Museum Membership Ultimate Guide
No matter what lies between their walls, museums cannot exist without their members.
Your members are more than just financial support for your institution; they’re also your best ambassadors. They spread the word about the amazing programs and exhibitions they love, which brings even more visitors and potential members through your doors.
Like most museums, you may be challenged to strengthen these relationships with your current members and encourage others to join your membership program.
Read on to learn how the most successful membership programs improve year after year to deliver exceptional value and build loyalty. Plus, get tips on supporting your program with a strategic team and powerful museum membership software.
THE BASICS OF MUSEUM MEMBERSHIP
The Philosophy of Successful Museum Membership Programs
As the most basic level, museum membership programs earn money for institutions by offering participants special benefits in return for a membership fee.
But the most successful programs look long-term at enhancing relationships between the institution and its supporters.
In addition to bringing in sustainable revenues with membership fees, a well-planned and -executed membership program can lay the groundwork for future expansion and improvement projects. This long-term view is a key component of a successful membership and growth program.
Common Pitfalls of Museum Membership Programs
It’s easy to get so involved in the day-to-day matters of your membership program that you temporarily lose sight of your museum’s larger strategic objectives.
One of the most difficult challenges is balancing the need to make members feel recognized and valued with your organization’s long-term growth goals.
Great membership programs provide more than free admission and discounted classes — they deliver a flexible and creative range of enticing benefits that build a deeper sense of community and connection for existing members and encourage new memberships.
Allowing Your Museum Membership Program to Grow
To grow your membership numbers every year, you need a solid strategy to support every aspect of your membership program’s growth.
Strengthening membership programs requires membership management software to help identify, design and deliver the member benefits.
The best museum membership software supports expansion by automating common benefits, such as member discounts and priority registration. An integrated museum software solution can also provide flexible support for a range of new and exciting benefits unique to your institution that help recruit and retain members.
EVALUATING YOUR EXISTING MUSEUM MEMBERSHIP PROGRAM
BOOSTING REVENUE RETURN FROM YOUR MUSEUM MEMBERSHIP PROGRAM
Recruiting for Your Museum Membership Program
Humans are procrastinators by nature. We need deadlines to motivate us to accomplish a task.
When you offer special promotions for new members, placing a time limit on them will encourage more people to pay attention and sign up.
These special promotions could be anything from a discount on the first year’s membership fee to extra tickets, a gift shop voucher, or a free meal at the cafe.
Special, time-limited campaigns rely on effective marketing. Make sure your museum software can facilitate email campaigns, direct mail campaigns, and other efforts to get the word out.
When a visitor to your museum or web site makes a purchase, show them how much they’d save if they had a membership.
Invest in membership software that allows you to share the actual amount that a member would save and that makes it easy to add a membership and its benefits to the purchase. This feature should be integrated into your web site for online sales, as well as with your point-of-sale (POS) and mobile POS for in-person upsell at at the admission desk, gift shop or anywhere else on your site.
In fact, membership sales on a mobile POS lets you take advantage of your visitors’ direct engagement. When someone is immersed in your museum’s exhibits or programs, they’re likely to be most receptive to a membership offer.
Especially as the holiday season comes around, you should consider allowing patrons to purchase memberships for their friends and family. Of course, you can facilitate gift memberships year-round, but the end of the year is a popular time for large gifts like a museum membership.
Letting visitors buy each other memberships lets you grow your program to people who you might never have considered asking to join!
Getting the gift of a museum membership also shows the recipient just how important your museum is to their friend’s life, which will encourage them to support you, too.
Plus, keeping track of which of your patrons end up gifting membership to their friends will help you identify your most engaged supporters.
Some nonmembers are encouraged to join a membership program when the benefits are immediately apparent in the moment.
One such moment that you can use to demonstrate the value of your membership program is while your nonmembers are standing in a long admissions line.
Set up a membership booth when you’ve got long lines for a special program, and invest in mobile POS systems so your museum staff can sign up your visitors no matter where they are in line.
Linebusting pays off both for the people who are signing up to be members and the people who aren’t because it helps the line move faster. Shorter lines for everyone makes all your visitors happier!
Retaining Participants in Your Museum Membership Program
Members-Only Hours and Events
Nothing makes your members feel special quite like breezing past your front doors before or after normal working hours.
If you have the means, regularly organizing members-only events is another great way to retain members. They will start to look forward to the same events every year to see their friends and any new elements you’ve incorporated into the events, like special guests or performances.
Discounts for Events and Programs
Members likely already get free or discounted admission to your museum during normal working hours, but offering lower prices for special events and programs can bring even more engaged supporters on board.
Think about your museum camps, educational series, and other popular, recurring events. Incorporate special member benefits such as early registration and discounted tickets.
A classic membership perk is a free gift. The most effective gifts are useful and branded so that your members will actually take them out in public where other people can see them. Free advertising!
The most common low-cost gifts are stickers and magnets with your museum’s logo or mascot. All ages can put these on their laptops, fridges, car windows, or bumpers. Other popular choices are pens, t-shirts, coffee cups, baseball hats, and plush toys — all branded for your museum.
Members should look forward to communications from your museum, from birthday cards to regular newsletters or the occasional special notices. You can also include additional discounts beyond the membership benefits they already enjoy.
Make sure that you distinguish these communications as member-only, by adding phrasing like “Exclusive for Museum Members” near the heading or the discount codes. That way, members know why they won’t receive them anymore if they let their membership lapse.
Reconnecting with Lapsed Membership Program Participants
MAKING THE MOST OF MUSEUM MEMBERSHIP SOFTWARE
Benefits of Museum Management Software
Streamline member experience.
If you take on membership management without an integrated software solution, you’ll find difficulty delivering benefits.
Museum software makes your membership program easier for you to manage and your members to enjoy
For example, integrated museum membership software can automatically apply member benefits to gift shop purchases with one scan of their membership card.
Engage members as individuals.
Remember that your museum members are your staunchest supporters and deserve to be treated as such.
With software, you can segment your membership base and enter information about your supporters’ interests.
Storing everything you know about your members in your software’s member profiles makes it easy to reach out to them about events and special programs they would be interested in.
Raise more for your museum.
Museums are nonprofits, and as such, they rely on donations to fuel operations.
You can accept online donations through museum software, from a designated giving page to targeted email fundraising campaigns.
Software can facilitate the actual financial aspects of accepting donations through secure online platforms by pulling payment information straight from your member profiles.
Features of Museum Management Software
Doubleknot museum membership management software builds custom profiles of your members, making it easy to send individualized communications to segments of your membership base, fundraise based on special interests, and track event attendance.
DOUBLEKNOT’S MUSEUM MEMBERSHIP SOFTWARE SOLUTION
Take a look at how two of our partners have integrated membership solutions into their special event operations:
Nevada Northern Railway Museum
With customers making purchases, reserving seats on excursions, and buying tickets online and at POS stations, the Nevada Northern Railway Museum needed to ensure that no programs got overbooked, inventory didn’t run too low, and members received the discounts they signed up for.
By implementing Doubleknot’s software, the museum got a streamlined experience for them and their visitors since the new online and onsite integrated sales process all sync with the same database. Members get benefits automatically no matter where they are, and the museum can upsell memberships and apply benefits to items from the same purchase.
Indian Creek Nature Center
When the Indian Creek Nature Center opened a new 12,000-square-foot, multi-use educational space in 2016, the staff was still writing gift shop receipts by hand. The new director knew that to push the nature center to the next level, a data-driven solution was needed.
Doubleknot made it easy for the Indian Creek Nature Center to implement registration and POS both online and offline. Visitors were able to purchase memberships online and onsite for the first time, and the administrative team was able to track members’ event attendance histories with clean reporting.
ADDITIONAL MUSEUM MEMBERSHIP RESOURCES
Museum Software: Ultimate Guide
Are you ready to upgrade the software that supports your upgraded museum membership program?
Start your search with our ultimate guide to museum software solutions!
Top Museum Programming Ideas
As part of your membership program improvements, it might be time to revamp your programming!
Organize the best programming for your members (and new museum visitors).
Top Museum Software
You can’t run a successful museum membership program without powerful software to keep you organized.
Check out Double the Donation’s top museum tools to find the best for your program!