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.

1 comment:

  1. Such an interesting article, I've really enjoyed reading this article! Thanks for sharing. I've recently discovered Tony Charalambides fundraising blog - you should check it out!