Flourish Project January 2016 Update

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Welcome back to Flourish and the project’s second blog. We are delighted to be able to update you on our progress so far. As a reminder, the project objectives are to implement step changes that result in an increase in regular income streams, in connection with membership revenue and from regular donations. We are also tasked with promoting and obtaining pledges and legacies, to aid long term sustainability.

 

We are delighted to have appointed Lucy Marshall of Prospect Point, to assist the project with an individual giving and major donor campaign. Due to the work being undertaken by Lucy and drawing on her previous research and experience, we have developed a structured and planned approach to fundraising, resulting in a number of successful meetings with existing and prospective patrons. This has also led to a number of gifts having been secured.

 

We are also fortunate to be working with Claire Routely PHD of Legacy Fundraising. Claire has collated information and research to present a number of detailed legacy briefs, designed to assist with legacy leaflet and on line messaging production. We have organised a legacy event, to be held on 12 May at COAM, which is being marketed to all prospective long term donors.

 

Volunteers
The Flourish project is looking into how the value of volunteers time can be acknowledged by museums.

 

One of the key learning points coming out of this valuable research, is to focus on the human stories coming out of legacy giving and to be able to show what such gifts mean to the donor and the reasons they wanted to make a lasting gift to their chosen museum. We have learned it is equally important to combine these personal messages with a carefully selected visual image that relays the story behind the gift.

 

As well as considering how to acknowledge lifetime gifts and donations, Flourish is also very interested in the acknowledgement of legacies in the future. We are asking where this should appear on site, what materials to use, the size of display and whether to use virtual displays on the website. Didcot Railway, has opted for a display board with badge sized nameplates of past benefactors.

 

An important part of the Flourish project is sharing the learning coming out of the project, with the wider museum community. We have therefore, publicised sharing days , you can book your tickets for our next sharing day on Eventbrite it’s on 22nd April 2016 at Chiltern Open Air Museum in Buckinghamshire and the South West Federation of Museums event takes place on 9th May at the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol, Avon.

 

The Flourish project is really changing the way we think about fundraising and about what role our volunteers could play in working towards a more sustainable financial future.

 

One of the issues we have been wrestling with over the last few years is how museums should acknowledge the contribution of volunteers’ time and money to the organisation. Volunteers give many thousands of hours, representing many thousands of pounds, without which we simply could not achieve such great visitor experiences or story telling of our collections. But often volunteers will also give donations, pay membership fees and help raise money for the museums they love, as well as leaving some of their money to them in their will. So how do you acknowledge all these amazing gifts of time and money without creating a huge display of thank yous or selecting only some and offending others by implying that their smaller amounts are not as valuable as larger gifts? Some volunteers specifically request anonymity and others like to be acknowledged publicly, which only adds to the difficulty of knowing how to provide a suitable acknowledgement for all.

 

We asked Consultant Julia Hill to do some research into what a few other museums and external organisations do to resolve this acknowledgement issue. You can read her document Volunteering, Membership and Giving_Flourish Project Report_Oct 2015

 

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As a result of our research Sue Shave, Museum Director at Chiltern Open Air Museum is now running regular coffee mornings with volunteers.

 

 

Julia conducted a focus group with a few of Chiltern Open Air Museum volunteers in January to find out what they thought about these issues and what they felt we should do. The staff left the group with Julia so that the volunteers were free to speak without feeling that they were offending anyone! A survey monkey with similar questions is also going out to all our volunteers that were unable to come along so that they can anonymously give their views on these matters too.

 

What we learnt from that day so far has changed our practice and turned our ideas about acknowledgement upside down!

 

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  • Volunteers said they didn’t want plaques, on site acknowledgement, web site virtual brick walls with their name in it etc. What they actually wanted was a fuller involvement in the running of the museum and the decision making instead and didn’t feel they had enough opportunities to have their say or to find out about museum governance.
  • They wanted to help with any problems the organisation was facing and to be included in the discussions about how to resolve those problems.
  • They also didn’t feel they know enough about the financial needs of the museum in order to talk confidently about this to visitors and local community members. Volunteers wanted to know why it costs £1000 per day to run the Museum – an excellent question to ask.
  • They didn’t want to be directly asked to give donations as they felt they were already giving to the Museum in many ways but did want to be informed about what the current needs were so that they could decide if they wanted to donate to particular causes or help to raise money for them.
  • Volunteers had an excellent understanding of the range of ways that fundraising could be achieved rather than traditional approaches. They often refused fees offered for running experience days so that the museum can benefit from the full course fees, they run local community events to raise money on their own initiative, they give local talks and donate their fees to us, they contribute towards fundraising projects that help to raise money for our collections and had a wealth of their own ideas that they could implement if we let them too.

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In response to these points, Sue Shave, Museum Director at Chiltern Open Air Museum is now holding monthly coffee mornings for volunteers to come along and find out about our income and expenditure, future plans and more about the Museum board and governance.

 

We hope that this will give volunteers a chance to have their own say and to propose ideas for fundraising and solutions and that this acknowledgement of their abilities, skills and contributions will ensure the financial future of our museum.

 

Richard Berman

Flourish project Coordinator