Museum Software Ultimate Guide

Running your museum requires heavy-duty software, especially for busy museums offering popular events and membership programs in addition to everyday general admission and a gift shop.

If you’re looking for a new, improved solution as your museum grows, you know that the range of museum management software is as wide as the range of institutions and programs the technology supports.

With this ultimate guide for museum professionals, we’ll review the most important features to look out for in different types of museum software as well as considerations for investing in integrated solutions.

Read on for factors to keep in mind as you move through a key museum software purchasing decision.

Become an expert on museum software!

BEFORE WE BEGIN: DISTINCTIONS IN MUSEUM SOFTWARE

Museum software makes your museum operations easier and faster!

Scope of this Museum Software Guide

Museums require a very different set of software features to manage membership, ticketing, reservations, and fundraising than to manage their collections.

In this guide, we’ll be focusing on patron-facing business operations, not on collections management. 

If you’re a museum administrator looking to boost the efficiency of operations across departments through sophisticated software solutions, this ultimate guide is for you.

Museum software makes you a better administrator.

Integrated Software vs. Point Solutions

Some software providers offer features for a single purpose, while others offer a integrated solutions that incorporate a wide variety of interlocking software features for different purposes.

These integrated solutions are best for large museums with complex operations and multiple departments that need to share data and objectives.

This guide will explore point solutions that facilitate different areas of museum operations as well as the benefits of an integrated system.





TYPES OF MUSEUM SOFTWARE

Museum Membership Software

You can’t support your museum membership program without these museum membership software features, whether they come alone or in a package with other software. The benefit of an integrated museum membership management software solution is the additional information you have to make your program more attractive by pulling data from other areas of your museum. Identify the most popular events and gift shop items, for instance, and you’ll know what programs and items to offer member discounts for. Better benefits equate to a better member experience, which brings more members and hence more revenue to your institution.

Automatic Member Benefits

What would your membership program be without special benefits? With integrated museum membership management software, those benefits will show up in your system automatically when your members register for a camp, pay for a t-shirt online, or scan their membership card at a special event.

Comprehensive Member Profiles

All museum membership software will feature member profiles of some sort. Whether these profiles house simple information (e.g., member name and active/inactive status) or more complex, integrated data (e.g., member birthday, payment information, special event attendance history) depends on the software provider.

Membership Hierarchy

Museum membership software solutions allow your museum’s administrative team to reflect membership levels within the software itself. You can even program upgrade and downgrade rules so you don’t have to manually update member profiles. Integrated software connects this hierarchy to purchases, communications, and more.

Complete Communications

Membership management software should allow museum staff to manage communications with members on some level. Communications features range from automatic renewal reminders when a membership is about to expire to sophisticated segmenting, which lays the groundwork for targeted offers and fundraising appeals.

Doubleknot's museum membership software applies member benefits automatically at checkout.

With Doubleknot’s museum membership software, museum staff can keep track of members’ event attendance, communications, and purchasing history with complete member profiles.

Museum Ticketing and Admissions Software

Museum ticketing and admissions software is the most basic form of museum software that all museums use, and even simple modern solutions go beyond just processing general admission tickets to handling discounts and promotions. Smart, integrated solutions automatically offer these ticketing promotions to specific segments of your visitors, such as members, visitors who have come back a specified number of times, or individuals under or over a certain age.

Integrated Ticketing

To ensure that you don’t exceed capacity for a normal day at your museum, integrated ticketing and admissions software will link your front desk and online ticket sales to the same database. Plus, online ticket sale capacity often comes with mobile ticketing, which cuts down on your environmental impact.

Group Ticketing

Often, museums want to offer special discounts to visitors who order a large number of tickets at a time. Ticketing and admissions software can be programmed to offer those discounts automatically, and sophisticated solutions will even bundle the entire order into one barcode so everyone can save time in line.

Support for Discounts and Promotions

Your ticketing and admissions software should be able to handle discount codes, coupons, and time-based discounts. An integrated solution will also apply automatic discounts for members. Integrated solutions also facilitate upselling memberships at POS and apply member discounts to the same purchase.

Attendance and Sales Records

How many people came to your last event? How many of them were members? How many of them bought tickets online beforehand, and how many paid day-of? With integrated ticketing software, you can sell and scan any kind of ticket and store the information in a single database for analytics and reporting.

Museum ticketing and admissions software sends visitors print-at-home tickets.

When you issue tickets with Doubleknot’s integrated museum ticketing software, you won’t go over capacity even when you sell tickets via multiple platforms.

Museum Event Registration Software

For museum programming events ranging from one-time, one-ticket events to complex lecture series and conferences, the way to keep your events organized is through museum event registration software. Simpler solutions typically handle ticketing and capacity management. Integrated solutions transform your special events into opportunities to extend member benefits, analyze revenue strategy, and optimize communications.

Event Configuration

Depending on the level of software you invest in, you can program your event software to support a varying degree of complex programs. Integrated software can accommodate large attendance lists, a number of tracks or categories within your program, and levels of access for members or early registrants.

Capacity and Waitlist Management

Museum event registration software can be programmed to display capacity limits per event and per registrant on the online registration form, so individuals are incentivized to register quickly as they see programs fill up. More sophisticated solutions will also allow administrators to override waitlist settings for special circumstances.

Custom Registration and Purchase Forms

With integrated event registration features, your custom registration form becomes an opportunity to learn more about your attendees. Gather the information you need about membership and contact information before the purchase is made. Plus, integrated software supports conditional logic and add-ons.

Attendee Communications

You should be able to share updates and reminders with your special program registrants through any museum event software. But integrated solutions also allow you to incorporate special event attendance records into your strategic plan (e.g., reaching out to frequent attendees with membership solicitation).

Register your visitors for special events with museum registration software.

Doubleknot’s museum event registration software integrates with other management solutions to offer benefits (such as discounts and early registration) to members and share data with the communications team.

Museum Booking and Reservations Software

Whether you’re renting out your facilities, planning special programs like fundraising events, tours, and field trips, or both, using museum booking and reservations software ensures that you and your visitors know when space and time are available for use. Advanced solutions don’t rely on museum staff manually updating the reservations calendar or approving requests, leaving you more time to plan the events without worrying about capacity.

Flexible Configuration

Museum reservations software typically makes it possible to book your facilities for visitor- or museum-hosted events. Sophisticated solutions will offer a flexible calendar that can accommodate the needs of complex museum operations, such as the need for blackout dates, special packages, and pricing levels for different categories of visitors.

Support for Complex Group Reservations

Accommodating field trips and other group visits is a priority for large museums, and advanced museum reservations software can handle those types of requests. You can package an entire group’s tickets into one QR code so only one person has to stand in line, and divide big groups into sections to rotate through activities.

24/7 Online Reservations

With museum reservations software, your patrons should be able to see availability, register individuals or groups, and pay for the time as well as any add-ons without picking up the phone. Top solutions will also automatically update availability as soon as reservations are made, instead of after museum staff processes the request.

Synchronized Reservations Calendar

Museum reservations software can provide a centralized, online availability calendar that’s always up-to-date. Visitors get the assurance that the time slot they want is open, administrators spend less time in spreadsheets and on the phone resolving problems, and the museum’s booking reports are always accurate.

Teachers and daycare centers easily reserve group field trips using Doubleknot's reservation software.

Field trip planners and other group visit organizers will always know when spots are available with Doubleknot’s online reservations calendar.

Museum Fundraising Software

Every museum solicits donations, whether for special projects or for an annual fund. Museum fundraising software that’s integrated with the rest of your museum’s operations makes your fundraising efforts more efficient and targeted — analyze your members’ giving patterns, plan fundraising events that build off your prior events’ success, and present donation forms on platforms your visitors use most often to buy tickets and merchandise.

Donations on Multiple Platforms

Your donation form should meet your visitors where they are, whether that’s online with a branded donation page or in line with a museum staff member on a POS device. Sophisticated software will collect all these donations and the donors’ information into one central database for you to review later.

Support for Museum-Specific Fundraising

Many museums host adoption programs to engage visitors and fundraise, so museum-specific software should offer customized certificates and information sheets as well as support for gift adoptions. Museum-specific fundraising features also cover buy-a-brick or plaque fundraising campaigns.

Integrated Checkout Donations

Donation requests have to be timed well, and soliciting a donation when a visitor is already making a purchase of some kind is a tried-and-true way to increase donations. Integrated museum fundraising software can place a donation request at checkout for admissions, reservations, and gift shop sales.

Data Capture

All fundraising software should store information about donors. But integrated solutions will share that data (e.g., contact information, payment preferences, personal details) with other departments within your museum, making it possible to target communications like membership requests and future donation solicitations.

Integrated museum fundraising software places a donation form wherever you want it in the checkout process.

Doubleknot’s integrated museum fundraising software solution makes it easy for visitors to support the museum with donations from every platform.

BENEFITS OF INTEGRATED MUSEUM SOFTWARE

 

A major benefit of integrated museum software is ease of reporting.

Integrated Reporting

Your reports are only as good as the data they pull from. So while your membership software might be able to report on how many members are in your program, for instance, it might not be able to deliver important statistics about how many members attend your special events or use their discounts at the gift shop.

An integrated reporting system produces far more comprehensive and, therefore, more useful information for your strategic team.

Targeted communications are made possible by integrated museum software.

Custom Communications

Many software solutions offer communications management, but with an integrated software solution, your communications become more targeted and profitable. You can create custom segments based on data from anywhere across your operations, like event attendance or membership records.

Integrating your communications features is the best way to ensure that the data you use to segment your audience for targeted marketing is always up-to-date.

Integrated museum software helps administrators make smart financial decisions.

Financial Planning

When you integrate financial features into your museum software solution, you aren’t just giving yourself the ability to stay on top of your budget. In fact, you’re actually investing in a smart financial planning tool that can draw from records from across your museum.

With no exporting or manual recalculation, an integrated financial planning feature will tell you exactly where your revenue is coming from and how it reacts to changes you make in your programming or marketing.

Save administrative time and stress with integrated museum software.

Administrative Streamlining

How much time does it take your administrative team to follow up about membership renewal, put children on a waiting list for an overbooked camp, or scan each student’s ticket on a field trip? Integrated software all sources from the same database, so it becomes both possible and efficient to automate these types of tasks.

Automating these daily administrative tasks allows your team to focus on important strategic planning for the future of your institution.

SELECTING THE RIGHT MUSEUM SOFTWARE

Evaluating Your Needs

Before you dive into your software options, you need to set aside time to identify your specific needs. Call a meeting of everyone on your team who will need to use the new software so you can ensure that everyone’s wants and needs are represented.

Some museum teams host a simple brainstorming session, while others organize a more structured process, such as a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats).

You might consider also sending out a survey to your team to ask for their thoughts. Some team members will appreciating having the extra time to think about their responses, and an online form also provides the opportunity to link to examples of what they are looking for.

The first step in selecting a museum software solution is evaluating your needs.
The first step in selecting a museum software solution is evaluating your needs.

Evaluating Your Needs

Before you dive into your software options, you need to set aside time to identify your specific needs. Call a meeting of everyone on your team who will need to use the new software so you can ensure that everyone’s wants and needs are represented.

Some museum teams host a simple brainstorming session, while others organize a more structured process, such as a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats).

You might consider also sending out a survey to your team to ask for their thoughts. Some team members will appreciating having the extra time to think about their responses, and an online form also provides the opportunity to link to examples of what they are looking for.

Identifying and Querying Vendors

After you know what type of solution you will need, it’s time to query vendors. Two great sources of software provider recommendations are your peers and review websites like Capterra.

Many museums will sent requests for proposals to vendors they’re considering partnering with. Conducting an RFP process ensures that you get answers to the same questions from each provider, which lets you view your options on a level field.

When querying vendors, make sure you ask about the specific features your new system will need as well as their plans for integrating with existing systems or transferring existing data.

After evaluating your needs, it's time to query museum software vendors.
After evaluating your needs, it's time to query museum software vendors.

Identifying and Querying Vendors

After you know what type of solution you will need, it’s time to query vendors. Two great sources of software provider recommendations are your peers and review websites like Capterra.

Many museums will sent requests for proposals to vendors they’re considering partnering with. Conducting an RFP process ensures that you get answers to the same questions from each provider, which lets you view your options on a level field.

When querying vendors, make sure you ask about the specific features your new system will need as well as their plans for integrating with existing systems or transferring existing data.

Planning for the Long Term

If you’re investing in powerful museum software, you want to make sure it can support your growth as an institution. That often means finding a top provider who can work with you to create custom, flexible solutions that fit your unique needs.

An important element of long-term planning is the training and support provided by each vendor. In-person visits from training staff can do a lot to ease your transition. Also investigate which software solutions have accompanying online resources like training videos, customer support forums, and any documentation that comes with purchase.

No matter if you decide on a cloud-based or a locally housed software solution, security and backups should also be on your list of considerations. Ask specifics about what happens in case of a breach or other data-related emergency.

Always prepare for long-term success with your museum software solution.
Always prepare for long-term success with your museum software solution.

Planning for the Long Term

If you’re investing in powerful museum software, you want to make sure it can support your growth as an institution. That often means finding a top provider who can work with you to create custom, flexible solutions that fit your unique needs.

An important element of long-term planning is the training and support provided by each vendor. In-person visits from training staff can do a lot to ease your transition. Also investigate which software solutions have accompanying online resources like training videos, customer support forums, and any documentation that comes with purchase.

No matter if you decide on a cloud-based or a locally housed software solution, security and backups should also be on your list of considerations. Ask specifics about what happens in case of a breach or other data-related emergency.

Key Considerations About Your RFP

What is a museum software RFP?

RFP stands for request for proposal. It is a document that outlines everything your museum requires from your ideal museum software solution. Before writing your RFP, gather every department of your museum in order to list out all of the measurable objectives you would like to see in your museum software solution. This way, you can be sure you find a product that best aligns with all of your needs.

The RFP document spells out and ensures a fair evaluation process for each software vendor you are deciding between. By using one of these documents, you hold yourself accountable to evaluate each software provider based on their product’s ability to meet your needs as opposed to who has the flashiest interface.

What should my museum software RFP look like?

Your RFP requires a very specific sections to ensure it has every necessary element for an effective and smart software selection decision. Each section should be fleshed out to be as specific as possible to ensure comprehension by the vendors.

These sections include the introduction, background, budget, desired timeline, software requirements, evaluation criteria, and response guidelines. 

Your RFP should explain your current management system and what expectations and needs it meets (or fails to meet) including both software and hardware. From this, you can explain the requirements you have for your new software solution. Explain how you will evaluate the software providers based on these needs.

The other part of your RFP should explain the technical requirements for your software provider to make sure they know how and when to respond to your request.

Who makes the final museum software selection?

When you evaluate the needs of your museum, you should include every department to ensure you include all the necessary features in your new museum software. However, when it comes to the process of evaluating the RFP responses and choosing the new software solution, you’ll likely have one or two people “in charge”. 

These leaders are in charge of ensuring each department’s needs are fully addressed with the new software system. The top decision-maker will likely be an executive or director who’s managing the project and has the authority to ensure cooperation. If a second person is included in this process, it will likely be someone whose job it was to combine each department’s requirements into your coherent RFP.

It might be beneficial to also include someone from your IT department in the decision-making process in order to better understand the software implementation process, proper security requirements, data standards, etc.

HOW DOUBLEKNOT CAN HELP

Check out how Doubleknot helped these partners streamline their operations with museum software:

The Nevada Northern Railway Museum implemented Doubleknot's museum software solution to streamline sales and membership.

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.

Teachers can book field trips to the Queens County Farm Museum using Doubleknot.

Queens County Farm Museum

The Queens County Farm Museum is the largest tract of natural farmland in New York City. It’s also an outdoor classroom, where teachers bring their students to learn about the historic buildings, working orchard, and modern greenhouses.

With Doubleknot, teachers can book reservations online, not just by phone during business hours, for a wide variety of spaces and sizes of classes. Plus, any member of the administrative team can download meaningful reports straight from the software interface instead of relying on one staff member with specific expertise.

ADDITIONAL MUSEUM SOFTWARE RESOURCES

Museum Membership: Ultimate Guide

If you're looking for museum membership software, learn all about membership programs first.

Are you looking for the perfect museum membership software for your institution?

Make sure you’re making the most of your membership program.

Top Museum Software

Check out the top museum software before you make a purchase.

If you’re ready to query vendors, make sure you’re sending requests to the top providers.

Double the Donation has the best museum software on the market in one list.

Top Museum Programming Ideas

Organize these top museum programming ideas with your new museum software.

As your museum grows, are you always looking to improve your programming?

Get inspired with our list of the top museum programming ideas!