The Museum of the Home in London is a place where our experiences of home matter and is the UK’s only museum dedicated to all aspects of home life. Everything we do is rooted in personal stories.
Housed in 300-year-old almshouse buildings in Hoxton, a vibrant and diverse part of east London, the museum’s overarching vision is to reveal and rethink the ways in which we live so we can live better together and an exciting new project is bringing that aim to life.
The physical and conceptual changes made during a £18m redevelopment project – not to mention a new name and mission and a new leadership team at the helm – provided a perfect platform to explore new ideas and launch vibrant and innovative programming.
The intention is to do more than the traditional notion of shining a light on some of the most prominent contemporary issues. Instead, we want to be an active vehicle for social change. As a key part of making that vision a reality, the museum’s partnerships director, Lucy Littlewood, came up with the Campaign for Change concept – a rolling programme of two-year partnerships to tackle issues head on.
The inaugural campaign is a partnership with the London Homeless Collective (LHC) called Behind the Door. The aim is to raise awareness of the huge issue of hidden homelessness among women and children; challenge common misconceptions of homelessness; and work with a range of partners to support the first pan-London strategy on ending female homeless by 2025 and other practical solutions.
Exact outcomes will develop, all in collaboration, throughout the campaign. Behind the Door was launched in November 2020 by the museum’s development team as an initial ask for catalyst financial support. This cross-sector approach to fundraising, combining arts, heritage, charity and social change, is a unique relationship that has been exceptionally attractive to donors, raising nearly £100,000 to date.
Thirty percent of all funds raised through the campaign go directly to LHC member projects, while the remainder will be used to support media campaigns, exhibitions, workshops, talks and debates at the museum, challenging deep-set prejudices in surprising ways.
A key fundraising initiative has included establishing a group of Founding Sisters, who are committed to donating an annual gift of at least £3,000. These were largely cold asks to a researched group of women we identified as prospects.
The warmth the appeal generated was amazing and resulted in completely fresh introductions being made to the museum. Our Founding Sisters are encouraged to engage more deeply with Behind the Door programming and have attended kick-off Think Ins with artists and partners, as well as offering their time, corporate introductions and venues for events.
One member who is more well-known has used her profile to be a press spokesperson for the campaign. A recent online fundraising auction really put the programme on the map after it generated a press and social reach of more than 40 million. Working closely with museum trustee Christine Chang Hanway and ambassador Carolyn Asome, we invited a curated list of female artisans and business owners to donate unique pieces and experiences.
Over the actual week we raised a grant total of £42,000 direct income, 500 new subscribers to our newsletter, 2,000 new Instagram followers and two new Founding Sisters.
We have also had many generous offers of fantastic prizes, so a further auction will follow soon.
Media coverage was great – varied publications reached 38 millions people and Living Etc described it as “the most fashionable auction of the year”. Over two million people saw posts and stories, including reposts, on Instagram.
The buzz the auction created was felt far and wide with bids from three continents.
As is always the way in fundraising, this work did not come without its challenges. The museum didn’t have an existing pool of individual donors to engage with bidding, so success hinged on auction donors promoting the event and their prizes through their own social media.
Senior fundraising manager Alice Painting, who ran the auction, says an example of where this worked brilliantly was the limited edition print designed by artist Morag Myerscough and writer Lemn Sissay. This was offered as a "buy it now" option alongside the auction, giving potential supporters the chance to engage at a lower price point of £40.
“We did fairly well through promotion on our own platforms, but with 200 prints to sell we needed to reach a larger audience with a particular interest in the artists’ work,” she says. “Once the artists themselves shared it on their social channels, purchases escalated dramatically and all the prints quickly sold out.
“Maintaining momentum in the middle of the auction week was also difficult, with key engagement coming in the first couple of days and final day of the event. In hindsight, we would consider running our next auction for a shorter time-period.
“Additionally, we rather unexpectedly ended up with too many prizes. Balancing which to keep in the auction and which to move to the next auction was a complex process, ensuring we did not disappoint our donors and spread the star lots across both auctions.”
Looking to the future, we hope to organise another Behind the Door fundraising event later in the year – hopefully with an in-person element. We are working through our communications plan to ensure engagement with the campaign remains strong, and there are plenty of touch-points to strengthen our relationship with our new networks.
We would like to convert some of the auction donors to longer-term Founding Sister donors, while we hope that some prize donors might consider becoming museum ambassadors.
When we reopen on 12 June (Covid restrictions permitting), one of the opening exhibitions will be Polly Braden’s photography show, Holding the Baby, which tells the stories of a number of single mothers on Universal Credit, challenging traditional stereotypes. We will also be launching Home Truths – a talk and debate series covering topics related to Behind the Door, as well as hosting the Festival of Home later in the summer.
Lucy Littlewood, Alice Painting, Sophie Kashi and Ellen Haywood-Seer are part of the development team at the Museum of the Home