It has long been recognised that members are an important part of any cultural and not-for-profit organisation as they are loyal supporters of the institution, they support financially through member fees, donations and bequests. They are also key advocates, often having a long-term relationship with the institution and are passionate about it. Most institutions have long had some form of membership scheme, often spanning long time periods, for example, in the UK the first recorded friends group dates from 1909 at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge (Slater, 2004). Slater also noted the steady increase in membership organisations in the UK since the 1970s, with around 3.5 million memberships held in the UK in 2004.
Simon (2007) discussed the importance of graduating members to donor member, bequest, and influencer status, stating that “… museums can make the relationship between members and donors clearer by giving members an option to elect (partially) what their membership fee supports”, therefore not only transferring the ‘value’ of admission from one of experience cost into an exercise in donation, but also “… generating data about new members interests, which can then be cultivated with targeted marketing of programs and giving campaigns”.
During 2015 the Australian National Maritime Museum embarked on a large study of members, both current and lapsed, in order to identify any problems and issues and take remedial action were necessary. A subsequent paper (Kelly and Varga, 2016) published in the Museums Galleries Australia Magazine reported on findings from this study, as well as key points from the literature around membership programs in cultural institutions.
Now, in 2018 we will be presenting a session at Culture Business, Canberra around how cultural institutions and the performing arts are working with members, “friends of” or subscribers to enhance and support foundation and/or philanthropic initiatives.
In order to get a snapshot of what’s happening n the sector we have an online survey. Findings will be presented first at the conference, with feedback compiled in an Outcomes Report, and all those that complete a valid survey and provide an email address will receive a copy of the report.
So, please go ahead and complete the survey here (by COB 16 November), or feel free to share this with your colleagues.
Thanks in advance and we hope to see you at Culture Business 2018 – the program looks amazing!
References / further readings
- Dilenschneider, C. (2016). Mission Motivated vs Transaction Motivated Members: What Your Cultural Organisation Needs to Know. Know Your Own Bone blogpost
- Kelly, L. and Varga, D. (2016). When museum members become good friends. Museums Galleries Australia Magazine, 250(3), 40-43.
- Simon, N. (2007). Rethinking Membership: What Does it Mean to Belong to a Museum? Museum 2.0 blogpost:
- Slater, A. (2003) Users or supporters? Understanding motivations and behaviours of museum members. Curator: The Museum Journal, 46 (2) pp. 182-207.
- Slater, A. (2004). Revisiting membership scheme typologies in museums and galleries International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing, 9(3) pp. 238–260.