A puma skull (Puma concolor) at the Grant Museum, which has been adopted by the Museums Association

Friends in need

Will Richard, 15.04.2015
The Grant Museum has created an unusual membership scheme
The Grant Museum of Zoology, which is part of University College London, does not charge for entry or exhibitions so we are limited in the conventional benefits we can offer a Friend or member.

Like many small museums, we have had to turn to the unconventional to attract custom.

The main reason people become members is to “adopt a specimen”. For an annual fee of £15 (£12 concessions or £20 families) people can choose a skull, skeleton or animal in a jar to call their own.

Alongside a personalised certificate, the adopter can see their name (or name of their choice) displayed beside their specimen and, unlike similar schemes, they are the sole sponsor.

The relationship is one-to-one. Most of our members go with the usual “Joe and Josephine Bloggs” but we’ve had a raft of nicknames and two marriage proposals so far.

The scheme is personal and much of the content is bespoke. This is our hook and our current membership equates to approximately 2% of our total annual visitors.

This was manageable when we had a smaller profile but as our visitor numbers have built up so has our membership, which has grown by 600% in the past five years.

We are facing a challenge. How do we maintain the personal nature of the programme but make it scalable to meet increasing demand?

We are upgrading our systems in time for a seasonal marketing drive come December.

We’ve 68,000 specimens in the museum’s collection. There’s a lot more adopting to be done.

Will Richard is visitor services assistant at the Grant Museum of Zoology