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Survey and Analysis: Spotlight on Several Young Benefactor Programs Across the Country
These programs represent just a small sampling of young benefactor programs. There are many more out there that follow a similar formula. These programs are targeted at young professionals ranging from 21-40 years old.
Smithsonian Young Benefactors
Annual Fee: $70
Defined on their website as a “charitable, educational and cultural organization” the Smithsonian Young Benefactors program provides many opportunities for young professionals to mingle at happy hours around town, behind the scenes tours, and at the exclusive holiday party held at the Castle. Other membership perks include discounted Resident Associates educational programming, as well as 10% off purchases at Smithsonian gift shops and restaurants. In addition to the annual fee, which supports educational endeavors for children at the Smithsonian through the Culture4Kids foundation, members are encouraged to volunteer at various events and with the Office of Accessibility Services. Finally, Smithsonian YBs can find leadership opportunities within the program and shape the YB activities by joining one of the seven standing committees.
While some of the Smithsonian YB events are free, others, like the Jolly Holiday Party, have an additional admission price. This year the price is $70 for members and $95 dollars for nonmembers. The Jolly Holiday party is one of the events open to the general public.
On the blog The DC Ladies, new member Lindsay Boroush raves about her experiences with the Smithsonian Young Benefactors thus far, “Overall, joining this group was a great decision. Not only does it provide excellent networking opportunities” it also “reminds you of all the great museums you have access to living in DC.”
The Mint Museum Young Affiliates
Annual Fee: $60 for the basic membership ($45 for students) plus $25 for the Young Affiliate add-on
The Mint Museum Young Affiliates membership includes free admission to The Mint and membership to 49 Southeastern museums, discounted or free tickets to Young Affiliates or Member events, volunteer opportunities and a 10% discount at the gift shop. The Young Affiliates sponsor monthly happy hours and a monthly educational series known as Artitudes. Artitudes activities relate to The Mint’s mission as an art museum through hands on artistic activities like art classes and wine tastings. Fundraising events like The Black and White Gala ($70 for members, $95 for nonmembers) and Derby Days help raise funds to make new acquisitions for The Mint Museum.
Guggenheim Young Collectors Council
New York, NY
Annual Fee: $500
This young benefactor group is for the serious art enthusiast. YCC events include special discussions, arts and tours, visits to artists’ studios and private collections and auction previews. A portion of the membership dues goes to purchasing art for the Guggeheim’s collection, with a focus on upcoming artists. Members receive discounts on museum purchases and programs and free admission to all the Guggenheim locations, among other perks. Members also benefit from discounts on fundraising events such as the Art Affair Chinatown 2010 event, for which tickets are $200 instead of $250.
Curious about more young benefactor programs? Check out the Spotlight on Young Friends of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Young benefactor programs present a variety of ways for young professionals to get involved with museums. Whether you are interested in networking, volunteering, or learning, young benefactor programs seem to offer it all. For your annual fee you get access to unique programming, fun happy hours, fabulous parties, and the feeling of belonging to something great. These programs can be a fantastic way to get started in a new city, with lots of opportunities to make new friends and explore the cultural offerings of your new home. While the happy hours and galas may not be mission based and raise again the Is Alcohol the Answer question, the donation required aspects of the young benefactor programs do raise money for good causes and help support the museum of your choice.
However, there is an accessibility issue with all young benefactor programs, affordability. Most young benefactor programs call for a serious cash commitment, with expensive party fees on top of the $70-$500 dollar membership dues. Much of the educational programming, although discounted in some cases, requires even more payment. This might not be something that recent college graduates or young professionals dealing with a tough economy feel they can afford.
According to a 2009 Wall Street Journal article, 2009 college graduates entered “the toughest labor market in 25 years” and that “those who land jobs will likely suffer lower wages for a decade or more compared to those lucky enough to graduate in better times, studies show” (Murray). Young professionals are making less money and struggling to find their dream jobs.
Yet just because young professionals may not be able to afford membership dues, they still might be interested in the networking, educational, and volunteering aspects of the young benefactor programs. While the membership dues are important to the museum, there are still ways museums can engage this audience that might encourage donations in the future, spread awareness of each museum’s mission and make young professionals feel like they are part of the museum, even if they cannot be financially.
Part 3 will offer several recommendations for young benefactor programs.