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Start a GiGi's Playhouse

How to start a GiGi's Playhouse in your Community

GiGi’s Playhouse exists to change the way the world views Down syndrome and to send a global message of acceptance for all.  If you decide to embark on a mission to open a Playhouse in your community, you will be accepting the fate that this process will change you.  You will grow and learn, exhibit incredible passion and dedication, and engage with countless people you would otherwise have no reason to meet.  This is a labor of love using best in class resources and over 15 years of learnings to help guide your success!

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Opening a Playhouse

GiGi’s Playhouse exists to change the way the world views Down syndrome and to send a global message of acceptance for all. If you decide to embark on a mission to open a Playhouse in your community, you will be accepting the fate that this process will change you. You will grow and learn, exhibit incredible passion and dedication, and engage with countless people you would otherwise have no reason to meet. This is a labor of love using best in class resources and over 15 years of learnings to help guide your success!

Before you Begin – Contact National Office & Organize Leadership

Contact the National Office by sending an email to
startup@gigisplayhouse.org to learn more about the process and make an appointment to talk to someone about your interest. Gather a group of 8-10 people who want to be a part of changing the way the world sees Down syndrome in your community. This group will be your initial start-up committee. Make every effort to diversify this group by recruiting people with different professional backgrounds, community relationships and skills. Areas of specific importance include fundraising, marketing, and community outreach.

Step 1 – Complete an Application & Gain Approval

GiGi’s Playhouse has a formal application process. After a conversation with a representative from the GiGi’s Playhouse National Office, it’s important to engage with families and organizations in your local community to clearly understand the resources and gaps. Once this has been done, complete a new Playhouse application. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Step 2 – Begin GiGi’s Trainings

Once you have been approved as a startup location, you will begin to immerse yourself in a broad variety of training and operational supports, so you can confidently speak about GiGi’s Playhouse. You will also gain access to a broad set of resources such as GiGi’s 101 trainings, Startup Handbooks, fundraising tools, website, e-mail, branded marketing materials and much more. Throughout the startup process, a representative from the National Office will meet with you
bi-weekly to provide strategic and tactical guidance.

Step 3 – Launch Fundraising and Marketing Campaigns

As you build confidence in the language of GiGi’s, you’ll be ready to start engaging with family, friends and community members to launch your fundraising campaign! The GiGi’s National Office will help you launch a formal capital campaign, complete with online marketing and donation collection capabilities. During this time, you will engage with the media and spread the word that your team is working hard to launch a new GiGi’s Playhouse location.

Step 4 – Raise at Least 50% of Annual Operating Cost

Now that you’ve established your commitment to open a new location, you will expand relationships in your community and plan a large fundraising event to help reach your fundraising goals. Meanwhile, you will research a facility so you can set your first year’s operating budget.

Step 5 – Formalize Board and LLC

Throughout the startup process, the team ebbs and flows as everyone learns more about their capacity, skills and ways to work together. In this step, the roles and responsibilities become more formalized so the team can vote on the leadership roles that will form the board. At the end of Step 5, the National Office will file your LLC paperwork.

Step 6 – Sign Lease for Location

The team at the National Office will provide guidance in helping you find a location, negotiate terms, and secure a lease. Part of this process will be researching buildout costs and local permits, and working with the corporate counsel on the final lease.

Step 7 – Build-Out Playhouse and Prepare for Programs

Most teams find Step 7 to be the most exciting and exhausting step, but soon all the hard work will pay off! Your Build Out committee is busy working with contractors and designers while your Program Committee begins recruiting program volunteers, conducting program training, and outlining your initial program lineup. Your fundraising campaign continues through room sponsorships, a final capital campaign push, wish lists and maybe even an event to close the funding gap. Last, the Marketing and Events team are busy advertising and planning your Grand Opening.

Step 8 – Open your Playhouse!

The Grand Opening is always a life-changing event with hundreds of people present to celebrate this momentous day. What feels like the finish line is really the starting point of a whole new opportunity in your community to change the way the world views Down syndrome. All your hard work will be worth it as you listen to the stories of countless believers in your community!

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