Money, Money, Money

Part of the 'Festival of Museums - Plan it, Promote it, Achieve it!' series


This year, for our Festival of Museums grant applicants, MGS has increased the focus on generating income from external sources in order to support the development of skills in building financial resilience. Even if you’re not a Festival of Museums grant recipient you should still be aiming to maximise your income. Essentially, we don’t want you to be out of pocket: we want you to be able to run events that can pay for themselves.

 “A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went”, Dave Ramsey

 Setting out your budget doesn’t need to be an onerous task, but it is essential. Typically, this might include – 

Expenditure Income
Catering Sponsorship
Marketing & Promotion Donations
Additional equipment if required Ticket Sales
Artists / Performers Grants
Additional insurance if required Sales of refreshments
Ticket agent costs (e.g. Eventbrite charges) Retail
Staff costs (if these are additional to normal working hours) In kind sponsorship
Photography and graphic design Other chargeable event activities

 “Sponsorship can come to you in different ways. You never know who is watching so be sponsor-ready at all times”, Millette Granville

 As a starting point you should consider why an organisation would want to sponsor your event and then make a list of possible sponsors to approach. When thinking about possible organisations or individuals to approach you might want to consider the following –

  • Do they have a particular interest or connection to your museum?
  • Do they offer products or services that tie in with the theme of your event?
  • Are they particularly active in the community?
  • Do staff or board members have any links to local businesses?

Once you’ve got a list of organisations to approach you need to think about what you can offer them in return for their money. There are some examples below but you don’t need to have all the answers as you should also ask them what they’d want in return for their sponsorship, such as –

  • Free tickets to your event
  • Free entry for XXX amount of time
  • Use of their logo on your promotional materials
  • Is it appropriate for them to have a presence at your event, for example a pop-up shop/stall?

Roll up, Roll up!

Our Festival of Museums 2016 evaluation showed that a whopping 98% of visitors who attended a paid event considered it to be good value for money. So don’t worry you won’t put anyone off by asking them to pay.

Even if your event is free you should still consider whether you need to use a ticketing system, for example if you have limited spaces at workshops or talks or just in your building in general.

Eventbrite is the world’s largest self-service ticketing platform and one of the simplest to use. It has an extensive help section and an easy to follow start-up guide but here are a few things to remember…

  • If your event is free then using Eventbrite is also free so what have you got to lose?
  • If you are charging for your event, you should remember that Eventbrite will charge you a small fee for each ticket you sell. Although you can pass this charge on (in which case Eventbrite will automatically tell the customer how much this charge is), it’s generally considered good practice to just absorb this cost in your total ticket price. Eventbrite offers a handy calculator so that you can see exactly how much you’ll be charged on your ticket price.
  • If you’re a charity you can get a discounted rate by providing them with evidence of your charitable status.
  • You can add your own questions to the booking form so think about what information you need or what might be useful to have to help you understand your audience eg. Do you need to know dietary requirements, a rough age of your participants, any access requirements, do you want email addresses for newsletters (remember the Data Protection Act), twitter names so you can connect with them online etc.

Don’t be backward in coming forward!

Again, our Festival of Museums 2016 evaluation showed that 76% of visitors who attended a free event would have been willing to pay a nominal admission fee of £3 per person and £5 per family. That’s a whole load of income just waiting to be collected so don’t be shy, put your donation buckets in prominent places where the majority of your visitors will see them. Specifying a suggested donation amount will also help with your budgeting as it will at least give you an indication of your expected income.

Lastly, don’t forget, people like to know where they’re money’s going so consider having posters that give details of what the money will be used for and don’t be afraid of adding a suggested donation value. If you know how much it costs you to service each visitor who attends your museum on a normal day, pop that on the poster too – you’ll be surprised how many people will give very generously. Handily we’ve added a ‘Please donate here’ poster template to our range of marketing materials that will be available online shortly.

 “Let them eat cake”, Marie Antoinette

 Everybody loves cake right? If you don’t already have a café or catering facility onsite, then why not rope in some local Mary Berries to help you whip up some delicious treats that can be sold at your event. If you’re unsure about the regulations around serving food, then check out the Food Standards Agency for advice. Even better if you can manage a cup of tea or coffee too.

Again, you may already have a shop onsite, but if not, why not have a think and see if there’s anything you can offer people on the day.

  • Do you have activities or games that tie in with your theme such as period photo booth pictures or rides in vintage vehicles?
  • Could you offer local businesses a stall for a fee/donation?

If you need guidance on making the most of your retail business, MGS has an upcoming series of three proactive workshops that give a comprehensive overview of running a heritage retail business. Delivered by a team of cultural retail experts, these will cover finance, buying and visual merchandising in a practical and engaging way. For more information, visit our website.

What if?

Finally, it’s a good idea to ensure you have included something for contingency in your budget. It needn’t be massive but having a little bit put aside for those ‘what if’ situations will prevent them from becoming a huge burden and will mean you can deal with them more effectively.

Make sure you check out the other blogs in our Festival of Museums series for lots of useful info on Event Planning, Marketing and Promotion.

You can also keep up to date with all the festival fun by signing up to receive the Festival of Museums ebulletin, follow us on twitter @FestofMuseums or check our webpage for updates.

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