following rehabilitation and it is adjusted each year depending on success rates and the needs of the current population undergoing rehabilitation.
Program Success Monitoring Success of the manatee rehabilitation program is measured in several ways. The primary goal for young manatees is to gain weight and remain healthy while at the Museum and more than 30 have benefited to date. Their physical health and behavior are closely monitored and the status of each manatee is reviewed by the experts within the Partnership on a regular basis. Manatees undergoing rehabilitation do not form a relationship with the animal care staff so they are not attracted to people after release back to the wild. The primary environmental education goal is to reach as many of the Museum’s more than 70,000 annual visitors with information about the conservation status and needs of manatees.
Program Success Examples The Manatee Rehabilitation Program affects both manatees and people. We have successfully cared for 33 manatees undergoing rehabilitation. By housing manatees in preparation for release at the Museum and other secondary care facilities, space is opened at the critical care hospitals, maximizing the number of endangered manatees that can be helped. Tens of thousands of people, including school groups, see the manatees at the Museum each year, and most hear an educational presentation about manatee biology and human-related threats.
Program Comments by Organization
We provide varied educational activities from lectures and discussions to diverse exhibitions to meet different interests and needs within the community. We collaborate with many organizations from arts to history to science groups in addition to formal education structures. We are limited only by staff time and resources available.
The Museum can be a “one-stop shopping” venue for school field trips about science, history and environmental studies. All programs, both on-site and in the community, are standards-based, address the Florida Standards for the major science and social studies content areas (including science, technology, engineering and math - STEM), and are created with the input and support of educators and administrators in public and private schools. Students can visit the Museum and see a cross section of Florida’s ecosystems and learn key points in the state’s history. We also provide outreach programs to area schools (including in other counties). Beginning in 2014, all Manatee County 4th graders are given the opportunity to take a field trip to SFM with admission scholarships provided thanks to a private donor.
Our collaborations are both important to and reflective of our program successes. One example is a partnership with USF Sarasota-Manatee: we co-developed the undergraduate course “Teaching Elementary Science,” which is taught at the Museum and integrates teaching strategies with science content using the Museum’s collections and exhibitions as a primary resource.
We participate in many regional efforts including the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and try to work with arts organizations whenever possible. The immersive dome art course at Ringling College another example.
Public programs double as marketing tools and our audiences continue to grow steadily. We partner with several media outlets to expand awareness of the Museum and program participation. Staff continuously create innovative ways for guests to experience the Museum.
CEO/Executive Director
CEO/Executive Director Ms. Brynne Anne Besio
CEO Term Start Oct 2007
CEO/Executive Director Email

Brynne Anne Besio holds a M.S. in Geology from the University of Colorado, Boulder and a B.S. in Geology from the University of California at Davis. She has 25 years of nonprofit management experience including four Girl Scout councils (Denver, Philadelphia area and Sarasota) and the Puget Sound Blood Center, nine years as a geologist first for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California and for Amoco Production Company in Denver, Colorado. Ms. Besio currently sits on the board of the Florida Association of Museums, Science and Environmental Council of  Southwest Florida and was integrally involved in the founding of Realize Bradenton, Inc.

Former CEOs/Executive Directors
Dr. Peter Bennett 1998 - 2003
Mr. John Howard 2003 - 2006
Senior Staff
Mr. Jack Balkan Chief Facilities Officer
Ms. Virginia Edmonds Aquarium Director
Mr. Jeff Rodgers Provost and Chief Operating Officer
Ms. Tish Sacks Director of Education
Ms. Martha Wells Chief Community Engagement Officer
Mr. Matthew Woodside Director of Exhibitions and Collections
Staff & Volunteer Statistics
Full Time Staff 21
Part Time Staff 12
Staff Retention Rate % 94
Professional Development Yes
Contractors 1
Volunteers 150
Management Reports to Board Yes
CEO/Executive Director Formal Evaluation Yes
Senior Management Formal Evaluation Yes
Non-Management Formal Evaluation Yes

Collaborations are a priority for the Museum for many reasons. They help extend our reach both geographically and to different types of audiences as well as strengthen our community service and ties. Also, the integration of art and science is key to our educational philosophy. we are proud to be a Smithsonian Affiliate which allows us to host Smithsonian created exhibitions.

We regularly partner with colleges, schools, arts organizations and other informal learning institutions and participate in community projects. Each of the Museum’s main centers of operations (the Planetarium, Aquarium, exhibitions and education departments) is actively involved in multiple collaborations. Current collaborations include participation in Realize Bradenton, the Science and Environmental Council of Southwest Florida, Bradenton Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Visit Sarasota County, Cosmix with the Ringling College of Art and Design and a course developed for USF Sarasota-Manatee’s Education School. Current and recent collaborators include Village of the Arts, Manatee Players, ArtCenter Manatee, Manatee County School District, Manatee County, Sarasota County School District, State College of Florida, New College, Lifelong Learning Academy, Pierian Springs Academy, Longboat Key Education Center, Asolo Repertory Theatre, Florida Studio Theatre and Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

American Association of Museums - Member
American Association of Science and Technology Centers
American Association of State and Local History
Florida Association of Museums
Florida Attraction Association
Manatee Rehabilitation Network
Science and Environmental Council of Sarasota County
Smithsonian Museum - Affiliate
External Assessments and Accreditations
Awards & Recognition
Nonprofit of the Year Award Winner, Humanities & CultureTampa Bay Business Journal2014
Finalist, Nonprofit of the Year in Arts, Humanities & CultureTampa Bay Business Journal2015
Risk Management Provisions
Accident and Injury Coverage
Boiler and Machinery
Business Income
Commercial General Liability
Crime Coverage
Workers Compensation and Employers' Liability
Umbrella or Excess Insurance
Directors and Officers Policy
Medical Health Insurance
Liquor Liability
Fine Arts and Collectibles
General Property Coverage
Automobile Insurance
Government Licenses
Organization Licensed by the Government Yes
Fundraising Plan Yes
Communication Plan No
Strategic Plan Yes
Strategic Plan Years 5
Strategic Plan Adopted Apr 2016
Management Succession Plan No
Continuity of Operations Plan No
Nondiscrimination Policy Yes
Whistle Blower Policy Yes
Document Destruction Policy Yes
Directors and Officers Insurance Policy Yes
Policies and Procedures Yes
Management Comments by Organization

We are honored to have been recognized as the "2014 Arts, Culture and Humanities Nonprofit of the Year" by the Tampa Bay Business Journal and be a finalist in 2015. The Museum is an important part of the economic, educational and cultural landscapes of the region.

We enjoy a good situation: sound financial health and an exciting plan for the next 10-20 years – we are evolving with our community. A clear priority is a new early childhood learning area, which we are approaching in a truly unique way. Staff are creating new ways for our audiences to experience the Museum as well as ways to serve new audiences.

Our greatest challenge is to grow and improve while maintaining our current high quality of visitor and program experience, all with a small full-time staff. We began construction at the end of 2017 on the Mosaic Backyard Universe, a new wing that will be an innovative new resource to families and the educational landscape of the region.

The state-of-the art Planetarium projection system now in use was the first of the new experiences for our guests and it allows us to create a whole new suite of engaging education programs. About 25% of visitors come for an experience in the Planetarium, and this system provides myriad multi-media opportunities and ways to visualize science.

We have hosted more than 30 manatees undergoing rehabilitation; and food, medical care, and pool maintenance are significant ongoing costs.

The Museum presents several different special exhibitions each year, providing the opportunity for something new each time a person visits. Our attendance has grown in recent years and in order to continue to grow, we need to invest more in promoting the Museum. When people visit for the first time, we frequently hear something like “I wish I’d known about you sooner – this place is wonderful.” We have many successful media partnerships, but we need to invest more to get more exposure.

We are planning a major “refresh” for the exhibits. Studies show that visitors are looking for experiential opportunities when they visit museums and this provides us with the opportunity to integrate technology and hands-on components. We have already begun to test one new experience and will introduce it in 2018.

We are proud to host a VPK class as a satellite for Ballad Elementary for a second year during the 2017-18 school year at the request of the Manatee County School District.
Planning & Policies Comments by Organization
The Board unanimously approved the 2018 Fundraising Plan at its Dec. 14, 2017 meeting. We are actively working on others.
Our Disaster Plan (encompassing all disasters) includes addressing securing information and collections (living and static) as well as the building itself. This includes the continuity of operations. We do have insurance for Business Interruption as well.
We are creating an overall Communications Plan to include Museum operations, Capital planning and building, and opening the North Education Complex and Mosaic Backyard Universe in early 2019.
Other Documents
Other Document 2
Records Rentention Policy
Board Chair
Board Chair Mrs. Jeanie Kirkpatrick
Company Affiliation Volunteer
Board Term Apr 2017 to Mar 2019
Board Chair Email
Board Members
Board Members
Ms. Elizabeth Baran Kates Kesler Organization Development
Ms. Jackie Barron Mosaic
Mr. William M. Blalock Wyman, Green and Blalock Real Estate
Mr. Brian Carter Mauldin & Jenkins
Mr. Charles F. Elzer IIIMerrill Lynch
Mrs. Jennifer Turner Gans Community Volunteer
Mrs. Debbie Gigliotti Community Volunteer
Mr. Greg Hall Hall Architects
Ms. Jeanie Kirkpatrick Community Volunteer
Mr. John N. McClure IVNorthern Trust
Mr. Spurgeon Nisbett Hilton
Mr. Christopher Peacock Community Volunteer
Mr. Stephen Perry Blalock Walters
Mr. John V. Quinlan Esq.Greene Hamrick Quinlan & Schermer, P.A.
Mrs. Carol Rice Rice Appliance
Mr. James P. Roque SunTrust Private Wealth
Mr. T. Andrew Smith Blake Medical Center
Mr. Jay Taylor Community Volunteer
Mr. Gary Tibbetts Office Congressman Vern Buchanan
Ms. Alisa Westberry BMO Harris Bank
Constituency Includes Client Representation Yes
Board Ethnicity
African American/Black 1
Asian American/Pacific Islander 0
Caucasian 18
Hispanic/Latino 0
Native American/American Indian 1
Other 0 0
Board Gender
Male 13
Female 7
Unspecified 0
Board Term Lengths 3
Board Term Limits 2
Board Orientation Yes
Number of Full Board Meetings Annually 9
Board Meeting Attendance % 75
Board Self-Evaluation Yes
Written Board Selection Criteria Yes
Board Conflict of Interest Policy Yes
% of Board Making Monetary Contributions 100
% of Board Making In-Kind Contributions 2
Standing Committees
Board Governance
Governance Comments by Organization

The South Florida Museum Board continues to evolve. The Board made a paradigm shift in 2010 to move from a monthly working executive committee and large ratifying board of directors of more than 55 members to a full working Board of 20 members working in committees with the Executive Committee meeting as needed. Term limits for Trustees and officers are in place and the Board operates with a consent agenda at full Board meetings. The Governance Committee assesses the needs of the Museum and Board and works to identify candidates who match our needs and build Board selection criteria to take the Museum into the future.

Fiscal stability is a major priority for our Board and the Museum has no debt, has an operating reserve of 6 months’ income and a capital fund for maintenance. We have one endowment of nearly $14,500,000 with the income supporting general operations. Our second endowment supports school group admissions and it is just over $400,000. With the disbursement from the endowment plus admissions covering about half of the operating revenue, the rest of the funds are raised. We are working to build contributions to the endowments as a safety net for sustainability in addition to enhancing our fundraising abilities for ongoing operations.

The Board adopted a comprehensive Development Plan in 2010 and continues to follow its tenets. Priorities and processes in the plan remain sound, so while it was adopted for a specific time period, it remains sound today. The Development Officer hired in 2011 through a grant has been moved into the operating budget so the position (now Director of Community Engagement) is now part of our culture. Since 2010, we have increased the number of donors by more than 80% and more than doubled our major gift donors. Donor retention is an important part of our strategy.

A new 5-year Strategic Plan was adopted in April of 2016 guiding the institution through significant growth and expansion both physically and programmatically.

The Board has identified key areas to achieve to build capacity as an institution:

  • Generate more revenue in all areas (admissions, programs, donations, potential public/private partnerships).
  • Meet community need now and evolve to be able to do so in the future.
  • Provide relevant, cutting-edge and experiential educational programs and exhibitions to engage visitors of all ages.

The Governance Committee is building at a succession plan.

Current Year Projections
Tax Year Start Month Jan
Tax Year Start Day 01
Tax Year Begins 2018
Tax Year End Month Dec
Tax Year End Day 31
Tax Year Ends 2018
Projected Revenue $2,525,800.00
Projected Expenses $2,525,800.00
Total Projected Revenue includes "in-kind" contributions/ donations No
Organization has Endowment Yes
Endowment Value $15,565,013.00
Endowment Spending Policy Income Only
Capital Campaign
Currently In a Capital Campaign Yes
Anticipate Campaign within 5 years? Yes
Campaign Purpose To fund our Master Campus and Programming Plan to be a leader in the museum field. The first priorities include two new spaces, renovating exhibitions, upgrades to the Aquarium and Planetarium, and piloting the innovative Pathways program.
Campaign Goal $12,000,000.00
Campaign Dates Jan 2015 to Sept 2017
Amount Raised To Date 14680000 as of Jan 2018
Financial Review
Revenue SourcesHelpThe financial analysis involves a comparison of the IRS Form 990 and the audit report (when available) and revenue sources may not sum to total based on reconciliation differences. Revenue from foundations and corporations may include individual contributions when not itemized separately.
Fiscal Year201620152014
Foundation and
Corporation Contributions
Government Contributions$112,186$140,824$130,741
Individual Contributions$1,486,730$1,172,405$5,656,983
Investment Income, Net of Losses$52,281$31,542$15,849
Membership Dues$0$0$0
Special Events$102,870$75,046$123,038
Revenue In-Kind$92,306$109,117$104,914
Expense Allocation
Fiscal Year201620152014
Program Expense$2,768,788$2,536,352$2,348,203
Administration Expense$217,772$198,107$193,653
Fundraising Expense$261,262$264,481$255,433
Payments to Affiliates$0$0$0
Total Revenue/Total Expenses0.960.922.58
Program Expense/Total Expenses85%85%84%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue13%15%4%
Assets and Liabilities
Fiscal Year201620152014
Total Assets$32,047,320$31,721,337$32,404,499
Current Assets$21,818,531$21,666,926$20,621,866
Long-Term Liabilities$0$0$0
Current Liabilities$143,161$134,400$152,026
Total Net Assets$31,904,159$31,586,937$32,252,473
Top Funding Sources
Fiscal Year201620152014
Top Funding Source & Dollar AmountContributions, gifts, grants $1,486,730Contributions, gifts, grants $1,172,405Contributions, gifts, grants $5,656,983
Second Highest Funding Source & Dollar AmountAdmissions $656,934Admissions $585,767Admissions $555,762
Third Highest Funding Source & Dollar AmountFoundation & Corporate Support $375,979Related Organization Support $385,987Foundation & Corporate Support $409,149
CEO/Executive Director Compensation $100,001 - $125,000
Tax Credits No
Short Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201620152014
Current Ratio: Current Assets/Current Liabilities152.41161.21135.65
Long Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201620152014
Long-Term Liabilities/Total Assets0%0%0%
Financials Comments
Financial Comments by Organization

Building and maintaining multiple revenue streams is our challenge and we work diligently to build sustainability in our operations. We continue to grow earned income, donations and grant support, building on membership and fundraising programs and ways to connect people to the Museum. We cultivate supporters though customized Museum immersion programs having shifted to more donor-focused fundraising instead of events. The Development Plan under which we are operating makes donor retention a high priority.

We have a continued upward trend in nearly all revenues  year over year: Membership, Admissions, and Education programs. Contributed income remains strong during our Capital Campaign and we are pleased to have good donor retention.

The Museum has an operating reserve of 3 months’ income and a capital fund for maintenance. We have one endowment of more than $15,000,000 with the income supporting general operations. Our second endowment supports school group admissions and it is just over $400,000.

The County and City continue to support our manatee rehabilitation work through funds and water credits. Local service organizations, banks and foundations support specific projects, scholarships and programs.

Our capital improvement plans support long-term sustainability. The Campaign is integrated with annual fund, endowment, and planned giving programs. We have invested in experienced fundraising counsel to ensure success.

Our expansion includes program spaces to serve new audiences and provide potential for revenue generation with increased programming, increased gate from a new audience (young families) and rentals which are expected to cover increased costs.

We build an engaging environment with our exhibits and create programs that appeal to diverse audiences. With a small marketing budget, we partner with varied organizations to extend our reach.

Financial Comments by Foundation
Financial figures provided based on IRS Form 990 and audit documents. 990s and audits reconcile. Individual contributions and foundation/ corporate support provided by agency.
Nonprofit South Florida Museum & Bishop Planetarium Inc
Address 201 10th Street West
Bradenton, FL 34206
Phone 941 746-4131

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