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Retail Therapy: Using Museum Shops for Digital Fundraising

I’m not sure about you, but I’ve always had a massive soft spot for museum gift shops. The walls of collectible postcards, quirky homewares, unique jewellery, books filled with facts and fiction and stationery that’s just begging to be brought home and doodled in all say “open up” to my wallet.

Alongside ticket sales and events, shops are a primary source of income for museums whether they are brick and mortar or exist online. Alongside being hubs for quirky treasures, online shops can also assist digital fundraising efforts by promoting donations at through the shopping experience and offering support options for shoppers. This article will highlight several ways in which online museum shops can support digital fundraising efforts with minimal effort and maximum payoff… Let’s get started!

Rethinking the museum shop for fundraising 

Think about checking out at a shop and marching up to the counter to pay for your goods. Often times, you’re not able to walk in a straight line to check out, but have to weave around shelves lined with small, inexpensive items that are all too easy to toss in your basket to take home with you… “Did I really need that dinosaur egg paperweight?”

Successful digital fundraising using online museum shops means replicating this path to the checkout counter in a virtual environment. Some e-commerce software offers the option to suggest similar items to a customer once they’ve placed an item in their basket or when checking out. Similarly, some platforms have the functionality to suggest inexpensive add-on items when checking out that are pre-selected by your museum. If you are a natural history museum and you are trying to fund a new aviary exhibition, offer a special postcard of a rare bird within your collection and state that proceeds from the sale will go towards funding that exhibition.

One of the golden rules of fundraising is that supporters will be more likely to donate if they know the specifics about the cause that they are supporting, and it always helps to offer them something tangible in return for their donation! Whether it be a little postcard, a themed keyring or even stickers for the kids, a little bonus is always appreciated and can bring in increased purchases on those items that specifically support your digital fundraising campaigns.

Boosting sales and donations with Museum Shop Sunday

Within the world of digital fundraising, plugging into existing campaigns is a wonderful way to raise awareness of your organisation and take advantage of increased media coverage and online traffic. Once a year, Museum Shop Sunday sets out to unite the sector and everyone supporting cultural attractions by encouraging shopping via museum shops. This campaign is just a few years old having been started by the Association for Cultural Enterprises in 2017 and encourages both physical and online support of museum shops worldwide.

This celebratory day of shopping offers museum the chance to show off and connect with an internationally adopted campaign to promote supporting organisations through shopping… What’s better? Here are some ideas on how to make this campaign work for your museum.

  • Create a special email newsletter highlighting various items within your shop.
  • Invite an influencer to share some of their favourite items from your museum shop within an Instagram story. Need tips on working with influencers? We’ve got a MuseumNext article on that too!
  • Schedule a series of tweets spotlighting shop items and tell a bit of a story about why that item is in the shop and how proceeds from purchasing will directly benefit the museum using the thread feature on Twitter.
  • Host a Facebook Live to show off shop items and speak about why your museum needs financial support which can be provided through… shopping! This would also be a great opportunity to buddy up with another museum to double the audience reach – takeover style! This MuseumNext article on using social media to increase digital fundraising has some great Facebook and Instagram Live tips!

For 2021, #MuseumShopSunday is taking place on Sunday, 28 November which is just in time for the holiday season and all of the gift buying that comes with it. If you’re unsure of how exactly plugging into existing marketing campaigns works with digital fundraising, check out our MuseumNext article on the topic which is full of tips and tricks to make the most out of jumping aboard these digital campaign bandwagons.

Donate to the Museum 

When crafting the homepage for your museum shop, be sure to prominently display donation options and, if your museum has a membership scheme that offers members a shop discount, definitely highlight that too! People who are visiting your online museum shop have come with their wallets open, so don’t let that opportunity go to waste.

Be sure to continue to gently remind people of how easy it is to donate throughout their shopping experience by offering shoppers the option to add on a small donation during the checkout process. Craft a brief sentence about why your museum needs their support and how their financial contribution could positively impact your museum. Be sure to display the option to donate at least once during the checkout process and perhaps again within their order confirmation email. When asking for donations online, the key to success is repetition and being sure that if shoppers are keen to donate, that the option is readily available.

Add donation reminders at check out

You’ve officially approached the virtual checkout counter for this article. We hope you’ve had an enjoyable shopping experience and have gained some tips and tricks along the way on how to utilise museum shops for fundraising.

We’ve gone through mimicking the maze of add-on bits and bobs within your virtual museum shop, the benefits of including speciality donation items within your offer, the annual #MuseumShopSunday campaign and the benefits of plugging in as well as how to sprinkle donation reminders throughout the shopping experience.

The most important pointer that we can share with you is to keep that image of the customer visiting your shop with the open wallet with you as you curate your museum shop experience. Visitors to your virtual museum shop are there to find unique gifts, spend money and most of all, support your museum so take advantage of that unique opportunity by utilising the techniques above.

We wish you all the best with curating your museum shop and using it to support your digital fundraising journey. We hope to see you for #MuseumShopSunday!

MuseumNext offer online learning for museum professionals striving for engaging, relevant and flexible professional growth content. Learn more about our virtual museum conferences here.

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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