Monday, 26 January 2015

Museums: Engagement for Fundraising

By Paul Born, President, Tamarack,  An Institute for Community Engagement

A museum is a valuable community asset and deserves financial support. Good engagement strategies can make fundraising far more effective.


Molly led a small regional museum promoting local history. The majority of her staff were volunteers. Molly raised most of their funds through applying for small grants and through special events fundraising like bake sales and their annual Mardi Gras night.

After taking a fundraising seminar Molly came to understand the process of identifying her prospects, engaging potential major donors, building relationships, and gradually building a case to support her position. It took some time but Molly slowly started to research the people already involved in her organization, and garnered the courage to ask them to identify others who might be interested in supporting their work. The volunteers were especially useful.

Molly had a big breakthrough when a regular museum visitor heard from one of the volunteers that they were raising money. After several visits together this person donated $10,000 to their campaign. It was a fine start and lifted the confidence of everyone involved.

Top five ideas to consider:

1. Access and information: To get donations, people need to be informed of your service, and you need the ability to send the information to them. When meeting someone new, be it a new member, visitor to your museum, or just buying a ticket to a fundraiser, always get their e-mail address and permission to send them your newsletter and special announcements. Be creative and relentless in this pursuit.

2. Be intentional: Create a prospective donors list. This is how we identify our potential partners. We create intent.  Next, do your homework on that individual or company- what are their interests, goals, views, etc.?  Third, pay them a visit. Not to ask for money, but to build the relationship. Once a relationship is established, asking for money is much easier and the reception is generally far more positive.

3. Deepen relationships: Identify prospective donors through your activity lists. Consider people you are already connected with through your newsletter or memberships lists, or those who attend your events. Another simple way is to look at donor thank-you pages and lists published by other organizations.

4. Take the time: stop thinking about raising funds and instead take the time to build a relationship. Engagement does the work of building members into donors. Once people are engaged you can ask for their help, and as your ‘friend’, they will most often be agreeable.

5. Engagement is not only the role for one worker in a museum. It is a way of thinking and acting for an entire organization.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Changing How We Work: The AMA Community Engagement Initiative and Cross Sector Engagement

By Jennifer Forsyth, Advancement Lead, Alberta Museums Association

For nearly three years, the Alberta Museums Association (AMA) has been undertaking an initiative focussed around community engagement. The Community Engagement Initiative (CEI) grew out of many conversations between the AMA and its stakeholders, the engaging work AMA members are doing within their communities, and an understanding about the importance of creating meaningful connections. Firmly rooted in the AMA’s Strategic Framework, this initiative was comprised of three goals: to foster a true understanding of community engagement; to build capacity for leadership opportunities; and to provide tools, resources, and connections to assist members in undertaking related projects.

As we set out to undertake the Community Engagement Initiative, the AMA connected with Tamarack Institute for Community Engagement’s  President, Paul Born. Paul’s work does not focus specifically on museums; his work is with organizations and communities. He guides groups in creating meaningful connections, so they may better address community issues. Through Paul’s mentorship, we began to develop a theory of change. We asked ourselves:

Who are we now?
What is our current state?
What kind of change do we want to happen?
How do we want that change to occur?

Members of the AMA Secretariat continued to learn through Tamarack, attending learning events, webinars, and engaging with diverse communities of practice. At these events we were repeatedly asked: Why museums? How can museums help address social issues? These questions led us to ponder not just how museums can help, but what our role is as a Provincial Museums Association. While the AMA is provincial in scope, we do not work directly with Alberta’s communities, but rather as a support organization, in the service of our members. At the core of this work is the strong belief that if museums are connected with their communities, and engaged in socially responsible work, they will maintain relevancy and be increasingly resilient in unstable times.

As a leader in the museum community, the AMA needs to actively model community engagement principles. This initiative has allowed us to realize that in order to enact the change we as a sector want to see, our members need to learn with us, rather than from us. This is new and exciting territory, and it is neither easy nor simple. The upcoming Future Coalition Summit is our launching pad for this innovative and exhilarating movement. It will bring diverse voices to a conversation that builds on the work we have already accomplished, and guide us toward unfamiliar territory and the possibilities of deep engagement with new stakeholders.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of Alberta Museums Association INFOrm. 

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Future Coalition Summit Program Now Available

Program details for the Future Coalition Summit happening February 7, 2015 at Grant MacEwan University are now available at  

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Social Responsibility and Cross Sector Engagement

The Alberta Museums Association was pleased to have Doug Worts, Culture and Sustainability Specialist, WorldViews Consulting; Peter Faid, Principal, Community Services Consulting Ltd.; and Leah Best, Executive Director, Touchstones Nelson: Museum of Art and History as panel speakers at AMA Conference 2014: Accelerating Museum Impact.

Social Responsibility and Cross Sector Engagement: Part 1 of 3
Doug Worts

Social Responsibility and Cross Sector Engagement: Part 2 of 3
Peter Faid

Social Responsibility and Cross Sector Engagement: Part 3 of 3
Leah Best

Presented at the Alberta Museums Association 2014 Conference: Accelerating Museum Impact, Calgary, AB, September 12, 2014.