Recap of our Favorite AAM Sessions – 2013

If you missed the 2013 round of conferences that address membership issues, let us bring you up to date on a few sessions and our thoughts on the topics and issues addressed.  We were happy to participate in the AMMC conference in Atlanta in April and AAM in Baltimore in May.  Here are a few highlights of the sessions we most enjoyed:

At AAM Steve Sullivan, Membership Director at the Woodland Park Zoo gave a great presentation on the Zoo’s crowdfunding project entitled “Give Ten for Tigers.”  His presentation was a walk-through of what he and two other staffers at the Zoo had to do to pull off this final $200,000 “capper” of their capital campaign to build a new exhibit for the tigers and other animals in this particular exhibit area.  Here are the highlights:

  • Steve’s vision was to get 10,000 people (new donors to the Zoo hopefully) to give $10 each.  He already had a generous donor making a $100,000 match challenge.
  • This campaign would be totally electronic – on Facebook, Twitter, via email and with some support of the electronic media of radio and TV in Seattle.
  • They had the support of Betty White, animal lover and longtime Woodland Zoo promoter.  Betty had done a generic give to the Zoo video a few years before that they were able to re-purpose with a good lead-in and conclusion, with a message of “Who could say no to Betty” theme.
  • NO BUDGET  for this campaign, but remember, free isn’t free!  It took Steve and his two cohorts a total of three months to plan and three weeks to run the campaign – and he emphasized they were FULL TIME on this project for this time span – so we really need to calculate three people full time for three months to know the real cost to produce this campaign!
  • They had a video to roll out each week – the first with tigers and the campaign mission to build a new exhibit for the tigers – replacing the last of the old enclosures from Zoo days of old, the Betty video and then a third one that included cute otters who would also be part of the completed exhibit.
  • They had a daily plan of messaging, posting, tweeting, and encouragement to share and retweet.  They did not employ the team fundraising tools that some walks and runs do.
  • As Steve quoted a noted social media expert, “email is the secret weapon of social media” they had a weekly email appeal sent to all email contacts of the Zoo.

Results?   The online and social media campaign raised $149,000 from over 800 donors.  Most were donors from the Zoo’s existing file, but they exceeded their goal by $49,000!  Combined with the match donation, they raised almost a quarter of a million dollars!  Great work and wonderful presentation, Steve and crew!

Another great presentation was from the folks at the Dallas Museum of Art.  DMA has gotten much press lately for their “Free Membership” program.  This was a great chance to hear from their team just what they were thinking and how they deployed their idea of making their museum more accessible to a wider audience.  Here are the details:

  • Visitors can register at the Museum for a new “free membership” program.  Kiosks and staff members are standing by in the lobby to explain and get people registered.  All who register get a card to swipe at the Museum and in galleries whenever they visit.
  • Points are assigned to various activities – just for coming to the Museum, for visiting galleries, etc.  build up enough points and you earn benefits, like admission to a special exhibition or even a private screening of a movie of your choice for 100 of your friends!
  • Since unveiled earlier in 2013, by May over 11,000 people had signed up – and about 10% of those were actively utilizing the program with more than just their initial visit to the Museum.

Inquiring minds like mine wanted to know how can any organization do without their financial support that membership provides???  The answer is they just renamed Membership and now “dues paying” people are now called Partners.   Here is how that works:

  • All levels of membership under $100 were eliminated
  • Renewals and acquisition efforts continue as always, just under new program name and levels
  • Work is being done to upgrade all members who had been members at less than $100 to the new Partner levels.
  • So far, the Museum staff reported no drop in Partner revenues over prior year Membership revenues.

Our take?  This is a great idea, but they have not done away with paid memberships, DMA has just found a way to get contact names and addresses out of visitors!   Now they can solicit those people who signed up but may or may not be earning their free membership benefits.

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