What’s Next for MSA NEXT? An Interview With Kelli Davis, Store Manager for the Iowa Science Center

February 3, 2020

By David Duddy

Editor’s Note: This article includes information from Aubrey Herr of The Walters Art Museum and Steve Santangelo from Popcorn Products.

What is MSA NEXT?

It is a group of young professionals within MSA that provides a resource and support for those beginning their careers in nonprofit retail, whether from an institution or a vendor. We want to help build membership in MSA by embracing new sources of inclusion, collaboration, technology and innovation. We want to make these things available to all members and attract and support future leaders for the association.

What effect has this had on MSA?

I think it helps to broaden the base of engaged nonprofit professionals that are in MSA, especially those staff members who may not be able to attend conference or meetings. We want to provide them with a community and a voice in the future growth of MSA. They may not find it easy to locate or interact with a group of their peers, but we want to invite them to be a part of this community, bring their fresh ideas, and create new conversations that will help them build their own careers and inspire new initiatives for all members. We want the future leaders in the association to feel a part of the planning of that future.

Has your own career and planning been changed by being a part of MSA NEXT?

I think it has given me more “branches” and offered me a broader perspective about nonprofit retail and its place in the world of commerce. But if you manage young staff members, get them involved! Make them feel like part of the future of MSA and in planning their own careers.

MSA NEXT has its own strategic plan. What does that look like for the future?

The three-year plan is about growing membership and providing an inclusive space for young professionals. We want to establish a community — both online and in person. We want to build cross-generational connections that will inspire, promote and drive innovation in our industry. We will be rolling out some of these plans in Cleveland, including our Facebook platform. Here is a link to the full plan.

How will MSA NEXT affect the future of MSA itself?

Besides giving our young professionals a voice, we want to build an engaging community and wrap people in sooner. We really want to welcome newcomers — come sit with us, talk with us and interact online! We want them to gain a comfort level that is welcoming and inclusive. MSA has shown the forethought to realize that we must add these new professionals to the mix; they are the ones who will drive innovation in all areas and build the stronger future that will keep MSA meaningful and viable.

You have been part of the planning for MSA NEXT. What can the association do to support those efforts?

I would say to spread the word to younger staff members that this is their way to voice their opinions, talk about their ideas and participate in the planning of their own careers. Make sure they know about MSA NEXT and encourage them to make this their entrée into MSA. These emerging professionals are a group that is passionate about careers that have meaning — and nonprofit retail fits the bill.

What should I have asked that I missed?

This is pretty thorough, but I just want to say that I was invited to be a leader in MSA NEXT after I was on a panel about mentoring, which really says a lot about what we want to do. Offer to help — welcome people in. What can you offer them? What can they offer MSA? Make sure they know that they can be our next leaders.


Kelli Davis is currently the gift store manager for the Science Center of Iowa. She has been with SCI for over nine years, where she has led implementing new organizational procedures for the operation of the gift shop. She originated this role for SCI and is currently the only person to have held this position. She is a member of MSA NEXT and encourages inclusivity and mentorship for the organization. In her free time, she loves trying art and learning new skills but mostly hanging with her husband and dog.


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