If a well-managed museum has robust programming, a large endowment, and a profitable gift shop, should they still rely on contributions and grants? Often regarded as a fundraising burden to reduce or eliminate, instead we might want to consider these revenue sources as one of the best ways to sustain and expand an institution. Sixty-six percent of History-Focused Organizations [Museums (NTEE A50), History Museums (A54), History Organizations (A80), and Historical Societies & Historic Preservation (A82)] depend on contributions and grants for at least half of their annual revenue and nearly forty percent rely on contributions and grants for more than three-quarters of their revenue (see Figure 1 below).
To maximize revenue, museums must navigate fundraising in the present and future. Understanding the donor and engagement pyramids simplifies fundraising and ensures focus. Small history-focused organizations, in particular, must invest their limited bandwidth strategically to achieve success.
According to data from the U. S. Department of Commerce, museums, historic sites, and similar institutions are climbing out of the 2008 recession but it’s been slow and rocky. For 2009, quarterly revenues averaged $2.6 billon and for 2013 it grew to an average of $2.9 billion per quarter. The overall upward trend is slow (red line in chart) but each passing year has improved. Annual revenues have grown from 1 percent in 2010 to 7 percent in 2013 when compared to the previous year. On a quarterly basis, however, it is a very rocky road. Within a single year, revenues fluctuated 18 to 38 percent, suggesting that whilerevenues are looking better over the long run, in the short run Continue reading →