This is a recorded session from the 2020 AAM Virtual Annual Meeting and MuseumExpo.
This session will unpack one museum’s journey to articulate and measure their social impact. Participants will analyze and discuss the implications of adopting a theory of change, and the potential for this work to attract new kinds of support and contribute to the financial sustainability of their organization.
Presenters: Rehana Abbas, Oakland Museum of California; Lori G. Fogarty, Oakland Museum of California; Johanna Jones, Oakland Museum of California; Kelly McKinley, Bay Area Discovery Museum
Kelly McKinley: Hello everybody and welcome to this session. My name is Kelly McKinley, and I am the CEO of the Bay Area discovery museum were a children’s museum at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito California
I’m also a member of the board of am and Sir as Cohost of the San Francisco conference. It’s a pleasure to be with you all here today.
Up until December I worked with these incredible human beings at the Oakland Museum of California.
I was there for six years and during that time I headed up what we called the Center for experienced development and collections. And that was a team that comprised of curatorial interpretation design production collections and evaluation.
So let me do a quick introduction to my friends who are going to be joining today in the conversation. I’ll start with Donna Jones, who is driving the slide deck and she is Oakland’s Associate Director of evaluation and visitor insights and it’s really credited with building this institutional program of evaluation and Mr. insights, my colleague Rihanna a boss who is the chief of philanthropy.
And last but not least, Lori Fogarty the CEO of the communities of color who are just for the possibility of museums prompted me to pack up my family and leave Toronto and moved to the Bay Area.
So, today’s session is going to be a super condensed case study of how we, and I’m going to use. We because I still feel part of Oakland, even though I’m in Sausalito how we as an organization tackled the idea of sustainability.
Yes, financial sustainability, but really looking at our decision that in order to get to financial sustainability. We had to start with sustainability long term sustainability of our mission.
So, we’re going to be looking at some of the questions we asked ourselves as an organization and how we respond to them.
Specifically, the question about what would it take to actually serve the whole community.
What would it take to be an organization that was both beloved and truly relevant to its community. How could we be of greater service.
The idea was that in order to sustain ourselves into the future. We needed to be able to describe with greater clarity and greater specificity. The value of our organization.
The people we serve the people were having an impact on the kinds of impact that we’re having on people’s lives and how intern. That was changing our community as a whole.
It was really about us trying to both qualify and quantify the difference that we were making in the world are trying to make in the world.
And this was about accountability to our community and our stakeholders and our supporters, but it was also about accountability to ourselves to understand if and how we were hitting the mark. So, this was really critical. These are critical questions for us to answer to see if we were fulfilling our mission and being able to approach financial sustainability.
So, we’re going to tackle this case study from three different perspectives Lori’s is going to start us off.
Looking at how we started to do the inside work, how we reach tool. The program of the museum and build the skills amongst the staff to do that work.
John’s going to talk about some of the early results we saw from that retooling and then looking at the new questions that arose from those results.
And then ron is going to take a look at this work in totality, and both the retooling of the program and this new data and talk about what that meant for her work as the fundraiser and chief for the organization.
So, we’re going to have each panelist in that order, give a brief presentation and then we’ll have an opportunity for conversation and Q&A please ask questions crop up or if you need things clarified, please enter them into the Q&A and I’ll be tracking those through the session.
And we hope to leave a good chunk of time 2025 minutes at the end. So, there’s lots of opportunity for conversation. So, with that, I’m going to turn it over to Lori to tell us a little bit about Oakland Museum of California and this ritual work that we did as a starting place.
Lori Fogarty: Great. Thank you, Kelly and thanks to all of you for joining us and to my colleagues for being part of this and Joanna. I think we’re ready for the next slide. And I’m just going to start us off a little bit with who the Oakland Museum of California who we are? And this is a picture overhead of our beautiful campus where we are not right now but happy to see that picture. The Oakland Museum of California is a multi-disciplinary Museum of California art history and natural sciences and you’re seeing here are beautiful indoor, outdoor campus, which is actually currently under construction and transformation.
But this campus opened in 1969 and I have to note that you can see on the bottom right corner the Alameda County Courthouse where when the museum opened in September of 1969 the free Huey protests were happening right across the street. So, we’re in the heart of downtown Oakland and have been a place where protest has happened many, many times and continues.
And I do think it’s important to note that the museum was founded as a museum of the people. It was built on public bond funds and was a department of the city of Oakland for many years. So, this idea of being a civic anchor and a community resource has always been part of our DNA. Next slide. Johanna but even with that long history, we felt a few years ago that we actually needed to kind of double down on our work.
In community engagement and really being a visitor centered institution. So, what you’ll what I’m going to describe as some of the elements that lead up to our ability to actually articulate and measure social impact.
So really thinking about different kinds of experiences in the museum social experiences that brought new audiences together.
Truly building community engagement into the core of our exhibition and program development so co creating projects with our community.
And finally, just a few years ago, really determining that our job was to tell stories that had a particular relevance in Oakland and are very much rooted in Oakland, but also have a broader national resonance. So, next slide will give you a picture of a few of these exhibitions that we have done in recent years 2016 all power to the people. Black Panthers at 50 the exhibition, the world of Ray and Charles Eames that we did just last year. This past summer queer California untold stories.
And then finally, I think what was really a game changer for us that started about eight years ago, which is Friday nights at own QA so this is a program we partnered with off the grid our local food truck enterprise and every single Friday night a year, we open up the campus for a full community a block party with music and dancing.
Food and programming. So, these are the kinds of experiences and I we included Eames because even with exhibitions that might be considered more traditional and content.
Like a design exhibition of the partnership of Ray and Charles Eames we built these kinds of experiences into all of our programming. Next slide.
Some of the other ways we really change the way we have been working, we define new roles, all of our exhibitions now are developed by a team.
That includes of course a curator, but a position. We also call experienced developer who is the advocate for our visitors in creating the overall experience.
A designer. So, thinking of the visual aspect of the experience from the get go. And importantly, a project manager. So, the project manager.
Is is charged with not only budget and schedule management, but also ensuring that each project is aligning to our institutional goals.
We’ve really changed the ways we work together many cross functional teams. We have a an elaborate tool for decision making, because of the very collaborative way that we work and make decisions.
Importantly, we have changed the way we evaluate will talk about the central role of evaluation and I can’t say enough about how critical. This is but we have not been just evaluating the typical outputs. But we, you know, such as admission figures and demographics but actually measuring outcomes we set goals and we measure them for how we want people to experience understand interact with the content, but really the kind of experience. We want our visitors to gain again, a commitment to evaluation and really building the structure for that over time under Kelly and Johannes leadership and then I must underscore this fundamentally, is that all of this work has been underpinned by a commitment to diversity, equity access and inclusion at our board level at our staff level and certainly with our programming and audience development efforts. Next slide.
So, as we engaged in this work over the last dozen years we began to formulate this theory of change. And this is hopefully a graphic that’s familiar to many of you. It’s kind of a classic logic model.
Where we began to think about our, our stages of this work and I will say at the time that we introduced this, it was pretty unusual for museums.
I think to be thinking in this way of a theory of change, but we looked at our inputs, the assets we bring to this work, the activities of course exhibitions programs events.
Outputs Ness, we began to measure, not only attendance but demographics and PS, which is a proxy for visitor satisfaction.
And then visitor outcomes of as I’ve described, and as we move through this journey and all of a sudden made us realize what is the impact. What is the difference we are trying to make in the world and that set us off on a journey to articulate and measure our social impact and I’ll turn it over now to Johanna?
Kelly McKinley: And just before Johanna jumps in. I just wanted to set up that this is, as I said, a very condensed case study. So, john is going to talk about some of the early results from this retooling of the program and refocusing of the organization. And then the steps we took to start measuring social impact. We’re not going to be able to share all of the steps.
All of the ways we got to this.
End evaluation tool and all the gory details of our, our fits and starts
I will tell you what the end of this session.
We have documented this journey in four different articles.
On medium and we will share the links to those articles which will spell out most of the gory details for you that we won’t be able to cover in the session today. So, just want to give you a heads up about that.
So, Johanna over to you.
Johanna Jones: So, I’m going to stay on this transition slide for just a moment to explain a little bit about how we do evaluation at omega.
There’s been a long history of doing exhibition-based evaluation at the museum. And then when I came on board for years ago the position broaden so that I could work with staff across the museum.
In different departments or as we call them centers to really help a wide range of staff.
Use visitor data to inform their practice. And so, we have a robust evaluation program audience Research and Evaluation program.
We have an ongoing visitor exit survey that’s done all year long, we get at least 1200 surveys, a year so we can be representative quarterly we conduct exhibition and program evaluations both quantitative and qualitative measures.
And we also conduct special projects as needed by staff. So, for example, a membership study or do something for marketing look at topic testing.
So, we do a lot of evaluation audience research to understand our visitors and because we were doing that, we were able to see changes from when we double down and all this. This change work till today. So, from 2016 to 2019 we saw lots of changes in our outputs. We saw an increase in ticket attendance 12% increase in three years.
We saw strong attendance on Friday nights consistently, year after year about 200,000 folks join us on those Friday nights. It’s about half of our total attendance.
And then we saw that the demographics, our visitors was changing our visitors are getting younger, more ethnically diverse and more representative of Oakland. We were getting more families, especially families with young children.
And we were seeing a lot of other changes in our, in our audiences. I’ve listed here.
One thing I do want to point out is we were getting different kinds of people, but they were from our local area so 90% of our visitors come from within a 50-mile radius.
And this is important because it allows us. It gives us the privilege of being to being able to have a long-term relationship with folks being able to have multiple points of contact. It’s not just a one-time visit and our repeat visitation is very high. And so, we could develop an ongoing relationship with visitors.
We saw our visitors changing. They were from our local area and that was great. But then we also started to hear different things from that not only the people were changing but what they were saying to us was changing so here’s one quote from our visitor. We did a study about Friday night, and we asked them what value Friday night has for Oakland residents and city of Oakland.
And when the visitor said, I think it’s a place with the community to come just the range of people I saw families older couples all races and lifestyles.
Just a wide range which means to me community, a real sense of community is what I felt here tonight, there’s music and food and drink, you can relax. You can feel like you’re with family.
And then we conducted an evaluation for all power to the people. Black Panthers at and at the very end, sort of, once we’ve asked our range of other questions we asked how people felt about us doing an exhibition like this, you know, there was some trepidation in the museum field about having an exhibition about the Black Panthers.
And so, we wanted to see what visitors would say, and this visitor said, I think it’s absolutely crucial imperative that there’s a platform and a space that public spaces are given to those topics, especially in the coming years.
The work that the museum does to raise awareness to talk about things. We don’t generally discuss and helps people get informed on a different level.
So, this was we were loving what we were hearing, we were hearing different things. People were responding to our to our exhibitions in different ways.
We were attracting a more diverse audience and we had the question. So, what those are all good things.
But that didn’t lead us to impact that told us that we were doing good work and we were making good changes. But what impact where we having on our community. And so, as Lori mentioned we embarked on a theory of change process.
And just because I don’t like using jargon. I want to define those terms a theory of change is a diagram or narrative that describes the outcomes.
An organization strives to create through their work and the relationships between those outcomes and you start a theory of change.
By asking what are the big problems this organization is working to solve in the community and then you describe this to you describe the solution to those problems.
And what it would look like for the people who are affected, and that’s different than the mission. The mission is our purpose, the theory of change. Let us to think about the problem in in our community, which we identified as social fragmentation and I have to say that wasn’t an immediate aha moment we had two years of talking to a wide range of stakeholders, you know, people experts’ social scientists experts who measure social impact and other fields.
Our board members non visitors, visitors staff we really talked to a lot of stakeholders to figure out what is a problem that the museum is in a position to solve and is in a unique position to solve.
And then if our work is successful, the effect that will have a community is greater social cohesion and we’ll know are having that impact when we see outcomes. So, we had to define those outcomes.
Back to our logic model. You can see how all the pieces fit together. So, our impact is greater social cohesion, greater connection trust and understanding between people and social groups.
We had a different social impact when we first started, and we got a lot of interesting feedback from stakeholders and retooled and you know, I have to say I was, I was really personally impacted by a report that I read by the UN that basically said, you know, we’re never going to have to change global problems like poverty, if we don’t have social cohesion, if people aren’t willing to come to the table and work on these problems together.
And that’s in in Oakland, you know, we have there’s gentrification in the in the Bay Area. We have tension between new residents and old-time residents.
We have income disparity, we have you know a lot of challenges in urban areas have and we thought, you know, what is the museum position to do and like our advisors. We had a little bit of a gut feeling like Friday night is a platform for that it brings all sorts of people together to enjoy being together to learn from one another.
To relax to begin to trust one another. How can we use programs like that exhibitions that do the similar thing to bring people closer together to make them want to work on problems together?
And so, after we came upon after we determine our social impact we had to figure out, well, what does that look like. What does that sound like how would that feel, what would visitors say to us, what would they do.
And so, we came up with for outcomes. One that visitors would feel a sense of welcome and belonging when they’re at the museum.
They’d see their experiences and stories reflected in our programs and exhibitions and all the work that we do.
They would feel connected to other people, not just the people they came with but strangers and Doom people that they’re interacting with and that they feel comfortable expressing their ideas and they’re open to those of others. And we felt like that was a crucial one because we didn’t want to just talk to the people who were fans of the museum.
We wanted to bring all sorts of people together to hear different points of views and perspectives. So, we could learn from one another and ran truly understand the issues at hand.
So, we also knew that because you know like when most institutions, we weren’t going to have the luxury of just doing this one big study one time and say we’re done, we wanted to use the study to inform our practice on an ongoing level.
And we wanted to integrate it into the work that we were already doing so we embedded our social impact measures into our visitor exit survey which happens all through the year as our quantitative measure and then we started asking two questions in all of our exit interviews or exhibition and program interviews at the end of those projects.
And those were our qualitative measures of this impact so it’s embedded in the work that we’re already doing. We can collect data all through the year.
Look at how different projects impact these outcomes, look at whether certain people are feeling stronger impact than others. It was going to give us a lot of data on an ongoing basis. So, we could track changes. And like I said, inform our practice. And so, we went through a process of creating social impact scales. There are eight scales. There’s more detail in this in the medium articles that will give you links to, and we tested those scales for three months and then we completed a full year so that we would have a lot of data that we could really look to see whether those measures were authentically measuring what they thought we weren’t what we hope they were as well as look at differences by demographics and so this. I’m not going to go into all the details of this table. It’s in the medium article but from our first year of data, we saw that overall, and I should also mention I’m a half glass empty kind of person. And so, I try to have a strict analysis as possible. And so, we really wanted to see on a five-point scale, who are we having this super strong impact on. So, we looked at a five point versus the one through four and we could have organized at different ways to get different messages, but this was really a way for us to look at it so that we could see the good and the not so good and make changes and inform our practice. So, we saw that in terms of our eight scales folks really were feeling strongly that they that they appreciate the Oakland Museum was telling stories from different communities and they felt a sense of welcome and belonging where we were less successful or, you know, there was work to be done.
Is people feeling more comfortable expressing their ideas and seeing their identity and experiences reflected in the exhibits. Now, we went back and retool these scales because we realized if you’re here on a Friday night, you might not actually go see the exhibits and so maybe one of the reasons that that one skills lower was because we weren’t including programs events, you know, basically all that we do.
So, we didn’t go through a process of looking at this data we examined it by demographics, and we learned that nontraditional museum audiences. So, people of color and lower income visitors scored slightly lower and so that told us you know that’s where some of the work needs to happen.
And then we also did revise some the scales based on feedback from visitors as well as trying to use more inclusive language. So, that’s just tip of the iceberg. We found in year one, and how we’re using the data.
And I think we’ve were once we’re doing our exit surveys, again, we have these revise scales, and we’ll continue collecting data and continue to learn and see how the data is changing as our as our work changes.
Kelly McKinley: Great, thanks. Johanna, and I’m just noticing in the chat.
People asking about some of the tools that we use for this evaluation.
Also, the title of the articles where this materials published and just to let you know at the end will be sharing the titles. The links for all of those articles so you’ll be able to get more under the hood of this work because in many ways, this one hour session is in some ways on satisfactory for people are looking for those kinds of details and hopefully you’ll get them there. Alright, we’re going to switch gears now and have Rehana. Talk to us a little bit about how this retooled program retooled public programs and exhibitions, a new way of talking about ourselves, both qualitative and quantitative Lee what that meant for her work as a fundraiser. And for her team. And what were some of the results.
Rehana Abbas: Great. Thank you, Kelly.
So, this work has had an incredible impact on fundraising and has really challenged me who I come from. I’ve worked in a number of what I would call more traditional art museums truly think about museum fundraising in a different way.
One of the big things that we’ve seen with this work is an increase in multi-year for awkward crafts people are really thinking about the our funders really thinking about how this work has an impact over time and how we’re measuring it. And so, we can really make the case for how we need a multiyear grants and these grants are supporting our core operating instead of ancillary projects just also has to be less reliant on a major exhibition funding cycle. So, in other museums where I’ve worked in in more traditional museum models. I think that you know, you have your Impressionist exhibition every couple of years, you have your pool of Impressionist people who love the Impressionist and you know you’re going to go to them.
And you kind of almost need to do those shows every couple of years to bring those resources. Then, or you hire a contemporary art museum, have your photography people that know you can go to every single time. But it kind of creates this dependency on those big exhibitions to bring the dollars, then when you’re doing the kinds of shows we do with the open Museum of California. That’s just not really possible when you’re we have in the next year, we have hip hop and then we have here, California.
So, it’s so different and we’re trying to make sure that we’re using our platform to give voice just so many different people in our community that we can’t really start from scratch every single time when we’re having these exhibitions.
And so that brings us back to instead what we’re really doing is saying.
Here’s the story is we’re trying to tell. Here’s the bigger picture of what we’re trying to do fund that and then trust us because we’re using this data to see what’s working and what’s not. And we’re pivoting and we’re you know, iterating in real time thanks to the data. And so, I think that data gives people trust in the work that we’re doing and another thing that we really are focusing on is, is this enables us just to provide a much more philanthropic message to our members versus transactional as the information john has shared earlier showed you a 90% of our visitors are local. And so we can really put forth this message that by supporting the museum, you are supporting your local community.
And this has been very important right now while the museum has been closed and to be able to to put forth and more philanthropic message to our members.
Um, there’s challenges with this as well, though, we definitely have some long-time donors who they yearn for what I would call a more traditional museum experience and we, we know we need those donors. They’re incredibly important to the museum family from a fundraising perspective. They’re incredibly you know, top prospects for a plan to giving down the road. And we really need to bring those people along. So, we’ve done a lot of work with our donor events, for example, instead of, you know, having maybe a curator do an introduction to an exhibition and then that’s what we do for a donor event.
We bring in the community partners that we work with, so that for a hip-hop exhibition. For example, we bring in people who are working in youth empowerment with hip hop, so that our donors can understand that hip hop can be a force for positive social change in the community, which is something they might not have known before.
Um, and then we really are we really think about with our with our funders, how can we show impact not just talk about our outputs.
And I think more and more Philanthropists are starting to think about social return on investment. They are looking at their philanthropy as an investment in their community and in society and they want to see return. And if you’re not measuring what you’re doing, it’s really hard to show that. So, for us, this has been really interesting because we started to get many more donors who do not think of themselves as museum funders, they will. They’ve actually told us we won’t fund museums yet now they’re funding the Oakland Museum of California. So, if you could go to the next slide. Joanna.
We are in a campaign called the all-in campaign and it’s an $85 million, five year comprehensive campaign and it’s been a really interesting thing to see this campaign before it because we determined a brand for the campaign that fits within our institutional brand. So, the brand for that campaign is really about social cohesion and that the museum is here to kind of break down the walls that divide us as a community.
And what we’ve seen is that this message is really working with non-traditional donors, as I mentioned, so we’re seeing people who really are more social justice funders.
Coming and supporting the museum and a really great. I’m a really great way. And then another thing that that’s done for us. Part of the $85 million dollar campaign 45. It was first growing our endowment.
But we’ve actually seen two thirds of the what you know is was intended endowment funds have come in as just discretionary campaigns for so people are saying we see you here, what you’re doing. We like it. Take this money do with it what you need to do to continue doing great work that you’re doing. So, this is a fundraiser stream. This is an executive director stream.
These funds and be able to do with them. What, what we need to do to keep doing the great work that we’re doing.
Kelly McKinley: Great, thank you. Rihanna.
Going to now ask Lori to just tie up to say okay now was how do we do as we used to joke amongst ourselves rinse and repeat.
How do we keep this going? What is the work of sustaining the sustainability work?
Lori Fogarty: That’s right, absolutely. Well, next slide, communicating our identity. So, as this has been an incredible learning experience. And we are continuing to learn from this, but some of the things that we’ve already learned in are putting into practice. One is just how we communicate about the Newseum. Rihanna described how we make the case to donors and what we have seen as a real shift in how we position the museum, how we brand. The museum, how we talk about ourselves.
In a very different way, whether that’s to our staff to prospective board members or to the media.
Where it’s also really coming into play is recruiting for staff members of people now come to us understanding that this is the work that we do and understanding what our values are. And it’s made that recruitment process, in some ways, much, much easier because people are coming to us for the very reasons of the social impact, we’re striving to have the other thing that is really changed in my 14 plus years as director there is data driven decision making.
The kind of data that Johanna and her team help provide and now this has become a real institution wide practice in the technology tools we use and other means of gaining data I’m not really does drive our decision making in a very, very different way than the gut instinct that I think a lot of museums and in my past experience have relied upon.
Continuing our learning if Johanna is the glass half empty person. I’m the glass half full.
Person and I if you would have seen those scales, where the percentages are shown as fours and fives of agree and strongly agree.
You would have seen those indicators even being much higher. Many of them over 80 and 90% of people agreeing or strongly agree.
But what we’ve told ourselves is this is not about patting ourselves on the back. It’s about learning where we can grow. And so that has been a real focus and sometimes not easy to see those areas that we need to emphasize more and as Kelly said rinse and repeat.
Finally, leadership at all levels. This has been an effort that certainly have my support Kelly support Rihanna support the executive team support.
But what I love now is how this information and how this data is being infused throughout the organization. So, now, all of our programmers are curators our exhibition developers, our business staff, our finance staff are thinking about what does social impact mean for our work, whether that’s who we are working with for our vendors how we are thinking about visitor experience we’re seeing that kind of leadership around social impact happen at every level of the organization.
And finally, I’ll just conclude, of course, this evaluation was all happening on site. And the premise of our social impact was about being a gathering place and bringing people together.
And so, what we are having to do in this moment is radical reimagining. What does social cohesion mean at a time of physical distancing and how are we going to rethink what creating a sense of welcome and belonging lifting up stories and having people see their stories.
Understanding the stories of others and coming together with people, both like us, and maybe not like us mean in this time, and certainly the events of the last few days underscore that that imperative for radical reimagining even more.
So that’s where we are and happy to turn it back to you, Kelly to help lead us through some Q&A.
Kelly McKinley: Sure. Thanks, Lori. I was just remembering as you were telling stories of how this work has infused the whole organization. And I was just a flashback to next summer. And our first summer of our, our paid internship program is our second year of our paid internship program, pardon me, and I always think about the intern that we had in the finance department who is the social impact finance intern whose job for the summer was to help us think about how we could source the materials and goods for the institution from locally on businesses, particularly women owned business and business of color. So, it’s just I bring that up as a concrete example of what that looks like when it I’ve used into the whole organization.
Lori Fogarty: Well, and she did a great job. And we’re turning to that information right now to think about our vendor policies. So, that’s a great example.
Kelly McKinley: And as I promised, here are the links to the articles and as the presentation was under way, I was in conversation with the webinar partners. And what we’re going to do is we’ll share this slide deck as an attachment to this session.
So, you’ll be able to see the slide deck as a standalone, so you don’t have to necessarily go through the whole recording. So, WE’LL HAVE IT AVAILABLE IN in both formats for you.
So, you don’t have to write furiously right now. Or you can screenshot us or or just google it, this will all come up with the google it as well. So, you don’t feel the pressure. If you really want to dig in.
So, let’s, let’s switch to questions from and we’ve got quite a few questions from the people gathered let’s start off with, there’s a straightforward one here from a colleague who wants to get more detail on our campaign brand. And I’m going to suggest that Oakland is all about sharing. So, I would say to you, my G Castro reach out to Rihana and I know she in the team would be happy to share with you. Those branding.
And sticking with you, Rihanna. I’m going to take this first question to you, which is how many years did it take to see this shift in fundraising, especially the discretionary endowments.
Support. And how long did it take for people to trust the institution and trust the work at this level. Could you talk a little bit about that, please?
Rehana Abbas: Sure. So, I mean, some of us and Lord, please feel free to jump in because some of us has, you know, been going on since before I started using on three and a half years ago.
I would say, I’m really the bulk of this funding is kind of coming from two places foundation support and then also individuals. So, for the Foundation’s I think many of us who work in fundraising museums have seen this trajectory towards wanting to have more measurable impact from museums and the arts for from foundations like melon Ford, a local in California, Irvine foundation was a huge funder of this work. They’re no longer funding museums, but we were the recipient of six years’ worth of really core operating support for a lot of the work that we’ve talked about today. And so I think in some ways the Foundation’s sort of led the charge of providing us funding to be able to do a lot of this work and then with the individuals, I would say, you know, it’s it, you have to look at it as like you’re dating, you’re not getting you’re not getting married on the first day, because I think a lot of philanthropists.
You know, I’ve known throughout my career. A lot of philanthropists that look at their support of the arts as something because maybe they are personally a passionate collector and their support of social justice as maybe they’re what you would might call their true philanthropy and they don’t see a way for those things to intersect.
And an art museum, we’re showing that there is a way for those things to intersect, but it kind of takes them a little while to get there because maybe there is just supporting the arts more because it’s a social outlet or it’s a way to learn about new artists that they might want to add to their collection and they don’t really think about it as having this social impact part of it and they think of other places that they can give their money around social impact. So, with a lot of our bigger funders. I think it has been just it’s like a long courting process.
Now, there are people who really want to give away funds for social justice right now in this country so i think it’s worth it to do that and people are getting really excited about the work that we’re doing and they’re going out and evangelizing to others.
That are in their networks as well but i mean it’s definitely to it’s a year’s process. And then our campaign is five-year comprehensive campaign. We’re entering your five starting in our new fiscal year on July 1 so.
So you know that the discretionary campaign support, you know, we do have great support from our Board of Trustees.
And a lot of our board members have been along with us on this journey. So, so a lot of the support that they gave to the campaign was campaign discretionary support as well, but also large funders outside of the campaign from an outside before.
Kelly McKinley: Yeah. And I guess the other thing I would say just to build on what your heart is saying is that we’re talking about more specifically about the 14 years Lori’s lead the organization and the six years or so that we work together as a team on this work.
But just going back to Lori’s opening remarks, the museum was founded as a museum of the people that had this kind of demographic Democratic mission from the get-go. And there were lots of in the early days 60s and 70s and 80s. There were lots of experimental exhibitions. So, this work was built on for decades of this kind of work and what we’re talking about is to someone else to enter your comment about. Okay, so let’s get the whole institution. So, this is not episodic and periodic that this is actually the thing that everybody holds and works towards
Lori, did you want to you.
Want me to do you want to add to that, no.
Lori Fogarty: No, I was just gonna
I will really underscore that that that this I think part of the success in in the fundraising.
Is that that our donor saw this is real and authentic and that was not that was many years of work.
And it was in some ways is articulating that this work is about actually realizing the founding vision of the museum and tapping into our DNA. And I think that made it credible and real.
Kelly McKinley: Solari before just when you’re talking about authenticity there. It makes me think of a question that we weren’t able to address in our presentation. But I want to bring it up now since you’ve raised authenticity and as we started to publish this work and talk about this work and figure out this work in public.
We start to get a lot of calls from our colleagues, all of us asking about this work.
And this idea of social cohesion, really resonated with a lot of people, particularly, you know, given the time and we found ourselves responding to colleagues who were calling say oh, yes, we want to do social cohesion to we’re going to make that our theory of change. And we had a lot of conversations about that. So, I’m wondering if you just talk a little bit about how you respond to…
Oh, yes, we want to do social cohesion to and how that compares to our experience of doing this work.
Lori Fogarty: Yeah, I mean I as you said, Kelly, we are about sharing our work.
And we see that as part of our service to be in service to community is is the community of the Newseum field and we have tried to be extremely transparent about this work, the medium articles that we shared are really over a matter of, I think it’s three years, you know, from the earliest you know strivings to articulate what our social impact is how that changed over time where we were, as we put the indicators together and then these first-year results.
And we want to share that and I am all in favor of other museums, thinking about what impact they’re having in their communities. I think I’ve also cautioned my colleagues that
That it takes a long time. And that’s really why I described the evolution that it took all of these ingredients.
Together to be able to make it possible for us to think about the problem that we are trying to solve in the community and really thinking deeply about what that challenge is and what we as a museum have the assets, the capacity, the credibility to solve this Joanna mentioned we had another social impact hypotheses that we tested and tried and thought, you know, this isn’t, this isn’t going to be something we can truly say we can achieve nor can we measure it.
So that, I think, you know, knowing that it takes that kind of work that kind of self-reflection community reflection extensive conversations and input.
And I will also say social cohesion means not bringing together people who are the same.
But it means bringing people together who are not the same. And so, I saw that there was a question about was part of our effort to reach out and engage audiences who are not traditional audiences and particularly audiences or not.
You know who are from more marginalized communities, at least in terms of their museum experience historic museum experience and absolutely that is where we one of the areas we began is to say that we want our audience to be reflective of the community in which we live. The debt we want our audience to near the demographics of Alameda County. So, without the success we had an Ashley diversifying our audience. We couldn’t climb social cohesion.
And then I will say we had to have the real infrastructure in place in evaluation to collect that data. So, unless you’re going to collect the data.
And analyze the data and learn from it. It’s very difficult to claim social impact and social cohesion as a measurable objective, so I think we’re sharing this today because we want to have our colleagues be part of this journey and really think about truly what their own community needs from them right now and what they’re uniquely poised to deliver in terms of impact.
Kelly McKinley: Great. Thank you, Lori.
I’m going to bundle. A couple questions for you. Johanna to try and answer as many of these as possible. One was, could you just talk a little bit about what was the social impact that we first considered and then rejected and then maybe if you could do just a couple of quick headlines on our methodology for getting the surveys. And one question was do we incentivize, and we don’t incentivize but if you could just talk a little bit more about how we do the data gathering through the year.
Johanna Jones: Sure. So, our first social impact statement was okay helps create a more equitable and caring city.
And we felt pretty good about that because we liked all of those words. And I think it it in our guts felt like, yes, we want people to care about each other and we want you know people to feel like they have equal voice and bring lots of people together and then as we talked to our, our, our experts in social impact. They had a lot of questions about the statement and then as we talked to our board, they had different questions. And then we talked to non-visitors. They really put you they really pinpointed on the problem we had non visitor say to us, what are you going to do. Are you going to find me a better paying job?
Are you going to deal with housing in equities and Oakland and we said, Oh, no, that’s not what we’re going to do, how can we claim that because if that’s not within our realm of it’s not our wheelhouse is not what we can do? We can’t change housing policy; we can’t change healthcare policy early on in the work I was very interested in how museums.
Can improve people’s health. And there’s been a lot of great work in the UK.
And then I started and then we got some feedback. Well, you know, we don’t have socialized medicine here like they do in the UK, we can’t get ahold of health data, we can’t make sure people have access to health care, you know, there were a lot of things that were outside the museum’s control that we wouldn’t be able to make the changes that we wanted to see. So, we went back to the drawing board and as we thought about who our visitors are and the kinds of experiences, they’re having and what they actually were saying to us. We and then being influenced by lots of other things, other reports, and ideas from outside of the museum world.
We came upon social cohesion because that’s really in our gut. What we saw happening on Friday nights. And in fact, when we had the we had a convening, which is what we do at the museum. We bring in experts from the outside to help us think about our work, we had those social impact experts on site.
The first day was presentations. We were kind of getting to know them and they’re getting to know us and then they stayed for Friday night, and had dinner and, you know, had music and dancing and whatnot.
The next day when they came back with the second part of the retreat. They said, oh, we get it. Now we get what you guys are trying to do when you’re bringing all these kinds of people together.
We had one of our experts say I talked to 11 strangers. That never happens to me in my city, so they really, you know, we felt it when we worked Friday nights and then and then the social impact experts felt it too. And so they they said you don’t quite have it yet, but we see where you’re going and they were willing to to continue to help us think about that.
And then in terms of the kinds of data that we collect we do an exit survey as people are leaving the museum.
We have a real we have; I would say we’re not a tourist destination. And so, we have a lot of people who come to the museum often high repeat visitation who come from the community who have who are more inclined to do is to do a survey, because they know that the data will help us do our work better. They have a stake in our future. You know, they feel connected to the institution.
And so, I was a consultant for most of my career and you know our refusal rates are incredibly low lowest than any most places I’ve ever worked and I think it’s partially because our community cares about the museum, they come back over and over again, they’re local so they feel like this is part of their, their community.
And so, and also, I just have to give a shout out to my fabulous staff. I mean, they are trained to be friendly and approachable.
Go up to people, you know, we have, we do a random sampling method where they, they, you know, are in position cat three seconds they intercept the next person who looks like they’re 18 and older, they asked him, participate in the study, we have, you know, particular protocol and they’re all trained to use it and they’re just very approachable and friendly and they do a great job. And so, we don’t we don’t pay folks to participate.
They were transparent on how we use the information. So, I think they know that we’re not just doing it for sales purposes or, you know, we’re using to do what we do better and to make sure that we’re serving our community. And when we ask. So, we asked the questions verbally, so we can get quality data and then we have demographics, we should we give the iPad, because although the iPad.
We hand that over to visitors and they did. They do. Demographics on their own. They’re all optional, they can skip those questions.
But we’ve tried to be very mindful about the way that we phrase those demographic questions so that people do see themselves.
And we have a disclaimer, saying, you know, we ask these questions. So, we know who we’re serving. So, we you know we know what communities are being served in which aren’t. And so, we try to be very transparent to visitors and i and i think they respond to that.
Does that answer all the questions are…?
Lori Fogarty: Chopped
Kelly McKinley: I think that that was well done. Yeah.
That was a little unfair bundling them but good tracking
I’m going to do, I’m going to do another bundling, one other thing.
Kelly McKinley: Oh yeah, sure.
Go and I think as a long-time evaluator, I think.
Sometimes when people approach evaluation work. They think, oh god, you know, you have to go up to the stranger and ask them some questions or ask them their information isn’t that. Doesn’t that feel icky, or it doesn’t.
Isn’t that strange and in reality, visitors would really like to talk to us.
Because that way they can tell us their opinions and you know I always have thought evaluation as serving an interpretive function.
Because it lets visitors reflect and think on the experience that they that they just had
And especially if someone comes alone, or if they’re, you know, they’re not particularly chatty with the people that came with. It’s a way for them to process the experience and so I would just say it may seem strange to do this research but visitors do appreciate it. And if it’s done in a way that’s mindful of their needs and is transparent about why you’re doing it. I think visitors will respond very positively.
Lori Fogarty: I think it’s also kind of built into the ethos of the experience to I mean we have many, many places or we did. I hope we will in the future.
For visitor feedback comments interaction throughout the galleries. So, I think our visitors feel like they’re having a conversation with the museum, kind of as part of the whole experience. And so, the evaluation feels like a very natural kind of extension of that.
Kelly McKinley: All right, we’ll try and get a couple more questions in the last minute we’re in the home straight
This is another bundle. Sorry, friends, we’ve got questions about how did this work, change the staff and the board and to what extent as the board been involved in this work both on the formation of the change in the direction and also in terms of the fundraising to
Lori Fogarty: Write. Great question. So, the board has been extremely involved with the process. I would say in a, in a few different ways. One is we do have a community engagement committee.
And that is a committee that formed. Gosh, maybe seven years ago as really both performing two functions. One is, how do we think about engaging our community and particularly around diversity, equity inclusion and access and grow the boards capacity. So, they’re inward looking as the advocates for building board capacity, but they are also our partners and thinking about community engagement. So, they became our kind of initial partners and actually working very closely with Johanna and you Kelly and me and the team around articulating social impact. And then we took that social impact idea out for a drive at multiple board meetings over the course of a couple of years, and really got their feedback.
And I will say, because a presentation from this team would not be complete without us. Let’s see it. Everybody.
The goalposts and if you came into a board meeting or a staff meeting anytime at the Newseum and did this.
Everyone would understand and there are goalposts our financial sustainability and social impact. And I think our board really understands that our sustainability as an institution financially is completely integrated with our ability to engage and serve and be a resource for our community.
I know I, you know, an inevitable question would be, what about the diversity of our own staff and board. And so of course this has been a simultaneous effort, our board is very diverse mean, we would always like it to be more diverse. It is currently comprised of % little over 40% people of color.
And our staff is changing all the time, but the last statistics that I saw well over 55% of our staff were people of color. So, again, an ongoing effort, but it also speaks to the inside out aspect of our work, and I know Rihanna would also say that our board has gained great capacity and facility in too many of them have in talking about this work and also bringing that into how they fundraise and how they make requests of their peers.
Kelly McKinley: I’m glad you brought up the secret handshake of own ca the goalposts and we use it jokingly, but very seriously. Also, and I’m wondering Rihanna or Lori to talk about. So, people don’t think that this is all sunny and roses in Oakland, but we got this all sorted out that this is hard. The notion that this kind of deep commitment and engagement with community.
Is not antithetical to raising money and some of the tensions and the ongoing work in the organization.
To help staff understand that they’re that one does not diminish the other and that we still need to sell tickets to those exhibitions and some of the tension in that like queer California as an exhibition. We build over two years with, you know, dozens of people of the Community.
Providing access but also sustaining ourselves financially. I wonder if you who’d like to take that and dig into that hard work but still not done.
Lori Fogarty: Oh, I know what Rehana take that one, because that women.
Rehana Abbas: Know it. Please. Please. I can, but, um, you know, it’s, it is. I think it is really, it’s really hard work and um I think that for the institution. I mean, we don’t want to the way I look at it is, we spend a lot of time trying to talk about that.
That that philanthropy is engagement. So, when we’re talking about community engagement. Our members are the backbone of our community and philanthropy as a way to engage people in the work of the museum.
And there is a reality that in order to do this work and have this work seen we need financial resources.
To be able to have to be a platform for people. And so, you know, this is I would kind of call this like the work of the culture of philanthropy and it’s something that we’re really working on right now.
At the museum. But those are some of the ways that we started to try to talk about it. And you know, I mean, I think it really goes back for us when we started talking about before my time.
But when we really started talking about social impact and community engagement work and a lot of museums community engagement as this thing that was over on the side.
And sometimes you get funding for it because it sounds really good.
But it’s not at the core of who you are as an institution. And so, thanks to the urban foundation this grant that we had it enabled us to for the first three years of the grant.
Really do work around bringing community engagement to the core. So, every single person in our organization understands how their particular role at the museum impacts the community and as part of community.
Lori Fogarty: Engagement work.
Rehana Abbas: And so, by that at the center. Then we have this shared understanding of what engagement was for the whole organization.
And then we can talk about how other members and other groups that are involved with the museum are all feeding into that engaged. So, I think that’s kind of one way that we are approaching.
Lori Fogarty: I think that’s a great you know description of how we’ve had to actually rethink philanthropy.
In some ways, with this.
I will say it’s an ongoing effort. And I think that the current circumstances with the pandemic and now with you know such very difficult civil unrest and outrage. It’s going to continue to challenge us because our financial structure will change and what it means to be in service to community will change. And those tensions.
Always play out. But I think thankfully we have the foundation of these conversations and this kind of work and thinking over these past many years so that we will be at least somewhat positioned for continuing to have those conversations about what is the financial sustainability look like now for the museum.
And what does social impact me now. And I will say, you know, I hope to be back at a conference in Chicago or Denver in the coming years to describe that it’s still so early for us to tell. We do have teams working on. We have innovation teams throughout the museum working on different aspects of our response and our future direction, moving forward, and one of them is community response and innovation team around community response and one is around meeting the moment so I think Joe Hannah will have be doing some groundbreaking new kinds of work in evaluation as we discover what that direction is and we and we explore new ways.
Of measuring it. So, that’s our that’s our work ahead.
Kelly McKinley: Thank you.
So, we are literally down to the final strokes. I’m going to try and take off a couple of other questions. There was something about institutional buy in for this kind of work and particularly evaluation. And what I would say to our colleagues is start small and start building a program that is small, that’s talking to visitors gathering data and sharing that data into the organization and helping the organization make sense of it.
That’s a good place to start but really if you’re going to do this and sustain this for the long term. There’s got to be buying from the top. There has to be a solid vision from the director that is then held by the leadership team so that it’s not an option to not grapple with these questions and this data. Another question was about how we share has this changed how we shared our information with our supporters and stakeholders, and I would say yes.
Own cup of the port to an impact report, and that was Rihanna and her team’s innovation, and you can reach out to Rihanna to see examples of that.
Of what that actually looks like. And it really is about painting a very different kind of picture in terms of the organization and its impact in both numbers and quantitative and qualitative data.
Rehana Abbas: Kelly. Can I jump in on one quick thing? All right.
Kelly McKinley: Yeah, I think we’ve got 30 seconds because then they cut off the recording.
Rehana Abbas: Sorry, I was just gonna say really quickly around the buy in peace. I think Joe hostage Ohana her position lives within the position that has curators and I think it’s really important because most museums would put evaluation and marketing.
And so then it’s going to be viewed differently, but I think because Joe has viewed as a partner to our content creators, but the data, she presents is accepted in the museum in a really different way. Just a quick note there.
Kelly McKinley: lightning speed. I hope there was a couple nuggets useful nuggets for you there. Thank you for joining us. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you wish we could see all your faces. Wish You Were actually all here with us in the Bay Area but thank goodness that we’re all together here. Nonetheless, thank you for your time, you’ll know how to reach us if you’ve got more questions. We’re big shares, give us a shout if we can be helpful. Thank you so much. Thank you.
Love Me colleagues, great to have the band back together, see you all soon have a great conference.