AMMC 2016 – Chicago Recap

We just got back from our weeklong trip to Chicago, IL for AMMC 2016 and we had a great time! The American Museum Membership Conference is always one of our favorite conferences to attend. We were very excited for Membership Consultants to be a lead sponsor. At the Premier level of sponsorship, we are always happy to help out by making this and other conference possible for all to enjoy!

Every AMMC is not only filled with loads of information on membership programs of all shapes and sizes, but also great fun at our host museums, and, of course, meaningful conversations all throughout. The sessions were fantastic and filled the rooms with information and inspiration for the future, while the roundtables offered a chance to have some in-depth conversations on a particular topic, such as membership and loyalty or multi-channel acquisition efforts. The evening events offered opportunities to experience Chicago’s incredible museums and connect with colleagues outside of the conference rooms.


From left to right: Karen E. Meyer, Tabetha Debo, Karen Mariani, Dana Hines, John Keefe, and Rosie Siemer at the Adler Planetarium.

While we enjoyed all the sessions at AMMC 2016, we thought we’d share some highlights of our favorites.

“Oh! Your museum has this problem, too?!”

So many first-time attendees come to AMMC thinking that their museum’s membership program is filled with issues and “pain-points” (that was a definite buzzword of this conference) that it could not possibly stack up against any other program. But, then you get to the conference and you find out that institutions big and small have all the same issues you face at your museum—lack of cooperation with other departments (silos anyone?), small budgets (has anyone ever had enough budget?), and high demands from your director (“We need to triple membership revenue in the next six months. I don’t care how—just do it!”) are just a few of these issues. AMMC is such an important resource for membership professionals because it facilitates truly honest conversations about the challenges that all museums face, as well as the emerging trends and best practices in every facet of membership.


This year’s keynotes were exceptional! While most come from backgrounds outside of the museum world, they shared insightful information on trends that are relevant to our cultural institutions. Beyond being wonderful speakers, each keynote presenter offered great takeaways and food-for-thought for everyone that attended. In John List’s Let’s Get to the Why of the Matter, he opened our minds to the science behind what makes people do what they do and the incentives that work.  Wednesday’s keynote speaker, Nandika Suri, gave us the ins-and-outs of United Airlines Mileage Plus Rewards Program—a loyalty program serving more than 2 million members—in her presentation, Member Engagement Strategies that Really Take-off. In the final keynote presentation, Influence is Behavior Change, by Art Markman, we learned how we can change our behavior to influence the behavior of others. Listening to each of these keynotes got our wheels turning on how we can make changes in our own museums.

Membership Consultants’ Sessions

We were thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in three sessions at this year’s AMMC.

In Making Email, Online Advertising, and Social Media Work for Membership, Rosie shared the options for incorporating digital marketing and online advertising into membership campaigns. With help from the membership managers at Baltimore Museum of Art, Desert Botanical Garden, San Antonio Zoo, and Phoenix Art Museum, Rosie’s live Q&A style presentation allowed the audience to gain a multitude of perspectives on how digital strategies can be used for membership acquisition and retention.


From left to right: Rosie Siemer with Membership Consultants, Lauren Stachowiak with the Baltimore Museum of Art, and Halee Lynch with Desert Botanical Garden.

In the session, Loyalty and Membership: Love, Passion and Long-Term Relationship, Rosie facilitated a dynamic Q&A-style panel on how loyalty programs can boost the member experience, increase membership totals and revenues, and raise all ships across departments. With perspectives from the Royal Academy of the Arts represented by Annie Wong, Head of Loyalty & Partnership Development, Membership Consultants (with our own Dana Hines on the panel), and John Keefe with SKIDATA. This session covered the critical need-to-knows of loyalty and membership—explaining how it could work, addressing misconceptions, and emphasizing the need for loyalty to compliment,rather than compete with, membership.

Our last session was On-site Late Night: On the Couch with On-site Sales Experts. Our Manager of On-Site Sales Karen Mariani moderated a panel of membership managers that oversee on-site membership sales. We were lucky to have three very different organizations offer their perspectives and experiences in this session. On the panel were the membership managers from Monterey Bay Aquarium, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, and The Trustees of Reservations. Each panelist shared their perspective on hiring and training on-site membership sales staff, the relationship needed with the visitor services department, and the metrics used to judge the efficacy of the on-site membership sales team.

Session Highlight

In the session, Beyond the Free Pass: Members and Art as Cause, Jon Alexander from the New Citizenship Project and Rob Halkyard, Head of Membership & Audience Engagement, Tate discussed the theory, framework, and research for engaging members as participants in art as cause, not just consumers of art as product. The session was very interesting, and opened up a discussion into building deeper relationships with members and modeling retention strategies based on visitation behavior. The presenters discussed opportunities for “priming” messaging and the importance of data capture to better personalize the member experience and enrich the visit.

Awesome Museums!

This year we were lucky to have the conference in the Chicago—and the AMMC Board and host committee did a wonderful job with this conference. We had the chance to visit and spend some time at three great museums—The Art Institute of Chicago, the Adler Planetarium, and the Museum of Science and Industry.

The opening night dinner was amazing at the Art Institute of Chicago, with the opportunity to see the Van Gogh exhibit. Tuesday’s evening reception at the Adler was very interesting (oh, and the view of the lake and the city skyline was breathtaking!). Here’s the Membership Consultants team on the moon!


From left to right: Karen E. Meyer, Tabetha Debo, and Karen Mariani.

Wednesday night’s trip to the Museum of Science and Industry was so much fun! It made us feel like kids again—looking at Legos, creating tornados, getting lost in a hall of mirrors, and seeing how avalanches work were all very fun!


We couldn’t possibly visit Chicago and not go out of our way to try some tasty food! We were able to enjoy exceptional treats, including Chicago-style pizza, delicious paella, and even took a break for High Tea!


From left to right: Dana Hines with Membership Consultants, John Keefe with SKIDATA, Christopher Panek with CZS/Brookfield Zoo, and Rosie Siemer with Membership Consultants.

Conference Takeaways

Key takeaways from the conference were the need for better data capture and systems integration, the need for more investment in membership marketing, and the opportunity for building deeper relationships with members. A common theme throughout was the need to get to know our members better to deliver more personalized experiences.

What was your favorite part of AMMC 2016? Please share your biggest takeaways, best memories, and favorite experiences below!


Best of AMMC 2013

Below are our key takeaways from the AMMC conference held in Atlanta and attended by over 250 membership professionals:

Resonating with Donors: Making a Personal Connection Through Unique Campaigns, Kim Callahan, Seattle Art Museum Angela Perillo, The Field Museum Tiffany Tessada, Seattle Art Museum

o Adopt a T-Rex Campaign

 Great fundraising piece that created good awareness

 Amazing packaging

 Prominent space on website:

 Good use of social media by incorporating Flickr to engage visitors and supporters

Membership and Millennials: Engaging Generation Y; Kerstin Beyer, Walker Art Center, Lori Grecco, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Ben Whine, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

o iPad tours of cultural institutions are becoming more and more prominent

 4 out of 10 cultural institutions are not engaged with mobile/tablet technology…this means 6 out of 10 are!

o Guggenheim Museum Mobile App

 After the second year, the investment into a mobile app will be cheaper than continuing audio tours

 At time of AMMC, over 9,000 downloads

Big Ideas for Membership Marketing: Ambassador Program, Special Recognition, Year of the Member, and More; Jamie Clements, Kate Gleason, Shelley Wood

o Member Get a Member: Art Ambassador Program

 Campaign cost $35,000

 Created an “Ambassador toolkit” (physical bag, fact sheets, thank you card, goal card, programs and events, charter      membership brochures (with name written on it), instructions on how to set up their website, posters, sample        letter invitations, email worked to send a link right from their website to get others to join

 Developed a microsite to support the program

 Held an awards ceremony to recognize highest recruiters

 Prizes to incentivize ambassadors for 1, 5 members, 10 members, 20, and 30 members

 Gave ambassadors a short period of time to meet the goal

 Asked committee to find ambassadors and sent a targeted letter to active members and a pitch at every member            event and staff, docents and existing volunteers

 Overall involved 180 ambassadors, and the program was a great success

Grand Openings and Grand Results: Generating Excitement, New Members, and New Audiences; Mae Daniller, Dana Hines, Rosie Pokrandt, Rosie Siemer, Jennifer Thomas

o Start grand opening planning far in advance, about 1 year to 8 months out

o Look for opportunities to leverage new technologies like mobile, social media, and interactive print to raise awareness and capture member prospect contact info

o Create excitement and support the momentum leading up to and immediately after a grand opening with a path to membership

o Reach new audiences through digital strategies including social media contests, QR codes, and mobile marketing

o History Colorado saw real results from its investment in social media including:

 739 unique participants in total

 654 individuals engaged for the first time via social

 13% join rate overall

 270 QR code respondents; 18% joined

 39% of QR respondents opted-in for mobile texts

 Facebook grew from 766% from 1,285 to 11,122

 Media attention and primary driver to website

 Captured personal stories

o History Colorado’s integrated grand opening campaign realized:

 1,961 new members

 595 recaptured members

 888 upgraded members

 235 donors

 250% increase in target audience on Facebook

 40% increase in membership BEFORE opening

 89% increase in membership 6 weeks POST opening

 121% increase in membership revenues-FY2012

Mission, Marketing, Membership: A Magic Mix for Success; Dana Hines, Maureen McCarthy, Rosie Pokrandt, Rosie Siemer

o Very successful when marketing and membership work together: Integrating outdoor, radio, print, and TV with a consistent message

o Membership is often the driver of campaigns, need to be sure that marketing is aware of membership’s timeline

o Work to find ways around the everyday silos to collaborate and talk about the big picture

o Ensure that membership has a seat at the table when it comes to social media, website, and online marketing strategy conversations

o Critical that membership has responsibility and authority to be responsive via social media platforms as admins

o Partner with Marketing to run targeted promotions via social media

o Membership must have a “Join” tab on Facebook

o Contests can be a great lead generation funnel for membership, but must ensure adherence to Facebook’s Terms of Service!

o Marketing should report out to or provide access to Google Analytics, email click through, and online advertising reports

o Leverage online advertising to serve targeted ads to members and member prospects