I’ve long been a fan of developing clear measures of success or metrics in planning. Too often, though, boards and staff at historic sites only use total attendance or the financial bottom line to judge their success. Certainly, having no visitors is not a good sign, but is a large number of visitors a mark of success? Not necessarily, because high attendance may be due many factors, including some that may have nothing to do with advancing your mission in a significant manner, such as weddings rentals or dog walkers or corporate retreats. I’m not knocking those activities and they may be an essential part of your programming, however, what I’ve most often heard at board meetings are conversations like this:
Board chair: I heard we did well last month. What was our attendance?
Director: We had 2,500 visitors in March, double what we had in February.
Boardmembers (in unison): Wow, that’s great!
Director: And looking at the guestbook, we had people from 14 different states and 3 foreign countries, including Latvia.
Board chair: This must be a record for us. Okay, let’s have the financial report–looks like the bottom line is positive. Is there a motion to accept?
Don’t assume this only happens at the local historic house museum–it happens at the big ones as well. As I’ve often said, Continue reading