Tuesday, 27 September 2016




Welcome to the first post of a new column for Musings! As we are becoming increasingly aware (with classes such as Project Management and Fundraising) museums are not just collections and exhibitions. In fact, it could be suggested that one of the greatest challenges museums face today is fundraising. This column is intended to bring to your attention the multi-faceted and innovative efforts the sector is making to meet needs, make budget, and (hopefully) create fun programming and events!

Fundraise for museum dance parties, if nothing else. Source.
Although the theme of this column is not "let me bore you with money talk" I figured the first post was best spent outlining the basics... with a promise to reveal all kinds of innovative (fun)draising [get it?!] examples in the posts to follow.

The Strategy

A fundraising strategy might include:
  • A statement of the museum’s particular aspirations (its ‘vision’)
  • The stepping stones or stages by which it will achieve its vision
  • The methods to be used (e.g. sponsorship, trusts and foundations)
  • A budget for fundraising costs, annual and other milestone targets, income projections and a timetable for implementation
It might also set out policies and structures for organizing and providing the resources for people who will help to raise the funds. These should include senior volunteers such as Board members, whose influence will help open doors to prospective donors and supporter organizations which raise money for the museum as part of their role.

The Key Methods

  • Capital appeals
  • Corporate giving and sponsorship 
  • Fundraising events
  • Individual giving
  • Legacy gifts
  • Friends/Memberships
  • ... and more
If this is your current state - I have a point! Source

The 'So What'? 

So what is the point in dedicating resources to secure funding? Let's take a look at a couple current fundraising campaigns in Canadian museums... 

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts:


"A donation to the Museum is really a gift for the children of future generations, who will be able to enjoy these unique collections of Quebec and Canadian Art, Old Masters, International Modern and Contemporary Art, Decorative Arts and Design, as well as art from World Cultures."

North Vancouver Museum and Archives:


"The City Council of North Vancouver endorsed a resolution that authorized the North Vancouver Museum and Archives (NVMA) to undertake a Fundraising Feasibility Study that included the development of a recommended timeline for a capital campaign for a new North Vancouver Museum to be located in the Pipe Shop on Lot 4 of the Pier development."

Diddy making it rain. Source.

The Point

If you aren't P Diddy (or don't have Puff sitting on your Board of Directors), fundraising is hard work. It demands patience and persistence. 

Development directors at the Smithsonian Institution identified personal connections as the most important component in successful fundraising. In developing personal relationships, fundraising is “community building” or creating a feeling that being a part of the museum is important. In community building, a museum’s donor clubs and volunteer committees are viewed as important resources. 

If you're at all skeptical about the Smithsonian Institute's strategy, check this out:

The newest addition to the suite of Smithsonian museums, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, approached the leaders of the historic Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria with a surprising request: Would the African American congregation pledge $1 million to become a founding donor to the $540 million museum?


This request highlights the bold thinking of the museum’s fundraisers, who tapped into Alfred Street’s tradition of service and its pride in its 200-year history in making their appeal. 

Next time you are in a museum or gallery, I hope the takeaway from this brief (and gif filled) intro to fundraising has you thinking about how the travelling exhibition you're visiting was feasible, how the institution can afford to maintain its collections, and/or how your membership makes a difference. 

Please share any exciting fundraising events or campaigns below! 


Anderson, E. 2006. "Fundraising for Museums". Association of Independent Museums. http://www.aim-museums.co.uk/downloads/ee7f04d4-dd7c-11e1-bdfc-001999b209eb.pdf.

McGlone, P. 2016. "How the African American Museum is Raising the Bar for Black Philanthropy". The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/museums/african-american-museums-fundraising-touches-deep-history-among-donors/2016/05/23/bc2cbc94-1613-11e6-924d-838753295f9a_story.html.

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. n.d. "My Museum, My Masterpiece". 2015-2016 Fundraising Campaign. Accessed September 26, 2016. http://www.mbam.qc.ca/en/about-the-mmfa/foundation/2015-2016-fundraising-campaign/. 

Optimus Fundraising. 2016. "Review of Campaign Status and Future Fundraising for the New Museum in the Shipyards". North Vancouver Museum and Archives. http://nvma.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/CDNV_DISTRICT_HALL-2800602-v1-CNV_Fundraising_Report_attachment_Jan-16.pdf.

Smithsonian Institution. 2001. Fundraising at Art Museums. Smithsonian Institution. https://www.si.edu/Content/opanda/docs/Rpts2001/01.10.FundraisingArt.Final.pdf.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent examples and what a fun post Maya! With the new National Museum of African and American History and Culture which opened its doors in DC, makes me realize how much they had to do to get if off the ground. I plan to become a member of our local museum here after reading your column! Fundraising events are a great way to get out and participate in the "fun" and help "raise" money! I wonder what what we would do if museums and art galleries weren't a part of our community and available for us to see, ponder and walk away further enriched by the very experience of being a part of something greater than ourselves. Your first post of the year is a timely one!