Museums are awesome, but they are often strapped for cash. With limited funding and big operating costs, money can be the biggest barrier museums face when trying to bring cool ideas to life.
That’s why we think getting creative with revenue streams is a great idea. There’s more to generating income for your museum than grants, ticket sales, and gift shop purchases. And it doesn’t have to mean a lot of upfront investment either.
Here are 5 ways to generate more moolah for your museum without re-inventing the wheel.
Day lockers for the win
Amusement parks, health clubs, and nature parks use them – why not your museum? Purchasing just a few coin-operated locker units from your local hardware store will not only provide an extra convenience for your visitors but also add a small, no-maintenance revenue stream to your museum. Seems like a drop in the bucket? Here’s how much a museum could earn with just 10 day lockers rented twice a day at $1 each:
- 10 x $1 = $10
- x 2 rentals per day = $20
- x 7 days a week = $140
- x 52 weeks a year = $7280
Just think of what you could do with an extra $7280 (or more!) in your budget every year. Not bad for a humble storage locker.
Make donating easy (and fun)
Who doesn’t love a cash donation to their museum? Whether big or small, a cash contribution makes you feel warm and fuzzy in your heart and bottom line. It’s a no-brainer to make donating as easy and obvious for your visitors as possible.
Standard donation boxes at museum entrances aren’t always the most inspiring. Whether you charge admission or not, investing in eye-catching donation boxes throughout your displays will gently encourage visitors to contribute when they’re enjoying your museum the most.
Can your museum accept donations via card or online? What about different currencies? The fewer barriers you have to donating, the quicker you can maximize contributions from visitors.
With a little creativity, donating can even be fun.
The Pitt Rivers Museum spent £3,000 on a unique donation box with automated carved wooden figures that point and stare as visitors approach, encouraging them to donate into a copper bowl. When money is dropped inside, the figures bend over to inspect it. This unique donation box has more than paid for itself, and collects £4,000 to £5,000 per year.
Could you turn your donation box into a display, activity or learning experience? It’s always a good idea to re-think how your museum can make donating easier, more meaningful, and fun.
Become the coolest venue on the block
Museums are amazing, unique spaces that people love to hang out in. So why not offer it up to paying customers for private events outside of opening hours?
From corporate away days, to weddings, to photo shoots and beyond, many organizations and individuals are willing to pay big bucks for the privilege of using museum spaces for their events. This revenue stream isn’t completely maintenance free – it’ll require some staff time to sell the space, coordinate bookings, and arrange any necessary operational details. T
he good news is that you can choose the rental arrangements that best fit your organization’s resources, and the pay-off can be big. And there’s an added bonus on top of the cash: it’s free advertising that encourages event attendees to come back as visitors.
Try out some trails
Gallery trails are a digital or paper activity sheets that provide a new narrative or interpretive layer that might not be fully explored in your existing exhibits, tours, and audio-guides. They are particularly useful for engaging an audience who isn’t specifically catered to in your exhibit interpretation, such as children, teens, or any visitor with a specific subject interest.
Some museums choose to offer gallery trails for free, but they can also be used as an easy revenue generator that is still accessible to most visitor wallets. If your museum can spend a bit of staff time and money to write and produce a great gallery trail, you can sell them to visitors for years to come (or at least until your exhibits change!).
Host a movie night
Does your museum have a lecture theatre or a room with a projector and some chairs? It could be the coolest new movie theatre just waiting to be discovered. Grab a few bags of popcorn, pick an old movie that suits your museum’s audience and theme (be sure to check copyright permissions), and start selling tickets!
Or if you have outdoor space and a bit of extra cash for an outdoor projector, why not take inspiration from Hampton Court Palace and host a ridiculously-popular outdoor movie night?
Although some of these ideas might not generate millions for your bottom line, they could give your museum a much-needed cash boost with minimal effort. Museums are awesome at making every penny count – imagine what yours could do with a few more to spend.
These are just some of our ideas, but we want to hear yours! Share them with us in the comments.