Professional development (aka staff training) is one of the key elements for developing capacity at house museums and historic sites, but it’s often considered a luxury because of the cost. This month, for example, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Preservation Maryland, and Historic Annapolis are hosting a two-day workshop, “Preservation Leadership Training: Invitation to Evolve” on September 8-9, 2016 in Annapolis, Maryland and next week, the American Association for State and Local History and Michigan Museums Association are hosting their conference, “The Spirit of Rebirth” in Detroit, Michigan. Both demonstrate the continuing trend of partnerships among organizations to provide professional development to increase attendance, reduce expenses, and improve the quality. I’m not sure if others do this, but I can only commit to two conferences per year: one is always AASLH and the other rotates among one of the other organizations where I’m a member.
As part of my year-end giving, I decided to join four different history organizations (one historic site, three historic preservation organizations). I support the mission of every organization I joined–there’s no attempt to embarrass them here–but I also wanted to see how a new member and unsolicited gift was received. In this tight economy, every organization seems to placing a great emphasis on growing membership and support, so it’s useful to learn what others are doing. Admittedly, this is just a limited experiment, but for each one I downloaded their membership forms from their websites, filled it out, and then sent it in with a check for the basic individual membership level all on the same day in mid December. So far, I received responses from three of the four organizations (and they arrived about a day apart) and here’s how they compared: Continue reading →