The end of the calendar year is a busy time for arts and cultural organizations, especially visitor- and family-friendly destinations like museums. A high level of end-of-year activity affects not only museum admissions and programming, but also extends to the Membership department, where holiday good-cheer (and inevitable cabin fever) can help drive membership sales in December.
As the end of 2022 approaches, museum Membership departments are to finish the year out strong. Museums had to get creative to keep members engaged during shutdowns in 2020 and 2021 – online programming, targeted outreach efforts, and generous friends helped keep institutions solvent. The current challenge facing many museums is how to keep those new and renewing members engaged.
Last month Adage attended a panel discussion about year-end Membership drives, hosted by Cuseum, to get a feel for what museums have planned this holiday season. The program highlighted membership strategies at The San Diego Natural History Museum, Rochester Museum & Science Center, Kalamazoo Nature Center, and the South Street Seaport Museum.
Here are a few more highlights from the panel regarding end-of-year Membership and giving:
- For members who typically renew at the end of the year, they are likely receiving both their membership renewal and an end-of-year donation-ask simultaneously. Personalize your mailings to ensure you’re asking for the right amount at the right time without overwhelming your patrons.
- Membership departments are so busy at the end of the year, and one panelist recommended cutting back on other museum events in order to focus on customer service and stewardship.
- On the flip side of the point above, some panelists noted that end-of-year is a great time to offer member-only events. Kalamazoo Nature Center recently hosted a member thank you event in-person for the first time in two years, and attendees were excited to gather in person again.
- Giving Tuesday, a national day of philanthropy, on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, was a major topic of discussion for the panel. One panelist noted that some of her museum’s donors wait to give on that specific day, so she felt compelled to participate in the effort. However, with so many organizations participating, it can be hard to get noticed. One panelist suggested folding in #givingtuesday with existing end-of-year campaigns to ensure a consistent message without spending dedicated resources.
As 2022 comes to a close, arts and culture organizations are continually finding ways to adapt to the changing needs, growing audiences, and new opportunities. The past few years presented many unexpected challenges, however those who continued to engage their communities were able to navigate difficult times. The Adage team looks forward to hearing more great ideas and strategies from the arts and cultural sector in 2023.
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