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How can a Museum build strategic partnerships with donors?

Funders and donors are the lifeblood of most museums. But what if we looked at donations and funding as a two-way relationship rather than a transaction? The San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum’s approach to its strategic partnerships is to look for ways to add as much value as possible for the donors.

At the Creative Museums Summit, Krishna Kabra, CEO at San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum and Alissa Hauser, Project Manager of Strategic Capital at Dr. Bronner’s talked about building a successful relationship with a corporate sponsorship.

Building a Relationship

One of the challenges of corporate sponsorship for museums is building a relationship that will need to weather staff changes on both sides. The personal relationship between the representatives of the museum and the funder can affect the relationship between the institutions.

San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum overcomes this by regularly inviting the donors to the museum to see what they are doing. In particular, they do this when there are any staff changes so they can start building a personal relationship. The funders get a tour of the museum and can see where their money goes.

Regular touch points are important to a donor relationship. The San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum make sure that they are not just getting in contact with their funders when they need to raise money. They invite their funders and their employees to museum events and spend time engaging with the company. For example, they will send their donors gifts for holidays like Valentine’s Day or Easter and offer staff discounts to the museum.

Find Value-Aligned Donors

When the values of your funder align with the values of your museum, magic happens. Donors are on-board with the exhibitions and plans for the museum and are enthusiastic about supporting the museum’s goals. It becomes easier to get them engaged with what you are doing and secure funding for new initiatives.

Working together with funders to achieve mutual goals also makes the relationship feel less transactional and more like a family. The shared goals and values can create a really strong bond and make the funders feel proud to see their name on the list of donors.

Position the Museum As a Perk

Look for ways you can create a win-win scenario for your funders. At the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum, they offer their donors discounts for their employees. They also encourage their donors to organise events in the museum space in addition to attending the donor events. As it is a museum geared towards families, this often takes the form of a family fun day out.

Getting the funders into the museum space as often as possible to enjoy what they are funding helps them to see their contributions in action. They are more invested in the museum and, therefore, more likely to establish a long-term partnership.

Krishna Kabra, CEO at San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum and Alissa Hauser, Project Manager of Strategic Capital at Dr. Bronner’s spoke about their partnership at the Creative Museums Summit. To learn more about this event, click here.

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