Here at the Alliance, we know that COVID-19 is inflicting severe damage on museums. Our sector is just beginning to assess the impact of closures, travel bans, cancellation of major events (including fundraisers), and the implementation of social distancing. In the coming year, museums will struggle to contain the financial damage of the pandemic while supporting their staff and their communities as best they can. But even as the US makes progress towards containing the virus and rebuilding the economy, museums will find themselves in a new world when it comes to the business of running their organizations.
Into this tumultuous time, the Alliance is releasing TrendsWatch: The Future of Financial Sustainability. Serendipitously, this year’s edition of CFM’s annual forecasting report investigates the trends destabilizing traditional income streams, documents how museums are optimizing existing revenue, and highlights emerging forms of support.
As I wrote the report, I had no inkling that it would be published into a world coping with COVID-19—a transformative event that will not only challenge museums in the short-term but may fundamentally reshape the economy. But while the financial context has changed, the information presented in this edition is more important than ever. To navigate the coming years, museums will need to change their traditional practices, adopt new technologies, and learn to experiment with new ways of doing business. My colleagues and I hope that this edition of TrendsWatch will help museums recover their financial balance in this new world.
I encourage you to download TrendsWatch and share it with your colleagues, board members, volunteers, donors, funders, and government representatives—anyone who cares about your institution and wants to contribute to your continued success. The report can serve as a primer to educate stakeholders on the challenges of funding a nonprofit museum. It can serve as a framework for assessing your existing income streams and identifying areas for improvement. The more creative you are in exploring who values the museum, how, and why, the easier it will be to build diverse forms of income to support your work. Use TrendsWatch to prime these conversations and be open to the ideas that result. The examples it provides may help you improve the profitability of activities you have done for years or inspire you to pioneer new practices that can be adopted by your peers.
There is much we don’t know about the future as we recover from the immediate impacts of COVID-19. What aid will be offered by the government, philanthropists, and corporations to help museums rebound? When will the present need for social distancing pass, and will it have lasting impact on public behavior and cultural tourism? How will foundations support their grantees through this time of stress? What we do know is that our institutions can play a critical role in helping our communities through this crisis and the recovery period to come. This is an opportunity for museums to shine in their role as community anchors, educational resources, and sources of comfort. I am confident that the way in which the field is rising to this occasion will make it easier to make the case, to the government and to donors, that museums are an essential part of our public infrastructure.
This edition of TrendsWatch lays the groundwork for the long-term path to recovery that lies ahead. In coming months, I will publish posts on the CFM blog that address the need for short-term strategies to navigate the immediate crisis as well.
Yours from the (healthy and sustainable) future,
AAM members of all kinds—individual, institutional, industry, ally, and staff of member institutions—can download a free PDF copy of the report. Everyone can download a free executive summary, and TrendsWatch is available for sale in PDF and print copies through the AAM Bookstore.
TrendsWatch: The Future of Financial Sustainability is made possible with generous support from our corporate partners:
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