If you’re a leader at a museum, you know that managing this type of organization involves many moving parts. From developing educational content that engages visitors to building a membership program to collecting donations, a lot goes into creating a thriving museum.
Fortunately, management becomes significantly simpler when you have the right tools on your side. To ensure your museum can meet its unique needs and achieve its goals, it’s important to leverage software specifically designed for cultural organizations.
Additionally, Doubleknot recommends ensuring that all of your tools integrate with each other because “that way, you can seamlessly transfer information from one system to another so it’s easy to access when you need it.” This automatic transfer also saves your team time and reduces errors in data entry so you can be confident when basing your decision-making on stored data.
In this guide, we’ll look at four essential features to look for when considering museum management solutions. Let’s get started!
1. Supporter Database
Your supporter database should allow you to consolidate and track data on all of the individuals who engage with your museum in various ways. By analyzing this data, you can develop a personalized supporter journey for each of them to help them become more involved and invested in your organization’s community.
Create an individual profile for each supporter that includes the following information:
- Demographics: age, location, education, family status, wealth
- Engagement history: frequency and recency of visits, membership status, past event attendance, donation information
- Preferred communication methods: emails, texts, phone calls, social media
Some all-in-one management solutions will include these profiles within the main platform. In many cases, however, you’ll need to create these in an external constituent relationship management (CRM) system. If you already use a CRM at your museum, check that your management solution integrates with it. If you purchase the management solution first, look on the provider’s website for a list of CRMs that integrate with it.
2. Membership Management Platform
Memberships are essential for museums like yours to thrive. Not only are membership dues a reliable revenue source because they’re paid annually, but members are among the most engaged individuals in your museum’s community—visiting more often, participating in more programs, and making more donations.
To make the most of your membership program, your organization’s software should include a comprehensive membership management platform. According to Double the Donation, this platform should support:
- Custom membership benefit structures. Many museums create membership tiers where members can pay more to access more benefits. Your software should track which members are in each tier and apply benefits to their purchases and registrations accordingly.
- Flexible payments. Turn on auto-renewals for memberships so they won’t need to do any work to stay in the program—they’ll have to make an effort to opt out instead. Also, make sure you can accept a variety of payment methods for membership dues (all major credit cards, bank account transfers, and mobile payments like PayPal or Venmo) through a secure payment processor.
- Add-on donations. Convert members into donors by prompting them to make an additional donation when they sign up. You should also be able to incorporate this feature when members fill out program registration forms and make other online purchases.
- Digital membership cards. Not only does this capability cut down on paper waste, but it also makes it easier for members to check in when they visit and ensures they don’t lose their card.
On the member side, your software should offer user-friendly registration forms and a member portal where they can check their status, view updates on upcoming events and promotions, and quickly take advantage of opportunities that interest them. This portal should be linked to their profile in your database so you can immediately collect their engagement data.
3. Flexible Ticketing System
In addition to memberships, ticket sales are another important revenue stream for many museums. Your management solution should include a ticketing system that allows for extensive but easy customization to support your museum’s admissions strategy.
In particular, you should be able to tailor the following aspects of the process within your ticketing software:
- Pricing structures. Similar to membership tiers, museums often offer special ticket pricing for specific demographic groups, such as children, senior citizens, college students, and military members. Make sure you can set different costs for each group if you want to, as well as provide free or heavily discounted tickets for members.
- Mobile ticketing. Besides further reducing your organization’s paper waste, mobile ticketing allows visitors to reserve their spots in advance, helping with capacity management on busy days. Plus, they won’t have to wait as long in line when your staff can scan their prepaid tickets in seconds.
- Upselling. For both advance reservations and walk-in ticket sales, prompt visitors to engage more deeply with your museum by purchasing another ticket for a special exhibit or show, downloading a digital educational resource, or making a donation. When you can configure this in your software, it’s easier to bring in additional revenue.
Not only should your ticketing system automatically transfer data to your supporter profiles, but it should also come with its own reporting capabilities so you can analyze your ticket sale data as a whole and adjust your strategy over time.
4. Event Planning Tools
Your museum likely hosts a wide variety of events, which the right software can help you manage. First, make sure you can create a robust event calendar to help you schedule the following types of activities:
- Educational programming such as workshops, webinars, and summer camps
- Group reservations for school field trips or kids’ birthday parties
- Fundraising events like galas or silent auctions
Additionally, your event planning system should allow you to develop custom registration forms where you can collect all of the specific information you need for an activity. For instance, when a parent signs their child up for one of your museum’s summer day camps, you’ll likely need them to provide emergency contact details, information about allergies and dietary restrictions, signups for before and after care if needed, and their child’s t-shirt size. Your forms should be able to accommodate all of this information and file it away for future reference.
Once you’ve found a solution that includes all of these features and aligns with your budget, book a demo of it so you can see how it works and ask questions to decide whether it would work for your museum. When you make your final choice, promptly provide training for all staff members who need to use the software so they can quickly jump in and make the most of the tools for your organization.