Your organization’s financial needs are ongoing—even when resources are limited.
Public funding can be fickle, here one day and gone the next. And you can only ask your loyal donor base so often before you start to sound like a broken record.
Here’s another round of ideas to help you put the “fun” back in fundraising…or at least help diversify and strengthen your revenue base.
- Memberships and Friends Groups – I know what you’re thinking: “A membership program sounds like a LOT of work!” And indeed, it can be. The key to keeping administration minimal for membership programs is to design benefits that piggyback on your existing
For example, add value for your VIPs by providing them “exclusive access” in the form of exhibit previews, or early registration periods for programs and classes. This doesn’t cost you anything in terms of additional staff or materials, but it’s a great perk for the people who care most about you! (PS, if the same folks are also your first-string volunteers for cleanups, tours, publicity or events, then your members/friends program can be twice as beneficial!)Of course, if you DO have the time and resources for a more robust benefits package, there are LOTS of other goodies you could incorporate, e.g. free or discounted merchandise, custom gifts, exclusive newsletters, members-only parties and events, free parking and more.Oh, and let’s not forget about the money part: applications like Moonclerk and Chargebee can make recurring dues/donations easy and automatic.
- Merchandise – In addition to a direct source of revenue, merchandise is a promotional opportunity: t-shirts out in the world act as a walking billboard for your organization. But what if you don’t have the staff or space to stock it? Or what if you invest a bunch of money in more inventory than you can move? What if you simply don’t have the real estate for a gift shop?Thanks to technology, all you need to run a profit-generating merchandise store these days are two things you probably already have: an internet-savvy audience and a Paypal account. There are several print-on-demand drop ship companies that will produce and fulfill online orders—without you ever having to touch money or merchandise.On Custom Ink, you can create your own t-shirt designs, and launch and track your sales. (Check out their Booster fundraising program).Printful lets you upload your custom designs and integrates with popular and e-commerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce and others.With virtually no startup cost (it’s all backed out of your proceeds), this can be a relatively a low hassle way to dabble in retail if you don’t have the time or staff to manage it yourself.Have a creative following at your site? Get them involved by running a contest or two for t-shirt artwork.
- Subleases – If it doesn’t make sense for you to sell stuff at your site, you might sub it out! Consider leasing space—in your building or even your parking lot—to a pop-up shop, a food truck, or another independent vendor. Finding a good match here is key; you want to make sure the vendor’s offerings not only appeal to your customers, but fit with the overall experience you are trying to provide.Examples of this might be:
- A city-owned historic theater leases some of its building space to a wine bar (in some cases, private companies can acquire permits that government entities cannot, such as liquor licenses).
- An urban cultural museum leases a segment of its parking lot to food trucks to showcase up-and-coming local cuisine.
- A nature center leases a portion of its building to a co-op that sells local honey, botanical lotions, or other nature-inspired, eco-friendly artisan products.
For some such partnerships, a set lease fee is appropriate, while others might prefer a revenue split. It’s a good idea to get your attorney’s input on what arrangement might be best for your organization.
For more perks about partnerships, check out this blog written by our good friend Jay Miller.
Think Inside the Box: the Donation Box – It may seem obvious, but it’s nonetheless effective: having a donation box near the exit of your exhibits captures your guests’ attention when they’re freshly motivated and inspired by their experience. It’s a convenient, fast and simple way for people of various means to contribute to your cause. (Read this fascinating study on donation box fundraising here).To maximize effectiveness, this revenue receptacle should be not only stylish and eye-catching (interactive is a bonus), but also durable and secure. It should complement the aesthetic of your exhibits, but still stand out enough that people will take notice. (Psst…if you need design or fabrication help in this department, we know some people!)
- Microdonations – Kickstarter has no doubt changed the fundraising game in a big way. But it takes significant resources to develop and execute a successful campaign (including the required reward structure). While crowdfunding sites can be an incredible tool for a one-time cause—such as a capital campaign or the development of a new work/exhibit—they aren’t really designed to provide continual general operating support.There are, however, some lower-hanging fruits that you (and your patrons) can “set and forget” to keep small donations adding up. Check out AmazonSmile and Kroger Community Rewards. Both work roughly the same way: people register for free, and they shop like normal—no extra costs are incurred by the consumer. (Hint: be sure to send out reminders at opportune times, e.g. Black Friday and Cyber Monday!) The retailers then donate a percentage of your shoppers’ sales to your organization on a quarterly basis. It’s certainly not a bailout solution, but if every dollar helps, there’s no reason NOT to do it!