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Does your museum run a membership scheme – or are you considering starting one to boost your revenue and profile? Kerrie Fuller, an experienced membership consultant, has written some top tips to help your museum membership scheme be a success!
Creating a membership scheme as a fundraising strategy for a museum is very common but they can be tough to create and administer. Membership has a high cost proportion meaning that perhaps as much as 50% of your membership income will leave the Museum in order to meet the costs of servicing members (cards, packs, magazines etc.)
However, if positioned correctly, membership can provide a great tool for engaging multiple audiences, widening the appeal of other fundraising and income generating activity. Here are five top tips to consider for your scheme:
1: Define what makes YOU different and focus your scheme around this
Your Museum collection is what makes you special and different from any other Museum. In essence, each audience group, whether visitors, members, sponsors or school children interact with you because of your collection.
In order to undertake a Value Proposition exercise, you need to establish the strengths or unique selling points (USP) of your collection. Is it the largest? Oldest? Most comprehensive? Contains only one of an item in the world? Use these answers to understand how you are going to treat your audiences differently i.e. what is a member going to get that is better than a non-member? Are they going to get access to events first? At a cheaper rate? Attend members-only events behind the scenes?
Your first task is to be clear what VALUE you give to your members above other audience groups – they need to be differentiated. This value is what you are going to communicate in your marketing messages to recruit new members.
2: Appreciate the bigger picture and measure its success across the Museum
Membership is just one income stream for your museum but it can be used to market other activities both fundraising related and commercial. Your members magazine can be used to market legacy giving, events and volunteering opportunities as well as your shop or even venue hire.
We tend to measure membership scheme success in terms of numbers recruited and retained but this is a mistake when it comes to museums. You should be capturing all your engagement points across the museum so that you can see where membership overlaps all the other points.
You can then show that members are more likely to volunteer, attend events or leave legacies which shows a higher value than just a one-off donation. Engagement is the most important thing to measure.
3: Create clear sub-brands that appeal across audiences and market accordingly
Branding is really important for your membership scheme as members need to recognize it within the Museum’s overall brand. If your scheme is aimed at an audience that are a specific demographic, then your branding needs to appeal to that group. Having a sub-brand for membership can help to do this. It will compliment the Museum brand but appeal to a new audience. Look at how BBC 1, 2, 3 and 4 all have different visual identities for each audience they appeal to.
Once you have a clear brand for your scheme, it needs to be used to full effect in your recruitment marketing. Your visitors are an obvious audience for marketing but don’t forget gift memberships and referral schemes. Use the data that you ask members when they join (how did you hear about our scheme?) to understand your best channels for success. Remember that you are marketing the VALUE that you are giving to members.
4: Give members a reason to visit time and time again
If your typical member only visits once a year (or less) then you need to look at how you can create an environment that gives members good reason to visit more. Are you putting on seasonal exhibitions of interest? Do you have a great event calendar for members? If members join you because they love your collection, then giving them more access to the collection is the easiest way to get them to visit you. You don’t have to hold ‘member’s only’ events – often allowing entry to events for non-members is a great way for them to see the value of membership first hand!
5: Tell members how they are helping your collection – communication is key
But for every member that visits you regularly, there will be those that can’t; often because they physically live too far from your museum. For this group, communication is key – whether via email or print. A key retention activity is to remind your members how their fee helps support the collection so your communications need to be FULL of these examples. You can never thank your members enough.
Kerrie has worked in membership for over 12 years in a variety of membership organisations including the RAF Museum. She is now a membership consultant and offers a concept called micro-consulting to arts charities that need advice and support by the hour. She is a Fellow of the Society of Association and Membership Professionals.