Crowdfunding for smaller museums - Museums Association

Crowdfunding for smaller museums

A case study from Wiltshire Museum
Fundraising
Rachael Holtom
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It is an exciting time for museum fundraising. There are a myriad of digital approaches museums can use, but our small team at Wiltshire Museum, in Devizes, had not engaged with any of these until the Covid pandemic forced us to.

The Museums Association’s #SupportOurMuseums campaign in association with the Crowdfunder fundraising platform gave us the confidence to start.  The campaign was announced in November and promised plenty of support and publicity.

We had not secured any of the emergency funding streams and needed to raise money for support our education and learning teams. We launched our campaign on 16 November, alongside our traditional Members’ Appeal.

We are glad we did so because the four-week campaign raised £4,400 (plus £768.75 Gift Aid) from 51 supporters. We achieved 56% of our Crowdfunder target. Meanwhile, the Members’ Appeal raised £1,815 (plus Gift Aid) a similar total to previous years. Some members told us they had donated via Crowdfunder instead, so the final total increased significantly.

Organisations and individuals who want to raise money for charitable, personal and business projects through Crowdfunder's website can create their own page using a template. Crowdfunder banks and records donations, but it is up to the people behind the campaign to generate visits by promoting it via social media and supporter drives.

The money arrives in the campaigner’s bank account about a week after the close, Gift Aid details are provided, and no follow-up report is needed.

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Once a financial target is set, the campaigner can decide whether to opt for a higher achieving option, which means that funds will not be released unless the target is realised, or take the safer but possibly less lucrative route of taking all donations despite not achieving the target (as we did).

Most donors were known to us as members or general supporters. Crowdfunder strongly recommends contacting known supporters and interested groups before the campaign launches and asking them to share the message via their networks.

Our museum is owned and run by the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, and we are lucky to have more than 1,000 members. We were hoping the Crowdfunder would reach new international donors, but this did not happen.

However, roughly 25% of donors were names new to us. helping us to spread our supporter network. Crowdfunder helped us promote our independent charity status and need for support. A surprising element was that it also created a bank of great advocacy comments.

“My favourite small museum. Does what it does extremely well. Deserves the community’s support.”

A comment from a supporter of Wiltshire Museum's crowdfunding campaign

Preparation time for the campaign was short, with just two weeks between the introductory webinar with Crowdfunder to the campaign launching. It certainly focused our minds!

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But we were also hamstrung by the November lockdown and consequent limitations, especially working in separate teams with limited access to the museum. Overall, we are proud of what we achieved and if we can do this in two weeks, there is huge potential to raise significantly more in the future with more time and the ability to hold physical launch parties as Crowdfunder recommends.

Crowdfunder provides an easy-to-use template and a variety of information sheets advising how to structure text. They also provide webinars, one to one consultations and online training. We ensured we included plenty of images and a couple of YouTube links to our lockdown family learning videos and had an introduction video featuring a member of staff in the museum. We felt that gave us a personal connection with donors.

This was also played out on social media posts. The rough and ready lockdown videos we posted of staff filmed on mobile phones were the most successful. Social media driving is key to driving people to your page but it takes time, and we did not have the capacity to do all that Crowdfunder recommended.

But we did make time to always thank new donors and add updates to our funding page and as social media posts.

We also:

  • Emailed local interest groups
  • Posted in our members’ newsletter
  • Sent out press releases.
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Interestingly, not all donations generated by the Crowdfunder appeal were virtual and some people still preferred to donate by cheque.

Donors can choose to receive a reward for their support, designed on a sliding scale of amount given.  Our theme was the Stonehenge landscape treasures, which are our USP, and they ranged from £10 (a social media mention) to £1,000 (private tour inside the Stonehenge circle with our director.

Surprising, 43 of our 51 donors decided to be true altruists and chose no reward.

Once a campaign is launched, Crowdfunder has a sophisticated user dashboard that gives real-time updates; nifty graphs and tables; downloadable Gift Aid information and optional GDPR-compliant supporters details for future communications.

So, would we be doing a similar appeal again in future? We are already scoping what the next one will be - it is quite an addictive process.

Rachael Holtom is the development officer at Wiltshire Museum

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