As government funding falls, museum fundraising is becoming more important than ever. Museums must focus their efforts on working with private supporters and members, friends groups, and local communities, as well as corporate partnerships. As with all nonprofit fundraising, it’s vital for museums to start with the foundation of strong fundraising – a clear, concise message. This means defining clear fundraising goals, make a convincing case that addresses your museum’s needs, and showcasing the impact of your work.
Defining and clarifying your fundraising ask may seem simple. You need more money to run the museum, right? With so much competition for funding, you’ll need to do better than that. Museums must sell their message of support by defining their goals and priorities, and saying what makes them unique. After that, the fundraising strategy will become more clear and focused.
Here are some creative fundraising ideas for museums to get your team started.
10 Ideas to Enhance Fundraising for Museums
1. Host Travel with the Museum Programs
Offering special travel experiences could be a unique fundraising idea for your museum to embrace. People are always looking for something new and unique and are willing to pay a premium when doing so with an expert in the field. Travel across the city or globe with curators and art historians to explore artistic treasures. Of course, you’ll want to price travel packages to include a required donation to the museum. Consider offering the travel experience on Airbnb to gain a larger audience.
2. Offer or Boost Museum Memberships or Patron Programs
Members are an important aspect of fundraising for many museums. Museum members or patrons are committed donors who pay an annual or monthly fee in support of ongoing museum projects and exhibits. Various types of memberships are generally offered with different benefits and donor levels. Examples are family memberships, VIP or Patron memberships which include special perks, and memberships that benefit a specific period or category of art within your museum.
Museum members receive benefits in exchange for their donations. Member benefits can include:
- Free museum admission (always!)
- Discounted or included guest tickets and passes
- Members-only hours and previews for major exhibitions
- Museum store discounts
- Members-only parties or receptions
- Discounted art classes and tours
DoJiggy’s nonprofit websites include membership management functionality to make these transactions safe and easy to accept and manage.
3. Host Live Performances
Give people a reason to come out and see a new exhibit. Poetry, dance, music, and other performances may be planned in concert with new exhibitions and installations. Performances and gallery talks funded through corporate sponsors provide local businesses and corporations a great way to get involved.
4. Offer Discounts for and Special School Programs
School programs at museums enable students to make connections and develop an understanding of art creatively and historically. The experiences K-12 students are offered include facilitated visits with docents, museum artists, poets, curators, and art donors. Guided programs provide opportunities for students to work directly with ideas, interpretation, and communication. Teachings ignite curiosity and cultivate academic and personal skills.
An example of a unique school museum program is a one hour guided visit in the galleries with an additional hour to create art. After exploring and discussing different paintings and sculptures in the galleries, students create their own unique work to take home. Creative challenges encourage material exploration, creative thinking, and problem-solving in children.
School programs may be offered on a sliding fee scale. Find larger donations in fundraising for museums through specific campaigns for school programs:
- Corporate sponsorships targeted for school programs
- Matched employee donations within corporate sponsorships
- Donors with a special interest in education
- Fundraising for museums through parent and extended family donations
- Partnerships between schools and museums on school fundraising events
Another fundraising opportunity school programs provide museums is found in how they enrich children. The enrichment is seen by donors. And donors have a clear understanding of how their donations are used. Invite them to join school programs as volunteers and watch children find a new world.
5. Organize a Fundraising Gala Event
Many museums are renowned not only for their art collection but for grand buildings. Fundraising ideas for small museums and large are found in their architectural spaces ideal for events. Large corporate dinners, nonprofit galas, meetings, and film screenings are a few ideas.
- For elegantly catered events from business meetings to intimate dinners and cocktail receptions, museums offer the perfect setting.
- With a variety of spaces equipped with state-of-the-art media, museums are ideal locations to host a concert. Expert museum teams focus on technology needs and create the perfect experience for audiences.
- Board meetings and day-long staff retreats held under the same roof as a world-class art collection inspire teams.
6. Screen Independent or Special Films
Museums offering independent films provide unique opportunities to experience such an important aspect of visual culture. Sell tickets to the film screenings as well as offering refreshments. Seek generous funding for films through corporate and special donors. Movie production companies and donors who tend to donate to the arts are places to start. Add free film passes to one of your donor levels.
Several options apply for the independent film screening:
- Foreign films
- Critically-acclaimed documentaries from around the world
- Independent films with discussions following
- Films about artists and art movements
- Visually splendid films for adults and children
- Video productions and films by local artists
7. Launch an Online Museum Store
Online merchandise sales are a great way to raise money for museums. An opportunity to sell tasteful products on a national and international scale can raise much needed funds and offer those that live far away a great way to give. Merchandise options for museums include:
- Artbooks – lavishly illustrated books and narrated audiobooks are popular
- Apparel of paintings such as ties, t-shirts, and scarves
- Tote bags to bring beauty to markets
- Mugs (travel mugs and ceramic mugs) to contemplate art over coffee
- Learn to paint kits with everything a young painter needs to create masterpieces: brushes, color washable paints, paper, instructions, and ideas
- Umbrellas to brighten any rainy day with paintings of Monet’s water lilies overhead
- Art prints of paintings in your museum and housed around the world
- Add your museum logo to some of these items for nonprofit branding
8. Offer Special Museum Tours and Lectures
A lively series of lectures can be held throughout the year in the museum. Talks by artists, curators, and other experts from a variety of scholarly fields shed light on art.
Fundraising for museums would not be complete without smart discussions of current exhibitions led by docents. Bring 30-minute guided tours that provide insight into history, methods, and influences. Drop-in tours may be held on certain days of the month. Private tours offered to groups as a corporate sponsorship benefit are attractive. Bring new donors and volunteers to the museum fundraising scene through these special tours. Tours held in conjunction with open houses and wine tasting fundraisers raise even more.
9. Provide Art Classes by Local Artists
Introduce adults to the fundamentals of drawing or acrylic painting. Provide the practice of various approaches to charcoal, pastel, or paint from a live model. Help them learn how material, form, and space define sculpture. Offering a variety of art and art education classes is a wonderful museum fundraising idea. Students often become ambassadors and volunteers of museums through classes. Consider introducing a crowdfunding event with an art focus involving your students and alumni.
10. Build New Community Partnerships
Art museums bring enlightenment to people of all ages and abilities. They offer toddlers enjoyment of storytime and creating art. They bring art-making to folks with Alzheimer’s and handicaps which is to offer them a new language or perspective. Creating art is a form of expression people with special needs benefit from. Forming unique partnerships with large nonprofits who provide services for special needs are great museum fundraising ideas.
Large corporations may grant money to museums that offer classes and show their ability to create partnerships. Thus asking corporations and donors to help makes fundraising a little easier.
Museums are places of beauty. Members start their visual trance from the outside of these magnificent buildings and breath new air when walking in. Fundraising events, special gatherings, classes, and meetings held there inspire and help museums thrive. Many are the ways museums bring beauty and education to communities while fundraising.