Tag Archives: k.munn

Meetup: New Possibilities for Young Professional Outreach

While researching how museums are engaging young professionals I stumbled across this web page: http://www.meetup.com/Los-Angeles-Curiosity-Seekers-Museums-and-More/

Organized by a young professional in L.A., this is an example of young professionals are creating their own opportunities to socialize at museums. Members can suggest Meetups at different L.A. museums and then experience different exhibits and educational programs together. Past Meetups for this group have included time for discussion of the exhibits, dance lessons and visits to exhibits that require hands-on participation. According to the group’s Meetup page, the next event is a special invitation to the Santa Monica Museum of Art for a private tour and gift shop discount.

According to the Meetup website, “Meetup’s mission is to revitalize local community and help people around the world self-organize.” There is a monthly fee for organizing a Meetup, around $12 dollars a month, which, unless this cost is split between members, can add up to a significant yearly commitment. If this cost is split among members though, Meetup could be a great option to explore museums and network without the price tag of a young benefactor program and opens up programming opportunities at all the local museums.

This is an interesting example of how young professionals are interested in visiting and socializing at museums. If you do a search for museum groups on the Meetup home page you’ll find museum groups in most major cities. If museums like the Santa Monica Museum of Art reach out to these groups by offering special tours and savings it could be another way for museums to forge a connection with this demographic.


Museums and Young Benefactor Programs (Part 3)

Miss Part 1 or Part 2?


Museums tend to use young benefactor programs as a framework for programming for younger adult audiences. Creating an air of exclusivity by offering special social and educational events, these programs connect young professionals to the museum through leadership and volunteer opportunities, and by using the funds raised through dues and parties to help meet the museum’s financial needs. Museums hope to cultivate lifelong learners and lifelong donors. Yet in the recent economic climate young professionals might not be as ready to make a financial committment to a young benefactor program even though they are interested in the networking and educational opportunities. Museums should still devote resources to engaging this audience through ongoing programming. If there is one thing I learned while working at the telefund at my undergraduate university, it was that alumni were more likely to donate money if they had a positive experience at the university than if they had not. Since museums do not have an alumni network they should try to create new ways to positively influence and connect with young professionals so that when the financial times improve, young professionals will immediately think of their local museums when they want to give back.

These are some recommendations for ways to make young benefactor programs more accessible and to fill a need for young professional programming.

A Different Kind of Model

The Young Professionals Tower Club at the Creative Discovery Museum in Chattanooga, TN calls itself “fundraising, social and career networking club which supports Creative Discovery Museum” a offers similar leadership and networking opportunities as other young benefactor programs. The difference is that there is no annual fee to join the Young Professionals Tower Club. Members become part of the fundraising team and help plan events to raise money to help children visit the museum free of charge and to support other educational opportunities. Members attend quarterly dinner meetings and take part in fundraisers like annual phon-a-thon parties, mystery dinners and parties. The Young Professionals Tower Club engages young professionals in similar social and leadership opportunities while using their willingness to volunteer as a way to help raise funds for the museum. Perhaps other museums could look at creating fundraising teams of young professionals, while still offering them exclusive educational programming.




Cut or Reduce Membership Funds

In response to the recent economic crisis, my undergraduate university’s alumni club made membership free for the first year, allowing recent grads to experience membership benefits without worrying about the extra cost. Museums could consider a similar opportunity for first time members of their young benefactor programs and either waive or reduce the annual fee. This might be especially appealing to recent college graduates looking to put down roots in a new city.

Create a Volunteer Corps

In addition to offering a young benefactors program, museums could offer a volunteer corps for young professionals. This group could help museums with their volunteer needs and in return, museums could organize happy hours after volunteer events to fulfill the social networking interest. Museums could also provide special educational programs that will help volunteers cultivate the knowledge they need for certain events and exhibits. These educational programs could  be very hands on and group work centered to give young professionals a different context for socializing while maintaining the museums mission.

Create a Young Professionals Advisory Board

Another way museums could connect young professionals in an ongoing manner would be to form an advisory board. An advisory board would give young professionals leadership opportunities and a say in some of the museum’s programming. As an example, The University of Michigan Museum of Art’s Student Programming and Advisory Board only requires a monthly time committment and gives students the opportunity to plan programs at the museum. Programs include an annual celebration and student performance nights. Advisory board members also get the opportunity to interview visiting artists for a podcast. This is something more museums could do for a young professional audience to engage them creatively and make them an active part of museums.

Young benefactor programs offer many amazing opportunities but museums need to find ways to engage young professionals who are not able to make that financial committment, in a meaningful way. As these suggestions show, there can be many ways to create sustained programming for this audience that will help them make positive memories of their experience with museums, something that could encourage them to become donors when they are more financially secure.

Museums and Young Benefactor Programs (Part 2)

Miss Part 1? find it here

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
Washington, DC
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
Charlotte, NC
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.


Murray, Sara. “The Curse of the Class of 2009.” The Wall Street Journal [New  York] 9 May 2009, A1 sec. The Wall Street Journal. 9 May 2009. Web. 29 Nov.  2010. <http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124181970915002009.html&gt;.

Museums and Young Benefactor Programs (Part 1)

More and more museums are offering young benefactor or young associates programs as a way to engage a young professional audience. For a yearly membership fee these groups offer swanky parties, networking opportunities and exclusive programing. Young benefactor programs help museums cultivate new and hopefully, lifelong donors among younger audiences.

In a 2006 New York Times article, speaking about the MoMA’s Junior Associates, Angela Goding said “”There have been many instances of J.A.’s who have gone on to become major museum benefactors” and “this group inspires a real feeling of loyalty and a sense of camaraderie among its members, and this carries on naturally towards a deeper involvement with the museum” (Vachon). The hope for the future financial stability of the museum is definitely at the heart of young benefactor groups. In the same article, Thomas Hoving a former director of the Met noted that the young benefactor groups are a way for museums to reach out to the youth, and compared museums to universities which have the almost automatic financial support of alumni, something museums lack (Vachon). Like alumni clubs and universities, young benefactor programs aim to generate a sense of belonging and connection to the museum. In return for their monetary support, young professionals are treated to a wide array of exclusive programming, some of which is more educational and mission-based than others. Although the main draw for some young professionals is, according to the New York Times article, that the museum sponsored events serve as “a place to meet eligible partners from the right social set under the cover of cultural philanthropy” or as “really inconspicuous bar tab,” young benefactor programs can be a vehicle for mission based programming that provides lifelong learning opportunities to museum supporters (Vachon).

This three-part series will look at several young benefactor groups across the country, examining the overall opportunities and limitations of these groups, and provide several suggestions for museums to consider when engaging a young professional audience.

Works Cited
Vachon, Dana. “Cocktails for Arts: Museums Compete for Young Patrons.” The      New York Times. 12 Jan. 2006. Web. 29 Nov. 2010.