One of the basic ways to raise funds for museums and historic sites is through membership. It’s particularly valuable because those funds are unrestricted and pay for utilities, insurance, office supplies, maintenance, and yes, even salaries–those essential expenses that usually don’t excite donors. We hope that most members will renew, thus increasing revenue while maintaining expenses, and a few will become more engaged and eventually become donors who contribute the funds that really make a difference.
On the other hand, membership programs are a continual management challenge for non-profit organizations. The expense of maintaining a basic membership rarely covers the cost of administration (the printing and mailing of member newsletters, membership cards, and renewal notices). Complicating matters is that it doesn’t seem that people want to be “joiners” any longer–membership in all types of organizations, including unions, service clubs, professional associations, political parties, churches, and even bowling leagues has fallen. If the membership piece of the pyramid is getting smaller, that means the number of donors will fall as well.
Museums and museum associations are rethinking membership to overcome these challenges by exploring some new directions and possibilities, including:
1. Enlarging the pool of potential members (and other supporters). Begin with a preliminary step of gathering contact information for as many potential supporters as possible. Some may become members who pay annual dues, others will pay admission to attend events, and some will support a cause with money, time, or talent. The Dallas Museum of Art went so far as to Continue reading