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5 Strategies to Improve Museum Community Engagement

Whether your museum focuses on art, history, science, or another subject matter, its purpose is to bring people together through dynamic educational experiences. Anyone who visits your facility or interacts with your content should come away feeling like they learned something new and knowing that they belong within your community.

Although some of this purpose is inherent in the way your museum runs, it’s still important to take active, strategic steps to engage community members. These actions will boost your museum’s reputation and empower you to provide an experience that keeps visitors coming back.

In this guide, we’ll cover five top strategies for building community at your museum, including how to:

  1. Create Opportunities for Different Age Groups
  2. Prioritize Accessibility
  3. Reframe Your Membership Program
  4. Collect and Apply Visitor Feedback
  5. Partner With Other Relevant Organizations

Effective museum community engagement starts with the right tools. Before implementing these tips, consider investing in a user-friendly, integrated museum management platform to streamline the planning and execution of your various community-building activities. That being said, let’s dive into our first strategy!

1. Create Opportunities for Different Age Groups

Your museum should strive to engage everyone in its community who may be interested in your content, from the youngest members to the oldest. As Doubleknot’s guide to building an inclusive museum community puts it, “While many museums try to appeal to the general public, you’ll be able to do so more effectively if you have something available for every age group.”

Here are some ideas for age-specific opportunities you could offer:

  • Kid-friendly activities and educational resources to keep children occupied during their family’s visit and help them learn about your exhibits on their level.
  • A mid-morning senior tour to increase weekday traffic and allow visitors aged 65 and up to take a guided tour at a leisurely pace.
  • After-hours events with food, drinks, and fun activities so young adults can enjoy a date night or evening out with friends at your museum.

Additionally, the way you structure your ticket pricing can help attract specific age demographics to your museum. Provide discounted rates for seniors, college students with a valid ID, and children ages 12 and under to get more individuals from each of these groups in the door.

2. Prioritize Accessibility

All visitors should be able to engage with everything your museum has to offer, including those with disabilities. Making your educational content accessible is more than just a way to promote inclusivity—it’s also a legal issue covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

To maintain compliance and ensure all visitors can navigate your museum, make sure your facility has:

  • Braille plaques and tactile guide paths
  • Wheelchair seating areas, ramps, and lowered counters
  • Designated quiet spaces
  • Closed captions for any videos within your exhibits

Accessibility is also important when it comes to your museum’s website. In addition to closed captioning for video and audio content, include alternative text for images and ensure adequate contrast between text and background colors so that all visitors can effectively use your site.

3. Reframe Your Membership Program

The best museum membership programs create an additional community for your most dedicated supporters. However, approaching memberships from an inclusive perspective rather than an exclusive one better integrates the program into your larger community. Instead of framing your program as an elite society, emphasize that your memberships are open to anyone who wants to experience the benefits of joining.

One way to open your program to more supporters is to implement a tiered pricing structure so new members can join at a level that aligns with their budget. Set a relatively low price for the bottom tier to reduce the barrier to entry, but offer more perks to members who join at higher levels so it’s worth the cost. For example, free admission for the membership holder could be a perk for everyone, but upper-tier members might also receive an annual allowance of guest passes.

Additionally, Getting Attention’s membership marketing guide recommends promoting your program across multiple channels, including your organization’s website, email, social media, and paid ads. This allows as many people as possible to hear about your memberships and creates multiple touchpoints where they can sign up.

4. Collect and Apply Visitor Feedback

When your visitors feel heard, they’ll know that your museum values them. Provide community members with multiple opportunities to comment on their experiences, such as:

  • Emailing post-visit surveys the day after a visit.
  • Sending out annual requests to members for program feedback.
  • Adding a permanent contact form to your website.

Compile and analyze data from each feedback channel, consider it as you make changes to your offerings, and communicate any updates you make to show that your surveys and contact forms are a two-way street.

5. Partner With Other Relevant Organizations

Individual visitors aren’t the only groups to consider when engaging your museum’s community. It’s also beneficial to form relationships with other organizations in your area to increase visibility and constituency for you and for them.

Here are some ways your museum could partner with other community organizations:

  • K-12 schools: Promote field trip opportunities to administrators and extracurricular programs (summer camps, kid-friendly weekend workshops, etc.) to parents.
  • Colleges and universities: Browse the institution’s website to identify faculty whose research interests align with your museum’s educational initiatives, and ask them if they’d like to collaborate on upcoming projects.
  • Other museums and cultural organizations: Share recommendations about traveling exhibitions to pursue, consultants to work with, software to use, and more.
  • Businesses: Reach out about sponsorship opportunities for new exhibits, events, or programs that are relevant to the company’s offerings. For example, you could ask a local restaurant to cater your annual gala or a software development firm to sponsor a technology-related exhibition.

When pursuing any of these partnerships, clearly communicate how the partner organization will benefit—whether through increased publicity, greater satisfaction for their constituents, or internal improvements. Developing mutually beneficial relationships makes it more likely that your partnerships will continue long-term.

Effectively engaging your museum’s community requires an open and inclusive focus, as well as the right combination of creative strategies to appeal to your audience. By following the tips above, your museum can retain more visitors, convert more members, and encourage more support for your mission.