Thursday, March 20, 2008

CAM 2008 Session: New and Alternate Funding Streams for Museums, Maintaining Membership Revenues without a Building

Candace Pendergrass, Director of Membership and Public Information at the Fresno Metropolitan Museum of Art and Science was saddled with a tough question when her museum decided to close the building for renovation and expansion: what to do about the membership program?

Rather than freezing all memberships during construction she decided to keep on with the membership program--but that meant that she needed to find new benefits to membership since members couldn't visit the museum at all during construction, let alone for free. Candace and her team recognized that in order to minimize membership loss during construction they would need to be creative in adding value to memberships, they would need to stay in touch with their members and they would need to create easy ways for members to provide the museum with additional help.

Creating Added Value
Local businesses were approached and if they already had discount programs in place, they were asked if they would apply those discount programs to museum members. This resulted in the Club 1555 Discount Program for museum members.

The museum became a Smithsonian affiliate. This meant that museum members now enjoyed all the benefits of being members of the Smithsonian as well.

The museum engaged in several reciprocal membership agreements through the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC), Western Museum Group (WMG) and local area cultural partners. In this way, even though museum members couldn't visit the Fresno Met, they could still visit other museums and cultural attractions for free.

Staying in Touch
In addition to quarterly newsletters and direct mail, the Fresno Met also made use of electronic means to keep in touch with their membership during construction via their website, weekly e-news and MySpace. Currently the Fresno Met has over 200 friends on MySpace.

Help Me Help You
In order to make helping the museum as easy as possible, the Fresno Met started offering a place on the membership renewal forms for an additional contribution. They also signed up on Good Search and Good Shop, Internet sites that donate a percentage of the proceeds from online shopping or searching to the nonprofit of your choice.

Ultimately, through all of these efforts, despite the fact that construction has been ongoing for three years rather than the anticipated one year, membership levels and revenue at the Fresno Metropolitan Museum have barely dropped.

Candace's presentation can be viewed here as a PDF.

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