Monday, March 17, 2008

CAM 2008 Session: New and Alternate Funding Streams for Museums

I'll allow my bias to show for just a moment here and say that I was incredibly excited for my own session. Why? Because of the strength of the topics addressed by the speakers on the panel! In fact, even now, a few weeks post-conference, when I think about what Mike, Mark and Candice had to say, I get excited all over again. I remember when we were still in the planning phases for the conference and the four of us had a conference call how thrilled I felt as, after listening to each other talk about their respective presentations, the unanimous reaction seemed to be a deep interest in what the other presenters would be sharing.

For my part, I introduced the topic (a PDF of my presentation can be found here) by emphasizing the need for alternative forms of revenue generation. According to the 2006 California Museums Study produced by CAM, for that fiscal year, California museums expected a 3.8% decline in revenues despite the fact that museums in general had seen a 38.3% gain in revenues in the previous year. I then briefly described a few of the alternative revenue generation strategies that seemed to be enjoying some success in the nonprofit sector according to both the museum revenue generation survey that Orinda Group performed last summer and the ongoing research we have been doing in looking at alternative revenue streams and more specifically e-philanthropy (a topic I will be speaking on at the 2008 Western Museums Association conference in Anchorage this fall).

The three strategies I focused on were:

-- Partnering
-- Use of Collections
-- Web 2.0/Social Media

As I mentioned in a previous (live-blogging) post from the Re-Imagining the Museum session, Shawn Lum actually described two great examples of partnering and use of collections going on at the Vacaville Museum. Candice from my session had great examples of use of social media, too. But I also had my own examples to strengthen my arguments as well.

Respondents from the 2007 Orinda Group Museum Revenue Generation Survey (pdf) spoke in glowing terms about partnering with corporations to produce DVDs, videos and coffee table books and mentioned things like wonderful DVD sales.

The Boston MFA has already seen great success from its MFA Mobile program, a website that offers downloadable images from the collection for use as cellphone wallpaper. It is a paid service and apparently so far Monet's "Water Lilies" is the most popular download.

But what really astounded me was just how much use of social media has exploded in the museum world in just the past few months. When I was preparing my talk (pdf) on this subject for the Mountain-Plains conference in September, there were 180 museum profiles on Flickr, almost 5000 museum-related groups on Flickr, 100s of museums on MySpace, 1000s of videos tagged "museum" on YouTube and almost 4000 museum-related groups on Yahoo Groups. Facebook was not really much of a factor yet in the museum world.

Now there are over 200 museum profiles on Flickr with almost 7000 museum-related Flickr groups, over 4000 museum-related groups on Yahoo Groups and there are over 500 museum-related groups, over 500 museum-related events, 165 museum pages (organizational profiles) and 11 museum-related applications on Facebook. Museum usage of social media has universally increased in just six months. Wow. I look forward to seeing what the next six months will bring!

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