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Plugging into Campaigns to Boost Museum Donations

Museums are profoundly generous organisations, giving access and knowledge to the public to inspire learning and create meaningful experiences. Behind this generous nature are real, unavoidable costs which must be combatted by admission and funding in including digital fundraising.

There are lots of museum-centric campaigns that organisations can take part in to increase global awareness as well as engage followers. Participating in these campaigns can also provide an opportunity to appeal to new audiences for donations by highlighting collections, programmes and providing a behind the scenes look at what happens backstage within museums.

This article will focus on 3 campaigns that museums worldwide can incorporate into their media and digital fundraising plans: Giving Tuesday, International Museums Day and Museum Selfie Day. We’ll take a deep dive into each campaign to demonstrate how it can best jive with your museum communications and provide a launch pad for digital fundraising efforts.

Boosting Museum donations with Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday takes place annually on the Tuesday after the shopping-centric days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday – typically the first Tuesday in December. This internationally adopted digital fundraising campaign started in the United States in 2012 and was kicked off by New York’s 92nd Street Y in partnership with the United Nations Foundation.

It’s one specific day a year when charities all over the world encourage supporting meaningful causes, museums included. This campaign has tremendous reach and has been growing year upon year. In 2020, Giving Tuesday churned up 360 million impressions on Twitter and was mentioned by the media 678 times. It’s a worldwide event that is well worth plugging your museum’s campaigns into, especially the social media aspects of your digital fundraising efforts.

Because of the festive timing of this campaign, many organisations choose to capitalise on the gift-giving focus of the season. London’s Natural History Museum’s 2020 #GivingTuesday campaign was centred on the museum being first and foremost a charity and in need or support. In their fundraising communications however, they aligned supporting the museum with the giving nature of the festive season highlighting ways to give a gift (financial contribution) to the museum and also how supporting the museum commercially by buying things to give as gifts to others supports the museum as well.

Plugging into this campaign should be an annual fixture on the digital fundraising calendars of museums across the globe. It’s a day with huge media traction and can expose your organisation to masses of new audiences across the globe. Pencil it in your museum’s diary and test it out to see if this generosity-centred campaign works for your organisation.

International Museums Day fundraising

International Museums Day was established in recognition for museums across the globe by ICOM (International Council of Museums) in 1977 and continues to the present-day taking place each year on 18 May. The purpose of International Museums Day is to widely spread the message that “Museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples.”

There is a different theme each year with the 2021 focusing on “The Future of Museums: Recover and Reimagine”. What a perfect opportunity for your museum to highlight the highs and lows of the past year and illustrate how audiences can help your organisation to continue to operate in this unpredictable climate! This annual campaign is cemented within the marketing calendars of museums worldwide which means that your museum could significantly expand its reach if you choose to participate.

Come up with a plan that builds upon this recovery and reimagine theme and personalise it to your museum whilst weaving in fundraising language and promoting ways to donate. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Write a blog that highlights your museum’s achievements over the past year, weaving in recovery stories and ways in which your museum is reimagining the future. Be sure to include links to donate!
  • Collect statements from individuals who have particularly benefitted from your museum (digitally and/or physically) over the past year and use them to create an appeal that can be circulated via email marketing, social media and more to encourage financial support.
  • Partner up with a museum across the globe and do a social media takeover to get a fresh perspective on your own organisation and expose your institution to an entirely new audience. Be sure to agree in advance which aspects, collections, programmes and campaigns to promote as well as a set number of posts and any rules/guidelines. Then, have fun with it! Social media swaps can be a great way to gain new followers and increase the chances that people will identify with your museum and feel motivated to ensure its longevity by offering their financial support.

The most important thing about plugging into existing campaigns is to make them your own by adding authentic details and stories about your organisation. ICOM’s annual theme offers museums the attractive opportunity to personalise their campaign whilst uniting with other organisations under a shared theme. Learn more about ICOM’s International Museum Day and download the communications kit here.

Digital donations with Museum Selfie Day

Although this engaging annual campaign isn’t philanthropically focused, there is no reason why your museum can’t participate and subtly guide followers towards how to digitally donate. Museum Selfie Day was started in 2015 by London blogger Mar Dixon and continues to gain participants each year as people and organisations think of unique ways to engage with the campaign.

As most European museums were closed for #MuseumSelfieDay in 2021, the campaign was adopted a bit differently with organisations either looking to the past and posting selfies from years past or highlighting how to digitally engage with their collections like the Museum of the Home (formerly the Geffrye Museum) in London.

If your museum is interested in adopting a digital fundraising angle when participating #MuseumSelfieDay consider the following ideas:

  • Persuade conservationists to take selfies (perhaps even video content!) in conservation labs to show some behind the scenes footage and illustrate where donations to museum conservation efforts go.
  • Ask learning team staff to take selfies with some of their programme materials or even better, in costume! These types of photos can complement an appeal campaign focused on funding programmes for schools, buying new learning materials etc…
  • Ask volunteers to take museum selfies in spaces that have meaning to them and share their story via a personalised caption. Be sure to add donation links to how to support your museum and keep these spaces open for all within your posts!

In conclusion

Plugging into existing campaigns can help to expose your museum to new audiences and engage with existing followers in a fun and meaningful way. Utilise social media tags to make your posts more searchable which pays off on days like these when campaign hashtags are trending.

As always, make sure that your messaging is authentic and aligns with any global campaign you choose to participate in.  Successful digital fundraising campaigns are woven into various tenets of a museum’s communications plan… This is 100% true when it comes to plugging into campaigns like Giving Tuesday, International Museum Day and Museum Selfie Day.

With social media and digital fundraising, it’s important to always be thinking of where there can be crossover and a chance to gain new followers and expose audiences to who you are and how they can support your museum’s mission and vision. Be sure to keep your ear to the ground or in this case, thumb to the phone and be consistently keeping up with what’s new in terms of upcoming museum campaigns that you can plug your digital fundraising message into… Now go forth and fundraise!

If your interested in boosting your museums fundraising efforts, join us for the MuseumNext Digital Income Summit in June.

About the author – Devon Turner

Devon Turner is an Arts & Culture Writer. She has worked extensively in arts marketing for both the visual arts and performing arts in the US and UK. Now living in London, Devon works in the arts and culture sector and enjoys traveling to visit museums.

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