The Four 'R's of Brand Credibility for Nonprofit Organizations

When it comes to inspiring engagement, there are four criteria essential to creating and maintaining meaningful connections with potential Read more

The Game Has Changed: Nonprofits Now Compete with For-Profits (DATA)

An organization’s nonprofit status may carry neither the perceptual weight nor the relevance that many leadership teams imagine…and nonprofits Read more

Three New Pricing Realities For Visitor-Serving Nonprofits in The 21st Century (DATA)

Want to keep moving your mission moving forward and your doors open? It’s time to end the debate on Read more

The Critical Role of Reputation in Nonprofit Success (DATA)

A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do Read more

Most Popular Posts of 2014 for Museums and Nonprofits

What a year! From the strategic evolution of nonprofit organizations to marketing channel efficacy to the need for millennial Read more

How Nonprofits Use Language as a Barrier to Progress

Want to be a relevant, digitally engaging, and future-facing organization? You may be starting out on the wrong track. Read more


High Propensity Visitors: The True Attributes of People Attending Museums and Cultural Centers (DATA)

High Propensity Visitors IMPACTS

High propensity visitors (HPVs) are the lifeblood of a visitor-serving organization – they keep the doors open for zoos, aquariums, museums, theaters, symphonies, botanical gardens, etc. – and, accordingly, I talk about them frequently both on Know Your Own Bone and during speaking engagements. But what are some of the attributes that indicate a likelihood of visiting these organizations? Data indicates several prominent attributes of high propensity visitors…and I am thrilled to dig a bit deeper in sharing some qualities of the HPV.  

What is a high propensity visitor and why are they important?

A high propensity visitor is a person who demonstrates the demographic, psychographic, and behavioral attributes that tend indicate an increased likelihood of visiting a visitor-serving organization. Research both identifies and “weighs” the respective value of these (demographic, psychographic, and behavioral) markers to quantify these attributes that best suggest a propensity to visit. In a nutshell, these are the people with whom your organization’s “bread is buttered.” These folks are absolutely the most critical audience for both immediate and long-term solvency for your visitor-serving organization.

Think data is only good for telling us “Information 101” like gender, ethnicity, household income, and education level? Or that when I describe an HPV, I am imagining some makeup of these largely demographic statistics (i.e. “An HPV is a white woman between 35-54 with an annual household income greater than $65,000?”) Think again. While certain organizations may have a “prototype visitor” that is this cut-and-dry, this type of segmentation is far, far too oversimplified to truly convey meaningful information about your HPVs. In actuality, this demographic information teams up with psychographic and behavioral information to paint a more accurate, complete portrait of the characteristics that indicate your likely visitors.

While acknowledging that there are multiple indicators of an HPV and that, at times, the specific make up of an HPV differs from entity to entity, the following five attributes are generally reliable across the board:

1. High propensity visitors are super connected

super connected 3HPVs have broadband access at home, work, and on at least one mobile device. In fact, these folks acquire information regarding leisure activities almost exclusively via web, social media, and peer review (i.e. Yelp, TripAdvisor) platforms – further underscoring the importance of investing in web-based communications for visitor-serving organizations. HPVs are approximately 2.5x more likely to be “super-connected” than the U.S. composite market.

2. High propensity visitors are pet owners

pet ownerThe people visiting your organization have a higher likelihood than the general population of being a pet owner.  They are also 12x more likely than the general population to own a horse for leisure/hobby (amateur) use. Put another way, not all HPVs own a horse…but those who own horses have a particularly high likelihood of being the kind of person who visits zoos, aquariums, museums, and music and theater performances. HPVs are approximately 2x more likely to be pet owners than the U.S. composite market.


3. High propensity visitors are foodies

foodieWe know that the perception of a critical mass of opportunity (such as access to unique shopping, urban waterfront, etc.) plays a role in motivating leisure activities – but for HPVs, access to good food also plays an important role. HPVs are leisure-travel motivated for fine dining and wine experiences. They also have daily food and beverage spending of $72.43 a day per capita. HPVs are approximately 2.5x more likely to be “foodies” than the U.S. composite market.


4. High propensity visitors are foreign travelers for leisure purposes

foreign travelThis is a big one. Folks who invest in foreign travel for leisure purposes have a very high likelihood of also being the same people who visit cultural centers. This is perhaps a very important consideration when endeavoring to understand the extreme competition for HPVs – for many museums, you are not merely competing with baseball games and movies for your audience.  HPVs are literally considering the world as it contemplates its leisure investments. The most popular destinations for HPVs include Europe and British Columbia (often, for skiing). Their average length of stay during foreign travel is six nights.  HPVs are approximately 6x more likely to be foreign travelers for leisure than the U.S. composite market. 


5. High propensity visitors are low intensity outdoor activists

HikingPeople who hike, ski, or golf  are also more likely to profile as the type of person to attend a visitor-serving organization or cultural performance. HPVs are approximately 3x more likely to be low intensity outdoor activists than the U.S. composite market.


Understanding these items helps organizations engage audiences

When we look at data and consider market trends, we pay special attention to the evolving behaviors, attitudes, and demographics of high propensity visitors. This information can help us market to folks with the greatest likelihood of visiting cultural centers, and also create programs and experiences that are most satisfying to these individuals. These are the people who reliably keep our doors open with their attendance, and also have tremendous opportunity to deepen their engagement with our organizations as members and donors.

Thinking of your visitors in terms beyond their demographics lends invaluable insight to our understanding of our audiences.  HPVs are the leading empirical indicator of the audiences that we are serving, and the people with whom we are best engaging.


Interested in getting blog posts, tips, and some silly social media geekery periodically delivered in your Facebook newsfeed? Like my Facebook page (or ) Or for more regular sharing of nonprofit marketing information, follow me on Twitter

Photo credits: JapanPulse

Posted on by colleendilen in Big ideas, Branding, Community Engagement, Management, Marketing, Museums, Nonprofit Marketing, Nonprofits, Public Management, Social Media, Words of Wisdom Leave a comment

Entertainment vs Education: How Your Audience Really Rates The Museum Experience (DATA)

museum experience flickr

When considering the overall satisfaction of visitor-serving organization (VSO) attendees, data indicate that not all aspects of the experience are created equally. In fact, the individual components that collectively comprise a visitor’s onsite experience may run counter to many VSO’s differentiation and engagement strategies. In terms of maximizing visitor satisfaction, VSOs may not truly understand “where their bread is buttered,” and this misunderstanding may result in serious financial repercussions.

IMPACTS gathers data to inform the development of key performance indicators concerning 224 visitor-serving organizations (zoos, aquariums, museums, theaters, symphonies, etc.). One of the key performance indicators that we regularly quantify for specific organizations is “overall satisfaction.”  Overall satisfaction is a composite metric (i.e. a metric informed by a multiplicity of data inputs yielding a single output) that contemplates 10 source evaluation criteria (e.g. employee courtesy, admission value, retail, etc.)

In developing the overall satisfaction metric, IMPACTS doesn’t weight each evaluation criteria equally because the market isn’t influenced by each criterion equally. As indicated in the table below, the market determines the “weight” of individual criteria based on each criterion’s relative contribution to the visitor’s perception of overall satisfaction.  (The formula to calculate the respective weight of any individual criteria contemplates such factors as frequency of mention and strength of conviction.  The overall satisfaction metric updates in “near real-time” based on the most contemporarily available data so as to accurately reflect seasonal influences on the visitor experience.)  Perhaps most interestingly, in my observation, the weight of any single evaluation criteria tends to vary very little between organizations.  In other words, please don’t make the mistake of assuming that your organization is somehow indemnified from the implications of this data because you’re a symphony…or an aquarium…or a museum.  The data simply doesn’t support any notion of “exemptions” for certain types of VSOs.

IMPACTS Overall satisfaction by weighted criteria

These weighted values may be used to inform resource allocations to maximize overall satisfaction (which data indicate are critical for securing positive word of mouth, repeat visitation, etc.). The values may also inform marketing strategies for museums so that they may best communicate the educational experiences that they…oh, wait…

Well, this is awkward.


1. Museums may overvalue educational assets as a differentiating factor positively contributing to visitor experience.

Unfortunately for many museums’ social missions, visitors indicate that the quality of an organization’s “educational experience” matters relatively little to overall satisfaction. Many of you may have – at some point or another – heard of/been involved with a museum leadership team that is convinced that it cannot fail because of the number of academic minds at the helm that are working to further the museum’s superstar educational opportunities. Regardless of the organization, I’ll bet that they are either strapped for cash and/or rely disproportionately on public funding or grant and contributed income – which means that in the world of “Museum Darwinism” (or heck, according to the plain old rules of economics), these museums may be at financial risk.

Data suggest that museums may not be looking in the mirror clearly when it comes to understanding the value of their educational assets. Will you be a successful organization (in terms of market relevance and long-term solvency) if your greatest experiential asset is your mastery of first-rate, dissertation-worthy, you-get-a-master’s-degree-equivalent-in-a-visit content? Sadly, no. The market is the ultimate arbiter of your organization’s success, and the data suggest that even the most educational VSO risks relevance if the experience isn’t entertaining…

Oy. I said the other “E”-word…


2. Deny being an entertaining entity at your own risk.

As nonprofit organizations with valuable social missions, we can get rather feisty when someone compares our entity to Disneyland…and museums aren’t Disneyland for all of the important reasons that drawing that comparison probably makes nonprofit stakeholders squirm. That said, the market attributes a higher value to “entertainment experience” than any other criteria – even the overall satisfaction summary (“sum of its parts”) metric!

Organizations that try too hard to promote education at the expense of providing an entertaining experience are truly missing the mark. Remember: your organization only has the opportunity to communicate what is important after the market dubs you relevant. If nobody wants to visit, then nobody is going to participate in the educational experience that you are trying so hard to perfect.


3. Education and entertainment are not mutually exclusive. Aim to be BOTH but understand how each aspect individually contributes to your reputational and experiential equities and strategize accordingly.

Knowledge is power, right? If you didn’t know it (or at least suspect it) already, you do now: the market at-large cares comparatively little about the super-specialness that is your educational experience. And that’s sad for museum leaders…but the weighted value of “entertainment experience” isn’t necessarily bad for museum leaders. The knowledge of this data may make VSOs more prepared to serve both functions effectively or, better yet, make educational experiences more entertaining.

The trick may be to understand the role that each of these aspects plays within the market – and what that means for your organization. On one hand, many VSOs are nonprofit organizations with a mission to educate and some research has shown that seeking an educational experience may justify a visit for some. However, the market considers “educational experience” a relatively small piece of the overall satisfaction puzzle when visitors actually have their onsite experience.

Considered collectively, I think that it may prove worthy to further parse the differences between motivation and justification.  I observe a compelling abundance of data that suggest that entertainment is the primary motivation for a visitor experience, whereas education is often cited post-visit as a justification for having visited.  In other words, all being equal, the public will often choose an experience with an educational component over “pure entertainment” – provided, of course, that all is actually equal!  Education will not compensate for a deficiency of entertainment.

Henry David Thoreau (a personal favorite who receives a hat tip for my blog title, Know Your Own Bone) advised, “When a dog runs at you, whistle for him.” The power of this data comes in embracing the findings rather than trying harder to deny them.  Let’s strive to be the most entertaining educational entities possible.

After all, who decided that “entertainment” was the enemy of “education” anyway?


*Photo (and cute kid) credit belongs to Flickr user Jon van Allen

Interested in getting blog posts, tips, and some silly social media geekery periodically delivered in your Facebook newsfeed? Like my Facebook page. Or for more regular sharing of nonprofit marketing information, follow me on Twitter!

Posted on by colleendilen in Branding, Community Engagement, Education, Exhibits, Marketing, Museums, Nonprofit Marketing, Nonprofits, Public Management 11 Comments

Web & Social Media Play Leading Role in Public’s Decision to Visit a Museum (STUDY)

Potential museum visitors access information about the organization and decide if they want to visit by using web-based sites such as a museum’s website, social media platforms, and peer-review sites over more “traditional” forms of advertising. In fact, when comparing how folks get their information about leisure activities, it’s not even close: web and mobile platforms (including social media) are disproportionately influencing your museum’s visitation and attendance.

The following data indicates how the American public accesses information in order to make visitation decisions regarding leisure activities – such as the decision to go to a visitor-serving organization. This data has been compiled by IMPACTS Research & Development (the company for which I work) based on information from the National Awareness, Attitudes & Usage Study  – the largest survey of the American public concerning visitor-serving organizations heretofore conducted in the United States. HPV stands for “high propensity visitor” and indicates persons in the United States with the demographic, psychographic and behavioral attributes typically suggestive of a likely visitor to a zoo, aquarium, museum, botanic garden, historic site, or other VSO.  In short, HPVs are high-potential museum-goers.

The categories above were determined by how the American public itself identified information channels and categories. Here’s an explanation of what they mean:

Web + mobile: This category refers not only to the organization’s web and mobile platforms (its “sovereign” content) but also information found on other websites – including mobile websites – that pertain to the information being sought regarding the VSO. For example, this would include information found on – but exclude the print edition of The New York Times as this information channel has been separately quantified within the “Newspapers (print)” category.

WOM: This stands for “word of mouth” and represents person-to-person testimonials and social media. Here, we are acceding to the market’s definition of WOM. The data indicates that they believe that social media functions as a form of testimony and/or endorsement (potentially both positive and negative). Since the market regards social media as a form of WOM, it has been so categorized accordingly.

Peer review web + mobile: This refers to TripAdvisor and Yelp (and the respective mobile web/apps for each), and other platforms with similar peer-reviewed content. “Peer review web + mobile” is considered separately from WOM because, again, this is consistent with the market’s perception and use of the informational channel. The market separately distinguishes social media and WOM from peer review sites because the former is perceived as “point-to-point/person-to-person” while the latter is perceived as a repository/aggregator. In other words, for people seeking information, WOM is a review meant for “my” consideration, while a peer review is meant for general consideration. One is personal; one is general.

For this very reason, strong WOM will generally outweigh a peer review on Yelp, TripAdvisor, or a similar peer review site. In other words, a person will generally be more likely to give consideration to a positive recommendation from a friend on Facebook than a one-star review from someone that they do not know on TripAdvisor. However, the reach of a peer review makes it functionally impossible to counter every negative peer review with a positive, first-person endorsement. It takes both attention to word of mouth marketing/social media AND peer review sites in order for an organization to maximize its endorsement opportunity.


Museums must prioritize web and social media…  and make sure they have adequate resources and support to manage online communities. When it comes to annual budgeting for marketing, many museums allocate “last year’s budget plus five percent” to the effort without assessing how methods of communication and accessing information have changed. Time and time again, organizations say, “we cannot afford to hire a full-time social media person.” All too often, these are the same organizations that think nothing of spending $40,000 per year for glossy brochures and collateral materials…which, data indicates, have 11.5x LESS value as an information channel than does word of mouth marketing and social media to high propensity visitors– and 7.8x LESS value as an information channel than peer review sites. Increasingly, organizations that experience visitor growth will be those that have social media and online community management support… Stunning how growth flatlines when nothing changes, isn’t it? (said with a smile). We see this all the time. Growth depends upon adjustment according to timely awareness, attitude, and usage data.

Museums cannot “buy” their way to prosperity (as they may have once thought more brochures meant more business). According to the Bass Model, the initial sale of something depends upon the number of people interested in a product (called the coefficient of innovation, or “P”). Advertising represents “P.” However, all other sales are based upon the number of folks drawn to the product after seeing friends use the product (Coefficient of imitation, or “Q”). Word of mouth marketing represents “Q.” According to IMPACTS data, “Q” (Word of mouth) is 12.85x that of “P”(Advertising). In other words, word of mouth marketing has 12.85x more power than traditional advertising. So, while who a person visits with matters more than what they visit, so too does word of mouth matter more than advertising. Of course, both advertising and WOM work together to maximize marketing opportunity. Advertising is not unimportant. However, no pragmatic amount of advertising can reliably overcome lousy WOM and not-so-great peer reviews.

Two points of clarity on the data so that it is not “used for wrong”: 1) The slide above is not intended to be an all-inclusive means of indicating information channels. Instead, it quantifies the relative proportion and influence of the indicated information channels when compared to one another. 2) The data indicates how HPVs and the total American population access information about VSOs and leisure activities in order to make visitation decisions. It does NOT intend to make budgeting recommendations or take into account how much money should mathematically be spent in each category (i.e.- 3.8x more for Travel magazines than printed brochures), though a good application of this data may be in considering an organization’s marketing and communications investment by media channel.

Posted on by colleendilen in Community Engagement, Management, Marketing, Museums, Nonprofit Marketing, Nonprofits, Public Management, Social Media, The Future 11 Comments

Evolutionary Biology and Human Psychology: A Case For Museum Donor Walls

Visitors at the Virginia Holocaust Museum admire the museum's Donor Wall

There are a few activities that I consider “must-dos” whenever I visit a museum, but my boyfriend (a huge trooper who has accompanied me to over 50 museums in the last four years) only has one thing that he cares to do during a visit: Check out the donor wall. In Seattle, I thought it was just to see if Jeff Bezos had given away any money yet (and his company eventually did). But Ian checks everywhere. While standing in front of the donor wall at the first 45 or so museums with him, I thought something like, “Yes, yes. The donor wall lends credibility to the museum.” But when the Bill Gates Giving Pledge was announced in August of this year, it changed the way that I think about the donor wall.

A donor wall with recognizable names does lend credibility to a museum, but research may suggest that displaying these names has a psychological effect on visitors that could likely boost fundraising capabilities. The museum’s donor wall, like the Bill Gates Giving Pledge, appeals to our human psychology and is right in line with evolutionary biology. It could just be the right tool to gradually increase long-term giving and awareness of social change needs.
While it’s not likely to make or break a museum’s fundraising efforts, let’s generally acknowledge the rather intuitive reasons why having a donor wall is a good idea. To begin with, it’s a public ‘thank you’ to donors that builds their reputations as philanthropists in the community– and we like it when donors are happy. Also (as I mention above), the donor wall lends credibility to the museum. Potential donors can say, “Wow. Recognizable-Person-XYZ donated to this organization. That person must have done their research and determined that this institution is worthy of funds. This means that the institution is worthy of my funds as well.” I think both of these reasons for the donor wall (public thanks and credibility) are valid. Here’s why they work so well and have the potential to contribute to a larger increase in societal giving:
1) Human beings follow actions of high-influence individuals. Chimpanzees follow the lead of experienced, high-status chimps when it comes to solving a problem or adapting a new behavior, studies find.  What’s interesting is that human beings ‘ attraction to prestige is taken as a given; they are trying to learn more about the chimps. It’s safe to say that Bill Gates is a high-influence individual. And if human beings naturally take cues from high-influence individuals, then society is taking the cue from Bill Gates that those who are capable should give a majority of their wealth to charity. Much like buying the newest Prada bag or flying a private jet to Paris for a dinner reservation, Gates’s cue makes it possible to collect bets on how soon we’ll be saying, “I wish I could be on the donor wall because that’s where high-influence individuals get listed” (and not even in museum-goer circles)!  Many don’t need to give a majority of their wealth to get on the donor wall, but it doesn’t hurt to have a power-player sending social cues to make folks want to.


2) Celebrity role models are “influential teachers.” Here’s a bummer: A University of Leicester study has found that celebrities like Angelina Jolie serve as more influential role-models for youngsters than famous figures from history- or even their friends and parents. Moreover, evolutionary biologists say that worshipping celebrities helps us live more successful lives because it helps facilitate social understanding. There’s fundraising potential, then, in taking a cue from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and revving up museum and nonprofit’s celebrity alignment. Enlisting celebrities with “influential teacher” impact  to draw attention to famous role models from history and their great achievements in museums? That sounds like a pretty resourceful and mission-driven marketing strategy to me. Even if these celebrities are not coming to your museum, the fact that they are publicaly supporting museums may have long term benefit for these kinds of institutions.


3) Acts of kindness are contagious. Harvard and UC- San Diego have just proven that people who benefit from kindness really do ‘pay it forward.‘  When somebody directly experiences an act of kindness, they pass along the act to somebody who was not originally involved, which cascades into a cooperation that involves dozens in a social network. Understanding this may prove beneficial to museum fundraisers. Very basically, showing that you’ve secured several donations may influence others– but there could be a lesson here in demonstrating how those donations have helped others. Or, more specifically, how those folks on the donor wall have impacted the visitor’s own experience. This is especially important because personal relationships with issues increase donations. Museums do this by thanking donors for contributing to one item in the collection. Showing that the museum is involved in this kind of network, and aiming to fundraise based on this principle of ‘paying it forward’ may have long-term benefits.


4) We are evolving into a “Survival of the Kindest” mindset. An article in Science Daily indicates that human beings are evolving into a species that places a significant value on kindness. We are drawn to others who demonstrate kindness and giving, and we are similarly compelled to demonstrate kindness ourselves. Moreover, as evolution takes place, we’re likely to evolve into increasingly giving and collaborative beings. We’re even attracted to mates based on their levels of kindness. The point here? Perhaps, in a way, the donor wall belongs in museums because it may come to trace the evolution of giving and of ourselves.


The direct benefits of donor walls are hard to measure, and no, they probably shouldn’t be the primary focus of a museum’s fundraising plan (or arguably, even close to it). But these walls are generally easy to maintain and may be a silent sidekick, slowly converting visitors into donors over time. Evolutionary biology and human psychology studies lead us to believe that these walls might be up to something- and if that something helps spread the mission of museums and nonprofits, then it seems like a darn good thing to keep around and up-to-date.


*Photo from the Virginia Holocaust Museum.
Posted on by colleendilen in Exhibits, Museums, Nonprofits, Social Change, The Future 21 Comments

Museum Accessibility: Are Museum Professionals Sending the Right Signals?

Getting this post via e-mail? Click here to see the video.

Check out this video above, which I discovered thanks to Jennifer Souers of MuseoBlogger. Whether you work in a museum or not, it’s sure to bring a little smile to your face– not a warm and cuddly, feel-good smile– but a it’s-funny-because-it’s-true kind of smile. But this little video gives museum professionals something interesting to think about as well.

Sometimes it takes somebody outside of our niche to show us how our tribe/institution/industry is perceived, and this video can provide some insight for folks working in museums and cultural nonprofit organizations. For better or worse, this video shows us how museums and museum professionals are perceived. We must ask ourselves: is this how we want our professions and institutions to be viewed?

Below are some red-flags that emerged for me while watching the video. I’ll call them ‘misconceptions,’ though it could be argued by some that these are not misconceptions at all. If museums are increasingly becoming places for community, let’s make it clear.  If we want folks to be sure these things are misconceptions of museum professionals then let’s do what we can to prove it.


Misconception #1: Museum professionals are nothing like normal people. Kim the cat says, “Chances are, the museum people who decide what gets to be put in the museum probably don’t have anything in common with you.” I laughed at this because museum professionals (administrators, scientists, exhibit designers, researchers) often try hard to be accessible to the public, despite their often-vast knowledge of very particular subjects. (High levels of education is what Kim seems to identify as the leading barrier between museum staff and visitor). It’s a funny statement, but it also means that museum professionals, despite their efforts, aren’t doing their jobs right because their professional backgrounds can create a disconnect. Building upon the growing sense of community that museums are currently nursing may improve this, as well as incorporating accessible and engaging on-site professionals that can tell a personal story or two. Lesson: If museum professionals want their displays to exhibit accessibility, then museum professionals must be accessible themselves.


Misconception #2: Museum professionals think visitors can’t handle context. Kim says,”Blank walls are good so that the visitors won’t have to deal with too much context or history.” There are some valid reasons why museum professionals keep the walls blank. For instance, to draw attention to the formal elements of the art. However, when a visitor comes across an object and little context is provided, it can produce a negative effect. As the video hints, one effect is the notion that museum professionals draw academic boundaries to make themselves and the objects they display inaccessible. Moreover, in the video Kim points out that museums tell the community what to think.  In this era of new technologies and social media, some museums are aiming to allow visitors to be their own curators. Lesson: In order to increase accessibility, museum professionals should provide enough context that visitors may draw their own conclusions and connect to the object in a meaningful way on their own.


Misconception #3: Museum professionals fuzzy up concepts such as value and importance in order to appear authoritative. The video does more than hint that it’s unclear how museum professionals determine importance and value in regard to museum exhibits (namely, deciding what goes into the museum and what stays out). Perhaps professionals are fuzzy in communicating this process because cultural gatekeeping isn’t completely understood on the whole. Kim simply advises museum professionals to use tidy and sharp labels, and only use language that sounds academic, “otherwise, the authority effect won’t be so convincing.” By including enough context, making scientists and historians personally accessible, and allowing visitors to draw their own conclusions in regard to objects, only some of this misconception could be corrected. Lesson: Museum professionals must be communicative in regards to the exhibit design and creation process by explaining decisions that affect how the ‘story’ is presented.


Misconception #4: The work of museum professionals is about the objects. This video talks a lot about object-worship, and introduces the museum as a place that houses important things. In some ways, this is true– but museums tend to be fueled by ideas, theories, symbols, and a greater notion of sparking and expanding education, rather than objects themselves. This misconception makes sense: museums take great care to preserve and display objects because of what the objects represent. To call a museum a place of things is right- but also wrong. Museums’ missions are most often about ideas, and the objects are meaningful symbols of important stories. Lesson: Museum professionals must emphasize the stories and lessons that objects symbolize or represent– rather than focus on the object itself, as that appears irrelevant (because it’s missing context).


Misconception #5: Museum professionals only care about the wealthy. If this isn’t a misconception, then it should be. Kim the cat says, “At first I thought there must be some law against having poor people on a museum’s Board of Trustees, but then later I found out that actually there isn’t any law like this. This is just the way they like to do it.” What’s missing here is an explanation: the Board often secures significant funding, and the wealthy attract other wealthy folks who can give to the museum and help keep its doors open. But with or without the explanation, it’s still a telling and jarringly true statement. Many museums are placing more focus on diversity, and are arguably gearing themselves away from a white, upper-middle class visitor and donor base. There’s a lot of work to be done (3 of 17 of the top 25 most visited museums in the US are run by men. Over half have PhDs indicating that many have similar academic backgrounds). Lesson: In order for museums to connect to communities, it may help to have a Board and staff that match the community demographic. Or rather, having an all-wealthy and homogeneous Board can be off-putting for visitors who do not fit that bill.


Misconception #6: Museum professionals are magical masters of time-freeze and corps display. Do museum people fight nature every day, as Kim states in the video? Maybe– and it’s probably not a terrible misconception either. Museum professionals certainly go above and beyond to preserve objects that tell important stories about culture and the world around us. However, this time-freezing becomes wrapped up in Kim’s little paper, “An illustration of how everything in a museum is something like a corpse.” Museums are certainly doing a great many things to remain relevant and to shatter the notion that museums are merely houses for old, irrelevant things. However, the old stereotype lives on. Lesson: Old habits die hard, and despite recent efforts, it will take a lot of collaboration, forward-thinking, and community engagement for museums to break away from past reputations.

But it will be well worth the effort.

Posted on by colleendilen in Uncategorized 3 Comments

The Contrasting Mindsets of Nonprofit and For-Profit Marketers

There’s generally a big difference between the skill sets of for-profit and nonprofit marketers. Quite simply, for-profit marketers aim to encourage people to buy. Nonprofit marketers encourage people to give– and those two things are pretty darn different, and these tasks often require contrasting skills and mindsets.

For-profit marketing is much more tried-and-true than nonprofit marketing and for some obvious reasons. Below are the circumstantial truths for-profit markets often rely upon in order to ensure success (or at least the likelihood of it).


In for-profit marketing, more often than not:

1. There is a set price for goods and services as determined by the market. For-profit companies set prices of goods and services relative to the supply and demand for a good. In other words, companies set prices at an equilibrium point where they can get the most amount of money for a good without losing business because the price is too high. Nonprofit donations, while they often tend to be tied to the health of the overall economy, do not have this set price (or a set “ask”). We can say, “It costs $125 to buy a costly college textbook for an aged-out foster youth,” but nonprofit marketers and fundraisers actually hope that individual donors give more money than that. In short, there is no fixed price to end individual transactions– making the transaction a tad more difficult to market in a traditional sense. Therefore, nonprofit marketing is often limited, as they cannot say “give us $100 dollars, and we will give you tangible good X.” … which leads us to point #2 below. By contrast, the amount of money pursued by nonprofit marketers depends upon knowledge of individual donors/donor base rather than market value of a good.


2. The actual goods are tangible and/or measurable: “I will give you product X for amount Y.” Often a private company is directly promoting a specific product or service (“buy this shampoo”), while a nonprofit organization aims to promote awareness of a social cause and through that, the organization’s individual programs (“alleviate homelessness by giving to our organization”). Because nonprofit outcomes are not always measurable, it creates a problem with the “X in exchange for Y” mentality that for-profit marketers bank upon when attracting customers. For instance, what’s the set price for curing cancer? Making a donation to a nonprofit organization means making a contribution to solving a bigger problem. It’s not a measurable, quick-fix exchange with customer satisfaction guaranteed. In fact, sometimes the donor doesn’t even directly benefit from the service provided by the organization– and even more contrary to for-profit marketer-mentality– that’s often the point. I would argue, however, that both sectors have the same aim when generally promoting their brand- but the promotion of the actual goods/services is different because what is being “sold” often cannot be quantified.  Nonprofit marketers must promote programs (often with unmeasurable social outcomes) through awareness of social causes.


3. Goods are purchased by a consumer, and for the consumer’s use. For-profit marketers can rely on the sexy concept of direct ownership which is a thing with extreme value in a capitalistic society. Take a look at traditional messages behind for-profit marketing campaigns: If you drink Gatorade, you could become an Olympic athlete. If you buy a BMW, you’ll be suave and sophisticated. Buy Proactiv, and you’ll have flawless skin like Jessica Simpson. Not even Wal-Mart’s roll-back prices platform translates directly to nonprofit organizations that aren’t selling consumer goods. Nonprofit marketing is different. Nonprofits are often tasked with marketing programs that benefit people who are not the donor. Of course, many nonprofits offer great perks and publicity for big donors, but that doesn’t often directly compensate for small-scale donations. Even folks donating to their own community centers face a free-rider problem that for-profit marketers don’t need to deal with in their message. Namely, even if you donate to an organization you participate in, the benefit you receive is still diluted among other community center users (the money doesn’t come directly back to you– see point #2). The key to nonprofit marketing? Telling stories, tugging heart-strings, making people care about something. Nonprofit marketers must appeal to donors by promoting goods/services that benefit people other than the donor alone.


4. One-way transactions are frequent- and they work. This section offers what I believe is the biggest fundamental difference between nonprofit and for-profit marketing: though it’s often the aim, for-profit marketers do not need to build personal relationships– often because it’s for-profit companies that sell things we need to buy like food and shelter. In fact, consumers would no doubt find it annoying to be very personally courted by their television, toilet paper, and fabric softener companies by name (how creepy). No doubt companies would invest more in building personal relationships if they could (and indeed, many do), but it would/does take a tremendous amount of resources on the part of the company. Thus, companies must prioritize– and, due to sector differences, for-profits and nonprofits prioritize these relationships differently. Most companies don’t need personal, two-way relationships in order for people to buy their products, and they can rely almost exclusively on building a trusted brand to make products and the company feel personal. In other words, for-profit marketers focus on one-way transactions; they state a price, and consumers buy the product at that price with minimal actual company interaction. Nonprofit marketers must also build a trusted brand, but conversation and relationship building are key to securing donors.  This difference lies at the very core of nonprofit verses for-profit marketing mentalities. To state it dramatically: a for-profit marketer will come off more like a used-car salesman if she or she  does not fully understand the way that relationship-building in nonprofits  function. Nonprofit marketers must facilitate two-way interaction between the organization and potential donors.


5. User experience with the good/service fuels repeat customers. Because consumers purchase a good or service from a for-profit company for their own use, the buyer is in a position to recall their experience with the brand and decide if they want to purchase the item/service again. In nonprofit organizations, donors are similarly more likely to give again if their first experience was a positive one. Considering that for-profit goods are usually measurable, for the user’s own purpose, and delivered for a set fee, a private company customer is in a position to buy again based on their perception of the good and how it meets their individual needs. Nonprofits must rely on the customer’s positive relationship with the organization (because the donor doesn’t always receive a tangible good that they can judge). What does this mean for the difference in nonprofit and for-profit marketing mentalities? For-profit marketers focus on the good. Nonprofit marketers focus on the cause and the relationship. Nonprofit marketers must think ahead of a one-time transactions, speak to bigger issues, and  put quality and care into two-way communications. In nonprofit organizations, experience with the organization fuels repeat donors.


Despite these differences, many similarities obviously still stand. Marketers in both sectors are promoters and benefit from being savvy in traditional marketing skills and methods (partnership, buying ads, tracking web stats, advertising, guerilla marketing, etc). While both nonprofit and for-profit marketers are promoters with the goal of enticing buyers/donors to award funds to an organization or company, the bottom line of what is being promoted is different, and thus the mentality and specific aims of these marketers must be different.

Many nonprofit marketers must be skilled in balancing both nonprofit and for-profit angles of marketing. Museum marketers and those working in other nonprofits earning commercial income from revenue-producing activity must be knowledgeable in both marketing skill sets. They are promoting both a social cause, as well as an excludable, rival good (like tickets to a nonprofit theater performance or museum entrance). Having a nonprofit marketing mentality certainly does not necessitate a lack-of for-profit marketing savvy and vice-versa. However, hiring managers should note– for the sake of their organizations– that the mentalities fueling both sectors are different in regard to marketing. If a marketing position requires knowledge of both types of marketing, then hire someone who can summon the proper skills set at the proper times. Resourceful marketing, after all, requires a strategic plan-of-attack. How wasteful it may be for a (previously successful) marketer with a for-profit background to step into a nonprofit organization and spend funds simply buying up excessive Facebook ads (one-way methods) when they should be on social media or connecting with potential donors in a more personal way (two-way methods).

Here’s a (maybe crazy) idea: as for-profit companies continue to evolve toward nonprofit-like practices and relationship-building increases in value to private companies, it just may be the nonprofiteers who are sought after for high-power for-profit positions across sectors.

Photo credits to (base image) and Hugh Macleod

Posted on by colleendilen in Branding, Community Engagement, Marketing, Museums, Nonprofits, Public Management, Words of Wisdom 1 Comment

Jeffrey Deitch and the Management-Trained Museum Director

Jeffrey Deitch will become the Director of MOCA on June 1, 2010. Photo from

Earlier this month, LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) announced their nontraditional pick for new museum director: Jeffrey Deitch, a (soon-to-be) former commercial gallery owner and experienced art dealer from New York City. What’s the big deal, you ask? This is the first time that an art dealer will run a major American museum, blurring the lines between commerce and culture and business and nonprofit practices. As New York Magazine put it quite simply, the appointment is a “game-changer” for the art world.

But this is a “game-changer” in the same way that paying Gates Foundation director, Jeff Raikes, a salary of $900,000 a year is a game changer: high executive compensation– like museums hiring business managers instead of academics to lead them– represents a necessary evolution of the nonprofit sector to certain stereotypically for-profit practices.

Even more importantly, the appointment represents art museums joining the rest of the museum world,  as many non-art museums already have business leaders running them.

Art museums are traditionally run by folks with significant academic backgrounds in art, and art museums are institutions in which substantive experts particularly shine. According to David Suarez, a professor of nonprofit management at the University of Southern California, in a relevant Nonprofit Quarterly publication, “Substantive experts are individuals who have a great deal of experience or training in specific disciplinary areas… Substantive experts are likely to pursue academic credentials… and management is secondary to their dedication to a field of expertise.”  The nonprofit world is full of substantive experts, but art museums provide environments that value academic expertise. It makes sense. — but is it really that unsettling for the art world to have Deitch (a successful businessman with an MBA) in a management position in a nonprofit organization? It shouldn’t be.

MOCA almost went bankrupt in 2008.  People are calling Deitch a risky choice. Nobody is talking about how appointing an academic who is fluent in the 1999 emergence of Stuckism with no formal management experience would have been much riskier.

Though amount of praise for the substantive expert may be a defining characteristic that sets art institutions apart from other museums, several of the top (non-art) museums in the country are run by leaders who toot educational backgrounds in management over academic disciplines. The Field Museum, California Science Center, and St. Louis Science Center are three of 2009s top 25 most-visited museums with management-trained leaders.  In short, art museums are catching up with the rest of the museum world by hiring a trained manager during a time when they need a trained manager.

Though Jeffrey Deitch has a significant background in art, his appointment may open the door for other art museums to break tradition and take on management-savvy leaders from other sectors. The MOCA appointment serves as a symbolic step for art museums; it’s a step off of an academic pedestal, and into the evolving museum world. Eli Broad, who was the chairman of the board at the time of the museum’s founding, helped pick Deitch as the new director. According to the New York Times, he said, “It’s time to redo the old museum model. The world has changed.” This quote needs clarification: It’s time to change the old art museum model. The world has changed.

Posted on by colleendilen in Arts, Leadership, Museums, Nonprofits, The Future 2 Comments

Popular iPhone Applications to Aid Museum Marketers


Just conducting a quick search on an iPhone app store reveals that folks weren’t joking: there really is an app for (absolutely) everything. Thus, it’s no surprise that cultural centers are actively tapping into ways to utilize iPhone apps. There seem to be discussions and brainstorms everywhere about the best ways for museums to do this.

But until your organization hooks up with an iPhone application developer so that you can pull a Smithsonian (or ‘pull a Brooklyn Museum‘, if you prefer) by creating your own iPhone application, don’t forget that there are many popular applications available right now that can help you to market your museum.

Ian is the cofounder of AppstoreHQ, a startup specializing in iPhone application search and discovery. As you can imagine, he has a good sense of which apps are high in demand. He was kind enough to give me a short tutorial on widely used iPhone applications, and upon hearing his thoughts (and piecing together my own knowledge of popular apps), I’ve uncovered three applications that present cool marketing opportunities for museums and cultural centers.



1) Foursquare: Reward your Mayor.

Whenever my boyfriend suggests a date night, I know exactly where we’ll go: for burritos at Machos Tacos and then to share a cupcake at Alcove. How do I know that we’ll do this? Because he is involved in a ferocious battle to maintain his mayorship on foursquare at these locations.

Foursquare allows users to “check in” as they visit locations throughout the city. There are several  badges that folks can receive when they check in at different places. For instance, a “School Night” badge is awarded when a person checks in someplace after 3:00 am on a school night, and a “Adventurer” has checked in at ten unique venues. Similarly, a user is named the mayor of a location when he or she has the most check-ins at that location. The app proves interesting because it plays into human loss aversion, as it can tweet when you’ve been ousted as mayor at one of your favorite places. A trip back to the venue may restore your mayorship, and thus this application often has it’s users maniacally rushing back to their favorite locations so that they can check in.

There’s a good chance that your cultural institution already has a mayor (check here). So what, you ask? Well, some businesses are already utilizing this mobile application as a cool marketing tool by offering discounts to their mayors to keep them coming back to claim and reclaim the title.   Museums and cultural centers might do well to follow this lead. Offer free admission for a guest, or a pair of tickets to an upcoming event to your mayor – and ask foursquare to post that information on the website.  Not only will you incite some competition for mayorship, but my boyfriend and I will most likely incorporate your institution to our weekly date nights.



2) Yowza!! Show your Goods (and Friendliness) in an Economic Recession

Yowza!! finds deals in a geographic area and displays them to users. If you offer 10% off at your museum shop, you’ll pop up as a good destination for deal-loving visitors… and attract a user who might have otherwise tried to find a birthday gift for their child at a place like Target. Museum shops have a lot of educational and fun items to offer! Could you buy astronaut ice cream or a Frank Lloyd Wright Art Glass Coloring Book at Target? I don’t think so. At a museum shop? You betcha.

Many of the offers featured on this application are arranged directly through Yowza!! Give it a shot and capture a few unique visitors who’ll appreciate your discount and discover that your museum shop is a great resource for educational toys and activities– and other generally cool items.



3) Urbanspoon: The Olive Garden… Morton’s… Corner Bakery… Museum Cafe?

I remember first hearing about Urbanspoon at the end of 2008 and it’s no surprise that this application is (and has been) a huge hit since then. The application allows you to find restaurants in your area by filtering price, neighborhood, and cuisine. Can’t decide where to go? Give your iPhone a shake and this application will randomly come up with a suggestion.

Because this application is widely used in urban areas, I was surprised to learn that only three museum cafes are listed in Chicago and even fewer are listed in Los Angeles! And it’s really easy to add your cafe to the application. So where’s the museum cafe love on Urbanspoon?!

There you have it: three (of many) applications that can be utilized to market museums and cultural centers. What have you got to lose? Developing a presence on these already popular applications won’t take much effort. Moreover, involvement is likely to increase attendance and aid your institution in evolving to meet the needs of an increasingly app-savvy community.

Please share any applications that you’ve found helpful and would like to add to the list!

Posted on by colleendilen in Community Engagement, Marketing, Museums, Social Media, Technology 1 Comment

Physical Interaction with Artwork in Museums: What is Appropriate and What Will Get You Fired

Amanda Mae, a gallery guard at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), claims she was “unceremoniously fired” last Thursday  after interacting with with a work of art that encourages interaction.

Art museums often have mission statements announcing their dedication to promoting an enthusiasm for human experience through art. In fact, the first line of the Seattle Art Museum’s own mission statement reads: “SAM provides a welcoming place for people to connect with art and to consider its relationship to their lives”  I think that the recent situation at SAM may force administrators in the museum to ask themselves where their mission draws the line; what distinguishes appropriate from inappropriate interactions with artwork in a museum setting?

The label on Yoko Ono’s interactive Painting to Hammer a Nail encourages visitors to physically interact with the artwork by inviting them to “pound a nail into this painting.” The first patron was supposedly encouraged by a museum staff member to pound the first nail, and since then museum visitors have been doing exactly that for the last month and a half. Individuals nailed business cards, ticket stubs, and other paper items to the wall of the museum. Feeling compelled by the artwork, Amanda Mae interacted with Ono (and the community’s) creation in her own way: by taking down some of the papers. This article nicely summarizes Mae’s actions:

Photo from Yoko Ono's "Painting to Hammer a Nail"

Photo from Yoko Ono's "Painting to Hammer a Nail"

“She worked at the museum, so she knew that the protocol was to pick up and save any papers that fell off in the course of new ones being hammered on, so as she removed papers she set them in piles (ticket stubs here, business cards there), intending to leave each pile like a gift at the base of the piece for the guards to carry off and put in the utility closet with all the others. She left the nails in their places. She called her installation Yoko Ono Excavation Survey, or Y.E.S.”

Amanda Mae’s actions were called vandalism and, according to The Stranger’s Online Blog (SLOG), the museum’s spokeswoman, Nicole Griffin, responded, “I can say that this is a work of art that’s hanging on the wall in our museum, and altering a work of art hanging on the wall of a museum is never really an okay thing to do.”

But wait. Wasn’t that the point of the piece: to alter the work of art hanging on the wall?

According to SLOG, The label on the piece reads as follows:

Painting to Hammer a Nail, 1961/2009
Painted wood panel with 42 -inch chain and container
with 1½- to 2-inch finishing nails
Yoko Ono
American (born in Japan), 1933
Collection of the artist

Museum visitors are invited to pound a nail into this painting. Like so much of the work in this exhibition, while the idea might at first seem a destructive, physically aggressive act against the accepted traditions of painting and museums in general, in the end the concept opens up new potentials for painting, and for bringing others besides the artist into the creative act.

Doesn’t Mae’s interaction with the artwork also bring her into the creative act? Well, according to the SLOG article, Griffin also said, “The intent of the piece does not include taking things away, only adding things.”

Though I do not condone Amanda Mae’s behavior, I don’t agree with the notion that “adding things” to a work of art is physical, and I’m not sure that Yoko’s label implies this either. Is taking something away not also, in a sense, “adding” to the interaction, history, and life of the artwork? It could be argued that Mae’s interaction with the piece (taking the papers down systematically and putting them in piles in a way that is conscious of her cultural role as a guard-  a person who is often a collector of stray items in the museum) is in a way more sincere than the actions of that first patron who may have been encouraged by a museum administrator to begin nailing items to the wall.

Photo from Yoko Ono's "Painting to Hammer a Nail" after community interaction.

Photo from Yoko Ono's "Painting to Hammer a Nail" after community interaction.

In the history of Yoko Ono’s Painting to Hammer a Nail at SAM, the “adding” that Griffin mentions may be seen as superficial, having been approved—and perhaps even encouraged– by a staff member. The “taking things away” was an unprompted human interaction (or even a reaction) to Yoko’s piece.

Despite these ideas, I don’t think firing Amanda Mae was necessarily an inappropriate decision. In fact, there’s word that she had already resigned before being fired. I don’t know her work ethic, how well she generally did her job as a guard, or anything of her history with the museum. The situation is further muddied by the fact that Mae was employed to guard the art– and as museum professionals know, when we sign up for these jobs, our roles within the museum change and we are no longer visitors (In other words, as paid employees, we understand that we do not play the same role as a visitor and that we have certain responsibilities). The fact that Mae is an artist within the community and incoming museum studies student also makes her interaction appear more smart-aleck-y and perhaps power-hungry than inspirational.

There are incredible opportunities for engagement stemming from this event, and I hope to see SAM actively play a role in community discussions and act on the controversy– especially as the SLOG article mentions that Mae’s friend, Lynn Schirmer, is trying to organize other artists reenact the conflict in order to test the museum’s response.

Yoko’s piece has reached a whole new level, begging questions about when and how it is appropriate to interact with art, and in what capacity. But, interestingly, it also brings up important questions about museums, their structure, formality, and to what extent they embrace their mission.

How far can museums go in providing “a welcoming place for people to connect with art and to consider its relationship to their lives” and where must museums draw the line? Most certainly this line must be drawn somewhere in order to guard the artwork.  But what does guarding artwork really mean for an interactive piece?  I am interested to learn how SAM handles this situation, and I have no doubt that, for better or worse, the museum’s actions will provide some insight to bigger questions about the role of museums in fostering interactions with interactive artwork.

Posted on by colleendilen in Arts, Community Engagement, Exhibits, Museums 7 Comments

10 Reasons to Visit a Museum

Photo from

Sue at the Field Museum in Chicago. Photo from

Museums, in this article, include art, history, and specialty museums, science centers, zoos, aquariums, botanic gardens, arboretums, nature centers, historic sites and similar institutions.


1.  Museums make you feel good

Times are tight in this economic climate, and it’s often easy to use a museum admission price as an excuse to stay at home. However, a recent study conducted by Harris Interactive finds that people are happier when they spend money on experiences rather than material purchases.  According to Leaf Van Boven, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at CU-Boulder,  experiences are shown to create more happiness than material goods because they provide positive personal reinterpretations over time. That is, as we revisit the memory of our trip to the museum, we have a tendency to psychologically weed out any negative memories (should there be any). Experiences, such as visiting a museum, can also become a meaningful part of ones identity and contribute to successful social relationships in a manner that material items cannot. So consider foregoing an outing for items that you may not need; going to the museum will make you happier in the long run.


2.  Museums make you smarter

There is no doubt that a primary role of museums is to engage and educate the community.  Museum exhibits inspire interest in an area of study, item, time period, or an idea– but there’s more going on in museums in regard to education than one might think. Schools rely heavily on museums to enhance the their curriculum. The New York Museum Education Act, for example, aims to create a partnership between schools and cultural institutions to prepare students for the 21st century.  Galleries are becoming classrooms, and not just for kids. Even the museums themselves have interesting histories to inspire and educate visitors. It becomes nearly impossible to exit a museum without having gained any information or insight during your visit.


3.  Museums provide an effective way of learning

Museums are examples of informal learning environments, which means they are devoted primarily to informal education — a lifelong process whereby individuals acquire attitudes, values, skills and knowledge from daily experience and the educative influences and resources in his or her environment. Even outside of museums, informal learning plays a pivotal role in how we take in the world around us. In fact, The U.S. Department of Labor estimates 70% or more of work-related learning occurs outside formal training.  A single visit to a museum can expose visitors to in-depth information on a subject, and the nature of the museum environment is one in which you can spend as much or as little time as you like exploring exhibits. The environment allows you to form your own unique experiences and take away information that interests you. Despite the success that museums have already had in educating visitors, there continue to be ongoing discussions among institutions in regard to increasing museums’ ability to connect through informal learning.


4.  Museums are community centers

Museums are a lot more than collections of artifacts; they allow you to meet with neighbors, discuss thoughts and opinions, and become an active part of the community.  There have been yoga classes at MoMA and Rock Band Summer Camps at the Experience Music Project.  Museums are increasingly holding art chats, book signings, professional development classes, and even wine festivals and farmer’s markets. Something is going on everywhere– just pull up the web page of a local museum (or hop on their Facebook page) and see what they have to offer!


5.  Museums inspire

Museums provide inspiration through personal connections with visitors, and not only on-site and through physical community outreach efforts; some even manage to connect through their social networks.  These kinds of personal memories created at museums do not expire. Please check out this lovely video on the personal impact of museums, created by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance & the American Association of Museums.

6.  Museums help bring change and development to communities

Research has uncovered that creating community involvement is more about location than the activity at hand, and this kind of location-based learning (like the kind utilized in museums) is a trigger for change and development within the community. As museums are functioning more and more like community centers in providing access to current research and new ideas, they’ve become hot-spots for civic engagement. In museums, even (in some cases, especially) children are actively asked to take part in their communities. The promotion of education and the cultivation of conversation that are taking place in museums across the nation shapes and strengthens our neighborhoods.

7.  Museums are a great way to spend time with friends and family

Museums provide a great excuse to spend time with friends and family in a positive way. Personal connections can be made with museums and also with family members during visits. A day at the museum often translates to a day spent with loved ones as fathers and mothers transform into tour guides, and the environment provides a shared learning experience. Want to take a date to a museum? Here’s how to do it


8.  A museum may be your next community partner or business endeavour

It takes a lot of employees to help run America’s approximately 17,500 museums and it takes countless businesses and community partners to keep them functioning. Museums need everything from printing services, to video surveillance, to dino-glue– and they are inextricably woven into the web of American government and businesses. If you are not a direct business provider for a museum, you can get some great PR and possibly borrow an artifact or two for a big meeting if you are willing to contribute a monetary gift to a museum. Alternatively, you can follow the lead of these entrepreneurs who are creating their own museums. Or, at the very least, business men and entrepreneurs can trace the development of the National Museum of Entrepreneurship in Denver, and perhaps pay them a visit within the next few years.


9.  Museums are free… sometimes – but they all need your support to keep their doors open

Several museums nationwide offer free admission during specified hours or days of the week. Visit the website of your favorite museum to see if they feature something like this.  Perhaps more importantly, take a look at museum membership rates. Often, a membership pays itself off in as few as three annual visits to the museum. When a museum does NOT offer free admission, look into your heart. All museums need financial support in order to keep their doors open. If you like a visitor serving organization and you want to keep it around for decades to come (so that you may bring your great-grandchildren), make a donation or fill out that membership card with pride!

10.  There is a museum close to you.

According to the American Association of Museums (now the American Alliance of Museums since the original publication of this post)  museums average approximately 865 million visits per year or 2.3 million visits per day. That’s a lot of museum visits! It doesn’t hurt that there are museums in every state. To find one near you, try the Official Museum Directory. By conducting a search on the Internet, you may find some rather unusual and interesting museums worth checking out. From the Museum of Wooden Nickles in San Antonio, to the Asphault Museum in Rohnert Park, California, there is certainly something for everyone.

Posted on by colleendilen in Community Engagement, Education, Museums 17 Comments