In an economic downturn, everyone is affected. Non-profits can be hit hard as grant money and donations dry up, and income from shrinking endowments disappears.
Here are some tips and strategies to keep in mind as you weather this economic storm:
Stay true to your mission. Figure out what makes you unique and stick to it! Build up a reputation as an excellent source for programs and exhibitions. People can see through gimmicks, so donít cheapen your site just to make a buck. There are lots of great ideas that preserve the integrity of what youíre doing AND make you money.
Keep your prices reasonable. Consider offering special coupons Ė $1.00 off admission, buy-one-get-one free admission, free childrenís admission with the purchase of an adult admission, etc. You can run an ad with your coupon in a local newspaper or magazine, as a rack card that you distribute yourself to hotels and tourist information sites, or in your local entertainment book.
Donít overprice a special event. Iíve always believed in the power of selling more tickets at a lower price than fewer tickets at a higher price. The more people who enjoy your event, the more free marketing you will receive as they go around town singing your praises to family and friends! Also, an overpriced event may not actually happen if you canít sell enough tickets. It is always terrible to have to cancel something. Your staffís morale will definitely suffer. So set a realistic price.
Step up your membership marketing! Stress the value of being a member at your museum. If you havenít raised your membership prices in awhile, market that fact. Look into reciprocal admissions with national organizations. My museum is a member of the Association of Science & Technology Centers, which gives our members reciprocal membership to over 250 science centers nationwide. You can use that as an incentive to boost membership.
Almost everything else costs more! Try comparing your prices to other entertainment venues and marketing the results. Tally up the cost of taking a family of four to a movie (including snacks!) and compare it to the cost of spending the same amount of time at your site. Emphasize the museumís role in informal education, and how visitors can have fun while they learn!
Partner with other attractions in town to increase visibility. A billboard or full page ad in your local newspaper may blow your marketing budget. But it just might be more affordable if you share the cost with another non-profit. Or solicit local businesses to fund your advertising. Offer to include their logo on a billboard in exchange for footing the bill. A museum is a prestigious partner for any business to have.
Donít forget the locals. At my museum, we have been marketing ourselves to the local community for years as a place to bring out of town guests. All of this grassroots effort has paid off as people recognize the treasure in their own backyards! Even if you are a national tourist destination, remember the people in your own community. Offer special membership or admission rates for locals. If people are cutting back on travel, they will look for things to do around town instead.