Benchmark Your Museum’s Performance–Free!

Wondering how your museum or historic site is performing compared to others?  Is your admission fee to high or too low?  Is your membership retention rate better than average?  Do similar organizations have the same size staff?  Do you need credible data to make your case for your museum’s needs to your board, members, or city council?

Sample benchmarking chart in PowerPoint.

It’s nearly impossible to find these answers unless you buy an industry-wide survey (usually years out of date) or are part of an informal network committed to sharing data.  But help has come, and it’s free (mostly).  The American Association of Museums has moved and expanded its Museum Financial Information survey to a secure online tool, Museum Benchmarking Online (MBO) (  MBO is a quick, easy way to support your cause and helps AAM better advocate for museums and historic sites across the nation.

Go to for details, including a list of the data being collected, a checklist of the documents you’ll need to assemble, a video introduction to the system and highlights of its benchmarking capabilities. The great news is that you do not need to pay or be an AAM member to enter your museum’s or historic site’s data.  Museums that contribute data to the system always have access to their own numbers, so MBO can also serve as secure storage for data that may be scattered among different reports and different staff members at a given museum. AAM will be producing a short report on data collected to date after October 31 and a more detailed report after December 31. This is intended primarily for advocacy purposes and will be available on the AAM website. Data contributors will also receive a direct link to the report. It won’t be as detailed as the old Museum Financial Information reports, however; museums that want that level of detail (and more!) should subscribe to MBO.  Paid subscribers have access to powerful comparison and reporting tools, including nine standard reports produced as PowerPoint slides with your organization’s position highlighted. Wow!

AAM is encouraging participation by as many people as possible by October 31 (that’s next week!).  They’d like to consolidate and analyze the results so they can begin to share field-wide information with policymakers and other stakeholders. So gather up your latest annual reports to participate and if you have questions, contact