Museum Fundraising

Museum Fundraising
In this economy, everyone needs to raise money to balance the budget. These are some of the ways museums and other non-profits can raise some much needed cash.


Your membership program is an important asset to raise funds. The most popular membership levels are always individual and family memberships. Why not focus on building your supporting level memberships? Perks for higher categories of museum membership might include free guest passes, discounted meeting and party rental fees, special access to behind-the-scenes tours, or invitations to private supporting member-only parties. Use your imagination to create an attractive list of benefits – then go seek out the right fit for your package.

Targeted Programs

Raising money for a specific purpose or project can help donors identify with your cause. Do you have a popular exhibit that is worn out and needs to be refurbished or replaced? Do you have a specific collections project that might connect with a certain group? Ask a Red Hat Society to fund the re-housing of your hat collection in acid-free materials. Asking the right person or group can make all the difference! Start a fundraising program geared specifically for a single project. Let your visitors know how much you need to raise in order to make your project happen. Measure your success on a large thermometer to encourage others to give. Everyone wants to donate to a successful campaign, so show them how much you’ve already raised to help meet your goal.

Annual Giving

Don’t just send out the same old appeal for funding year after year. Instead, ask your staff what they need to make their jobs easier. Do you need a new copy machine? Large scale printer? Tractor? Create a wish list – with a price for each item – and ask donors to contribute to a specific need. People love to know exactly where their money is going. They might pick a pet project of their own, or give to a staff member’s department who has gone above and beyond for them. This is a great way to raise money for things that can’t be purchased in your budget.

Capital Campaigns

For large scale projects, you will need to coordinate a major capital campaign. Projects funded this way might include major renovations, endowment, large-scale improvements (such as a new permanent exhibition) or brick-and-mortar projects (such as an addition or new wing). Brainstorm all of your needs and package them together. Plan your capital campaign wisely, because it is not advisable to launch more than one in a decade.

Memorials and Bequests

Encourage your members and visitors to remember your museum through planned giving. Bequests of artifacts and money are becoming more popular. Regularly remind people that a memorial to a deceased loved one is an excellent way to honor someone’s memory and continue to support their community’s cultural heritage.


Seek out sponsorships for special events and exhibitions. Sponsor benefits can include an ad in your program, a sign at the event or in the exhibition, free tickets for employees or guests, and recognition in all publicity materials, including your newsletter, e-newsletter, website, and press releases. Ideally, sponsorship should cover the expenses of your event, which will mean each ticket sold will generate a profit.

You Should Also Read:
Marketing Ideas for Small Museums
Tough Times for Museums
Grant Writing for Museums

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This content was written by Kim Kenney. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Kim Kenney for details.