Free Idea Friday: Creative Ways to Earn More Revenue

When you’re in the non-profit business, the business end often gets complicated by the non-profit end. Finding creative ways to earn revenue can be a challenge because of silo-ed departments, restrictive budgets or even just pure exhaustion. So, I thought I would offer up a few ideas that are easy to implement, can inject new cash into your budget and add visitor delight in the process.

Lunch memberships

Create a special membership card that is only valid for entry 11 AM – 1 PM Monday through Friday (or the weekdays you’re open).  Target local businesses with flyers, post cards, social media posts or just word of mouth advertising and encourage employees to spend their lunch break in your cafe and a quick stroll through your galleries. If you are normally a free-admission museum then send a stack of membership cards to businesses and hand them out to encourage visitation. If you normally charge a fee, offer a reduced membership rate for these special memberships. And, don’t get too hung up on how to implement it. Sketch out an idea and do a lightweight version to test it out. Only build technologies, policies and formal systems once you know how it will work best.

Co-working space and amenities

Do you have a cafe? How about a visitor center? An empty gallery with a gap in your schedule? Or maybe just a space a long a wall where you could put a long table or two and some chairs? Any of these spaces can become a co-working space for entrepreneurs, freelancers, writers or artists to spend more time in your museum as long as you have free Wi-Fi. All you need to add are some power strips – and if you are really enterprising – some power cables for phones and laptops. Voila! Co-working space in a super-cool, creative environment. I enjoy going to my local art museum for coffee or lunch meetings in the cafe and then spend time wandering the galleries to come up with my next big idea. Use your social media accounts to spread the word and earn some extra revenue from cafe sales or admission at the gate. Remember that you are also playing the long game – so even if you are a free venue, you are building community relationships today that lead to membership and donations tomorrow.

Final call tickets

Whenever I travel I always visit a museum. Sometimes my professional schedule leaves me with only an hour at the end of the day to take a peek at one or two special things. But, this isn’t the only scenario like this. Imagine a mom who’s kids have just woken up from an afternoon nap at 2 PM. It will take them an hour to get ready, then 30 minutes to get to the museum. Add in at least 15 minutes to park and get to the ticket counter. Suddenly it’s 4 PM and you close at 5. She foresees all of this and decides not to pay full price for her tickets when there’s only an hour left in the day. Even though she also knows the kids will probably only last that long! She resolves to go tomorrow – but then gets distracted and forgets. Six months later this scene repeats and then before she knows it, this thought has happened 5 or 6 times and the kids are in grade school and they never made it. Funny how small things make such a big impact on visitorship. I hear all the time from people who “are planning to visit _________________ museum but just haven’t gotten to it yet.”

Anyway, what if you had a “Final Call” ticket that was valid for the last hour you’re open? It is available at a discounted rate just for these occasions. Plus, you could offer a discount on full price admission or a membership if they come back within a week or two.

Meditation Mondays

Many museums are closed on Monday – but in the ones I have worked for, the staff are typically still there working away. What if you added a little revenue to this slow day by creating Mediation Mondays? Visitors could buy a special ticket that gets them a one-hour meditation session in one of your galleries. Organize them like a special tour and limit registration to 10-20 people. A curator or educator could lead them. You could provide mats, chairs or pillows for guests to sit and take in the surroundings. By limiting the number of people and access to a single gallery you reduce or eliminate your staffing overhead costs. Charge anywhere from $25 – $50 for this exclusive access to the museum or offer it as a quarterly membership benefit for your donor-level memberships. There are many ways you could set up a program like this to earn an extra $500 a week – which would result in $20-$24K a year. To make the impact of this program felt, I suggest the department leading it gets the proceeds and can decide what to do with it. Maybe it’s travel and professional development for educators, new acquisition funds for curatorial, or those new computers visitor services has been dying for.

Have you tried any ideas like these? Or others that the world needs to know about? Think I’m full of it?? Share in the comments below.