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Fundraising for Museums: 10+ Creative Ideas

Fundraising for Museums: 10+ Creative Ideas

Museum fundraising is becoming more important than ever. Museums must focus their efforts on working with private supporters, museum members, friends groups, local communities, and corporate partnerships. Finding creative ways to succeed in museum fundraising while inspiring supporters can be challenging.  Beyond requesting donations, perhaps your museum will engage members of your community to help raise funds through hosting fun and educational museum fundraising events and activities.

10+ Museum Fundraising Ideas that Support Your Mission

Mission-driven fundraising is important for many organizations and imperative for successful museum fundraising as it engages your supporters in support of your museum. What’s more – it’s generally easy for museums to do. Here are ten museum fundraising ideas to get you started.

1. Host ‘Travel with the Museum’ Programs

Offering special travel experiences could be a unique fundraising idea for your museum to embrace. People are always looking for something new and unique and are willing to pay a premium when doing so with an expert in the field. Travel across the city or globe with curators and art historians to explore artistic treasures. Of course, you’ll want to price travel packages to include a required donation to the museum. Consider offering the travel experience on Airbnb to gain a larger audience.

2. Offer or Boost Museum Memberships or Patron Programs

Members are an important aspect of fundraising for many museums. Museum members or patrons are committed donors who pay an annual or monthly fee to support ongoing museum projects and exhibits. Various types of memberships are generally offered with different benefits and donor levels. Examples are family memberships, VIP or Patron memberships which include special perks, and memberships that benefit a specific period or category of art within your museum.

Museum Memberships or Patron Programs

Museum members receive benefits in exchange for their donations. Member benefits can include:

  • Free museum admission (always!)
  • Discounted or included guest tickets and passes
  • Members-only hours and previews for major exhibitions
  • Museum store discounts
  • Members-only parties or receptions
  • Discounted art classes and tours

3. Host Live Performances

Fundraising for Museums live performance

Give people a reason to come out and see a new exhibit. Poetry, dance, music, and other performances may be planned in concert with new exhibitions and installations at the museum. Performances and gallery talks funded through corporate sponsorships provide local businesses and corporations a great way to get involved.

4. Offer Special Programs for Schools and Children

School programs at museums enable students to make connections and develop an understanding of art creatively and historically. The experiences K-12 students are offered can include facilitated visits with docents, museum artists, poets, curators, and art donors. After exploring and discussing different paintings and sculptures in the galleries, students create unique works to take home. These special teachings can ignite curiosity and cultivate academic and personal skills in young children.

School programs offer enrichment for kids

School programs may be offered on a sliding fee scale. Find larger donations in fundraising for museums through specific campaigns for school programs:

  • Corporate sponsorships targeted for school programs
  • Matched employee donations within corporate sponsorships
  • Donors with a special interest in education
  • Fundraising for museums through parent and extended family donations
  • Partnerships between schools and museums on school fundraising events

Another fundraising opportunity school programs provide museums is found in how they enrich children. Donors see and value the enrichment and understand how their donations are used. Invite them to join school programs as volunteers and watch children find a new world.

5. Organize a Fundraising Gala Event

Museum gala events

Many museums are renowned not only for their art collection but for their grand buildings. Fundraising ideas for small museums and large ones are found in their architectural spaces ideal for events. Large corporate dinners, nonprofit themed galas, meetings, and film screenings are a few ideas.

  • For elegantly catered events from business meetings to intimate dinners and cocktail receptions, museums offer the perfect setting.
  • With various spaces equipped with state-of-the-art media, museums are ideal locations to host a concert. Expert museum teams focus on technology needs and create the perfect audience experience.
  • Board meetings and day-long staff retreats held under the same roof as a world-class art collection inspire teams.

6. Screen Independent or Special Films

Fundraising for Museums cinema and film screening

Independent films provide opportunities to experience important aspects of visual culture. Sell tickets to the film screening as well as offer healthy refreshments for sale. Seek sponsor funding for films through corporate and special donors.

Independent film screening could include any of these options:

  • Foreign films
  • Critically-acclaimed documentaries from around the world
  • Independent films with discussions following
  • Films about artists and art movements
  • Visually splendid films for adults and children
  • Video productions and films by local artists

7. Launch an Online Museum Store

Online merchandise sales are a great way to raise money for museums. An opportunity to sell tasteful products on a national and international scale can raise much-needed funds and offer those that live far away a great way to give. Merchandise options for museums include:

  • Artbooks – lavishly illustrated books and narrated audiobooks are popular
  • Apparel of paintings such as ties, t-shirts, and scarves
  • Tote bags to bring beauty to markets
  • Mugs (travel mugs and ceramic mugs) to contemplate art over coffee
  • Learn to paint kits with everything a young painter needs to create masterpieces: brushes, color washable paints, paper, instructions, and ideas
  • Umbrellas to brighten any rainy day with paintings of Monet’s water lilies overhead
  • Art prints of paintings in your museum and housed around the world
  • Add your museum logo to some of these items for nonprofit branding

Find out how to start an online store for nonprofits and create beautiful, custom merchandise and accessories.

8. Offer Special Museum Tours and Lectures

Visiting lecture series can be held throughout the year in the museum. Talks by artists, curators, and other experts from various scholarly fields shed light on art.

Offer a monthly Lunch Lecture series to local business people where they can enjoy their lunch hour and an educational experience with art. Charge admission (or request a minimum donation) before the presentation.  Encourage guests to register in advance (especially if there is limited seating) for the lecture series using event ticketing software.   This series could include book readings and art history lectures featuring a different artist each month.  Negotiate food discounts or donated lunches from local businesses if they choose to come on board as the monthly corporate sponsor.  This minimizes your out-of-pocket expenses, so the museum keeps a larger percentage of the admission fee.

Museum tours

Fundraising for museums would not be complete without smart discussions of current exhibitions led by docents. Bring 30-minute guided tours that provide insight into history, methods, and influences. Drop-in tours may be held on certain days of the month. Private tours offered to groups as a corporate sponsorship benefit are attractive. These special tours bring new donors and volunteers to the museum fundraising scene. Tours held in conjunction with open houses and wine tasting fundraisers raise even more.

9. Provide Art Classes with Local Artists

Fundraising for Museums art class

Introduce adults to the fundamentals of drawing or acrylic painting. Provide the practice of various approaches to charcoal, pastel, or paint from a live model. Help them learn how material, form, and space define sculpture. Offering a variety of art and art education classes is a wonderful museum fundraising idea. Students often become ambassadors and volunteers of museums through classes. Consider introducing a crowdfunding event with an art focus involving your students and alumni.

10. Build New Corporate and Community Partnerships

Corporate partnerships are important in fundraising for museums

Corporations and businesses grant money to museums that show their ability to create corporate partnerships. Think about what you can offer a corporation, as a benefit of sponsorship. The best corporate fundraising efforts generally include a special event. Hosting fundraising events helps corporations to share the campaign with employees who feel proud to work for a company contributing to charitable causes. So consider creating a corporate partnership, and offer their employees special events and museum perks.

Start a Museum Fundraising Campaign

Define Your Museum Brand and Message

As with all nonprofit fundraising, museums need to start with the foundation of strong fundraising – a clear, concise message and brand. This means crafting a unique appeal, defining clear fundraising goals, making a convincing case that addresses your museum’s needs, and showcasing the impact of your work.

Museum branding

Defining and clarifying your fundraising ask may seem simple. You need more money to run the museum, right? With so much competition for funding, you’ll need to do better than that. Museums must sell their message of support by defining their goals and priorities and saying what makes them uniquely positioned to handle the problem. After that, the fundraising strategy will become more clear and more focused.

Read more on defining your nonprofit’s brand.

Conclusions on Museum Fundraising

Museums are a wonderful place to bring businesses, artists, schools, and community members together. Teaching people about art and art history is an opportunity to inspire others and feel rewarded. Inspiring supporters to help with the high costs of artwork restorations, installations, and museum management is important. Getting people involved with art through hosting museum fundraising events encourages supporters to become active members of your museum and allows you to increase fundraising dollars raised year after year.

Maureen Peine

About Maureen Peine

Maureen has been writing and marketing for DoJiggy for 8 years, and has a strong background in nonprofit fundraising. While with The Nature Conservancy for 7 years prior, she learned the inner workings of marketing to the State of California within the external affairs department. Her heart is in her writing as she believes in the power of change through nonprofit organizations.

See other posts from Maureen Peine