With Nonprofit Status Denied, Museum of Sex Goes For-Profit

MOS

June 14, 2012; Source: Entrepreneur

This story is interesting on any number of levels; it speaks to the flow between sectors and also to issues of branding in difficult fields, so read on. Daniel Gluck had to be pushed to apply for nonprofit status when, in 1998, he first conceived the idea of opening the Museum of Sex, now known as MoSex (as in MOMA—get it?). The museum was to explore the “history, evolution and cultural significance of sexual activity” but the state denied the facility tax-exempt status so, with a lot of help from publicity around the denial, Gluck decided to pursue the effort as a for-profit. “I couldn’t believe there wasn’t anything like it already in the world,” he says. “This seemed like such a large gap in the cultural landscape.”

Arianna Huffington, Sandra Bernhard and Bill Maher agreed to put their stamp of approval on the endeavor and Camille Paglia was the first academic advisor. To ensure that the effort was not sullied, the corporate bylaws explicitly forbade financial backing from anyone in the adult entertainment industry. And investments of several million were made.

The rest is history. Gluck reports that the museum, now located in the Flatiron District of Manhattan, expects 200,000 visitors this year, and is turning a profit. Gluck has plans for upgrades but is still cautious about brand. He says he is working with a “team of smart, thoughtful people” who have spent more than 100 hours trying to summarize MoSex’s mission. “Dealing with such a loaded subject makes this a complex process,” he says. “[The topic] is a tool at our disposal, but it also affects people’s perceptions. We have to be careful about everything from what’s in our window to what’s on our website.” –Ruth McCambridge

About

Ruth McCambridge

Ruth is Editor in Chief of the Nonprofit Quarterly. Her background includes forty-five years of experience in nonprofits, primarily in organizations that mix grassroots community work with policy change. Beginning in the mid-1980s, Ruth spent a decade at the Boston Foundation, developing and implementing capacity building programs and advocating for grantmaking attention to constituent involvement.