A Plan in Hand: Strategic Planning Case Studies with Huntington Library & LACMA

Museum Resources
Marketing & Aud Dev Associate
Museum Resources November 23, 2019 A Plan in Hand: Strategic Planning Case Studies with Huntington Library & LACMA

Strategic planning – it may sound like a corporate buzzword phrase, but more and more museums are adapting the process to meet their goals.

Almost every museum has a mission statement: a short summary of what the institution’s main goal is. So what’s the difference between a mission statement and strategic planning? Your mission says what you do; your strategic plan explains how you’re going to do it.

The Value of Strategic Planning

Strategic plans carefully lay out a path showing how to achieve specific goals inspired by your museum’s mission.

Many mission statements are often so general that the real value lies in crafting a more specific strategy to quantifiably make (and measure!) an impact. In this way, strategic plans are ways to address areas of improvement and growth for institutions, particularly when it comes to goals related to understanding and increasing their audience.

Responding to community and audience needs requires a strategic plan. Here are some questions you should be asking yourself as you build your strategic plan:

  • What do you do well?
  • What needs to change?
  • What strategies will best deliver your mission?
  • How will you evaluate success?

Museums will not persuade government, companies or individuals to provide sufficient money unless we can convince them that we have a vision for the future. Without a vision, a
museum does not have a future and without a future it does not get its funding. -Neil Chalmers, former director of the Natural History Museum, London

Museums exist in a field where it’s easy to dream big but hard to make institutional changes, so to continue to grow, strategic plans are the way to make a clear outline of what you’re trying to achieve and how you’ll do it.

Dustin re-working “Night Lab,” South Australian Museum’s signature event we dubbed “Night Hack.”

Recently, we had the privilege of working with two museums to help them create and review their strategic plans regarding specific goals. Here’s what happened.

Making LACMA for Locals

Many museums these days are facing a big dilemma: how can they bring in new members, particularly younger members that will continue to grow with the museum? The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is addressing the same problem.

Peter and Ethan in CA

Peter and Ethan from our Audience Development team flew to LA to join the team at LACMA to take a look at the current membership program, make some recommendations, and brainstorm new ways to make LACMA the destination for locals.

Re-assessing is essential for any museum looking to boost membership, as are removing as many barriers as possible and making membership an accessible thing for any visitors looking to make a long-term commitment to your museum. Creating programs and benefits that are attractive to younger members is the best way to create a lifelong interest and love of your museum.

Looking towards the future, LACMA is working towards creating a brand new model for their membership engagement with the local community so that they can tap into a new audience.

Helping Huntington with Hit Signature Tours

Just outside of Pasadena, CA, the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens has cultivated an amazing collection in an even more amazing space. They know what a gem is, but want to raise public awareness of the collection as well.

Our Audience Development Manager, Peter, headed out to Huntington to help brainstorm about a huge potential area of growth:  group tours. Group tours, and specialty tours, are a great way to expand current audiences and reach out to potential new visitors.

Huntington already does a great job reaching out to tourism bureaus, bus tours, and being a destination on guided vacations. Building up these relationships is a fantastic way to remain fresh in that industry, but the next step is to create a standard process to help draw in and facilitate all different types of group tours.

To create a new standard process, you have to review what’s currently going on in your museum. Having a clear view of your current staff’s capabilities, as well as a vision for what services you’d like to provide in the future, can help as you figure out the best way to utilize the people on your team.

We worked to help Huntington to write new jobs descriptions and employment posts and offered hiring best practices so they could find the best people for the job.

Turn Your Mission Into A Plan

A mission or a goal without a tangible plan is just a nice idea on a piece of paper. By taking the time to examine your current situation, assess your needs, and create strategies for the future, you’ll turn your dream into reality.

written with 💖 by Julia Kennedy

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Comments & Reactions

  1. Paul C. Thistle
    Paul C. Thistle
    February 11, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    You mention “mission” & “vision,” but I am unsure whether you equate the two, use them in the same sense, or differentiate them. What is your distinction between mission & vision? I have encountered those who reverse what I understand are the commonly accepted meanings. Thanks for thinking about this.

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