The pandemic is prompting changes throughout museums and history organizations, including the processing of deeds of gift for collection acquisitions. It is the muddy stretch of the road. I’d prepare two deeds of gift, use sticky notes to show where to sign, attach a cover sheet asking the donor to sign both copies and return one to the museum, and enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope to encourage a quick response. Finally, you drop the packet in the mail and hope to hear from the donor soon. Otherwise, it entailed more follow-up that could take weeks, sometimes months, to complete. Meanwhile, the new acquisition stared at you from the shelves in limbo every time you walked into storage.
To streamline the process, the San Diego History Center recently adopted DocuSign, an online service that allows documents to be signed and returned quickly. No need for scanning signatures or using a mouse to write out an illegible name. DocuSign uses your name to craft a “signature” in a script typeface. I recently completed a house sale using DocuSign and sailed through piles of paperwork with ease.
Pricing for DocuSign ranges from $120 to $300 annually with a free 30-day trial, and there are other companies who offer similar services. History organizations could use the service for other tasks, such as signing contracts with vendors or agreements with new staff. I recognize the fee adds to the expenses of small organizations, but also consider the cost of the time to process paperwork and the delays that stifle projects. If anyone has used a similar online service, please share your experiences in the comments below.