Museum fundraising superstars

Make your donors feel like super stars

Donors contribute to museums for all sorts of reasons and these motivations range from the idealistic to practical. Things like:

  • Ability to make a big impact
  • Mission alignment or a topical interest
  • Personal financial management
  • Board obligations
  • Legacy-building

These are the motivators that most museums focus on when they create their fundraising programs and build internal teams to solicit gifts and manage donor relationships. But, there are some other motivators that we all know exist but we don’t like to talk about as much. They somehow feel less weighty, less serious and far less noble. These include:

  • Desire for attention and VIP treatment
  • Competition among friends and peer pressure
  • Public perception

Let’s face it, [most] donors care about how people see them. They give to causes that their friends also care about, go to VIP events to be seen and honored and look up their names in your annual report to see those beautiful words in print. So, why don’t we just embrace these very human motivators and provide some new donor benefits that will satisfy these needs?

Meet your newest donor relations team member: the personal brand manager.

Imagine it. A dedicated staffer who works with your highest tier donors (or those who are upwardly mobile in your donor lifecycle) to provide some unique brand management services. This goes way beyond name recognition. A personal brand manager could:

  • Meet with donors one-on-one to provide a brand consultation session that includes an audit of their online persona and media relations strategy
  • Develop a personal brand management plan that outlines how their relationship with your museum can impact their public persona
  • Build personalized media relations and PR plans to glean earned media for significant gifts or when funded projects launch
  • Provide real-time event content like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter updates with photos and tags
  • Assist event photographers in getting the perfect shots based on the donor’s brand goals
  • Send donors post-event or post-project digital packages that include photos and ready-to-post tweets, Facebook posts or Instagram photos
  • Draft emails that the donor can customize and send to friends to solicit gifts or share their successes

By this time, you are probably thinking one of a few things. Maybe you feel like this approach would breed difficult-to-manage behavior. Maybe you are discouraged by the overlap between fundraising and marketing functions. Maybe you think your donors would not possibly respond to such things. Or, maybe you are intrigued.

If you are worried this idea would result in more diva-licious behavior from your donors, I would argue that it has the potential to actually reduce it. If your donors are being highly engaged and receive truly personalized service, it should quench the need that we’re addressing in the first place and lead to higher satisfaction overall.

If you’re hung up on the whole marketing vs. fundraising thing, the best advice I can offer is: get over it. Seriously. The silos that exist in museums are deeply-rooted and dysfunctional. I realize it’s hard to move beyond them but donor needs aren’t subject to internal categorization. They want what they want. And, if you can’t give it to them, they’ll get it someplace else!

If you have a huge donor pool that gives anonymously and doesn’t enjoy VIP treatment, congratulations! You should offer workshops on how to attract them. (While you’re at it, perhaps you could give a tour of your unicorn petting zoo.)

If you’re intrigued, start sketching a job description and get your marketing and fundraising teams together to talk about it. Consider consulting with a local marketing or PR firm to talk about what this might look like in your community. They could help you provide this service on contract if a full-time position isn’t realistic for your museum. Or, if you’re interested, the Museum Playbook team can help you build a plan.

Everyone is looking for ways to engage younger donors who have evolving interests and motivations. This kind of strategy meets them where they are and creates a much more relevant, authentic donor engagement strategy.

Just think about it. What if your personal brand manager was so good that people gave your museum money just to get time with her? (Or him?) If you do it right, it could happen.

What do you think? Brilliant idea or infuriating quackery? Tell us below.