Friday, January 28, 2011

Boston's Museum of Science launches social media fundraising campaign, rides wave of the future?

Earlier this month I shared a presentation by Alex Morrison about online fundraising for museums. Since then, I have been following the social media fundraising effort undertaken by the Museum of Science in Boston. Flexing its social media muscle, using the Museum's Facebook page and the social fundraising app FundRazr, the Museum of Science is over halfway to its goal of raising $2500 towards the renovation of the Charles Hayden Planetarium exclusively through its network of online followers. As an incentive for donors on its donation page the Museum claims it "hopes to dedicate the best seat in the house to its loyal Facebook fans." These donor-fans would also be eligible to attend VIP events, win free passes, and receive other bonuses provided to Planetarium seat sponsors-- a very cool idea!

Screenshot taken from the Museum of Science's Facebook
fundraising page, found at this link:
I learned of the Museum of Science's online campaign last week via a Twitter posting I saw "retweeted" by MuseumNext, leaders in connecting museums and technology. A brief survey of the Museum's FundRazr page finds donations ranging from $1 up to $50, and many others vaguely described as given "generously." At the time of publication, the Museum had received 85 donations, totaling $1275 from Facebook users. The simplicity of the FundRazr app is genius. It allows donors to contribute to the campaign anonymously, or to identify themselves via their Facebook profiles, and payment options include credit card, debit card, and PayPal. It is intuitive, convenient, and provides both instant gratification and recognition. Add to all of that the fact that according to FundRazr's website, the service is "free," what could possibly keep any museum from trying this for themselves?

Wait a minute, when is anything ever free? In fact, FundRazr's not either. It is true that FundRazr does not charge an initial fee to download the application, but from every donation generated through its application PayPal takes 2.9% (their standard fee) plus an additional $.30, and FundRazr also takes $.30. This may not seem like a lot of money, and for most of us it isn't, but when you consider that many of the Museum of Science's individual donations via FundRazr were between $1 and $5, on the small scale the percentage of that lost income is staggering. However, if we take a larger view and accept that the Facebook donations are likely coming from patrons, who would otherwise not have given to the Planetarium campaign through more traditional efforts, the end result may indeed justify the means.

As a believer in the power of social media and an advocate for museums, I am excited to see many new approaches to finding the financial support our institutions need today to build programs and capacity for the future. I think many museums will be watching to see whether the Museum of Science is successful in its online effort, and I am interested in how they measure the success of this social media appeal. Is it enough to meet their relatively modest initial goal, or does success come from a sustained online development effort? On the other hand, if the Museum falls short of its monetary goal, should this campaign be considered a failure, or rather a first step towards engaging the online community in the preservation of this vital institution? I look forward to learning more about the Museum of Science's social media fundraising program, and seeing if it continues to extend beyond the greater Boston area to reach its patrons of the future.

1 comment:

  1. Researched Connect to Charity. From learning about them personally and professionally, they seem to be a fundraising site that combines over 1 mil non-profits, customizable causes with video and pictures for your fundraising needs. It focuses on the non-profits as well as those wanting to create a cause. Not just one or the other. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter or visit About time someone takes the initiative to step beyond the others.


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