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Fundraising for Your Museum through Digital Storytelling (Part One for Museum Storytellers)

Sierra Smith February 19, 2020

Fundraising for a new exhibit, gallery, or museum can be challenging. With a variety of digital tools at your disposal and finicky algorithms, it might feel like those efforts are a ton of work with little return.

Despite hit or miss results, with a set plan, networking, and digital assets, it’s possible to raise extra money for your project. In our experience, the best way to motivate behavior change is through persuasive storytelling. For a museum, this is something you do best.

Step-by-step, here’s how you can utilize digital storytelling to enhance your fundraising efforts for a new exhibit, gallery, or museum:

Research & Plan

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We begin a lot of these tip blogs with a “research” section, but it’s necessary if you want your campaign to succeed. Share with your team your goals, objective and target funding. Then brainstorm strategies to achieve those goals. What tactics will you use? What is the call-to-action? What is the message you want your audience to take away?

In addition, ask yourself, who will you be targeting with your digital campaign? What will drive donations? Look at your museum’s current visitor data to see what you can find about those you want to target. You may also consider surveying your community to get feedback on what they’d like to see in your exhibits.

With clarity around your objectives, target audience and messaging, the elements of your campaign will start to take shape. Will you place digital ads? What social platforms will you place your focus? Who will you partner with to promote your fundraiser? Ultimately, these factors must be determined before you begin promotion.

Tell Your Story, Make Them Feel

Concentrated bearded young man using laptop while his friends studying together

The most effective means of fundraising online is to tell your museum’s story and make the audience feel something. Once you’ve established key elements, plan a calendar of content to promote on your website that will drive to your fundraiser. Creating content is a sure-fire way to generate web traffic and awareness through search engines. When creating your content, research keywords, keyword phrases, identify imagery or videos to pair, interview subjects, and gather sources to cite.

When you assemble all the pertinent information to produce your content, begin the writing process. According to the Search Engine Journal, search engines favor content with a 2,000 or more word count that explores a topic more in-depth. When producing your content, weave your researched keywords and keyword phrases into your articles. Take care to organically include targeted words into your content, as search engines consider this “keyword stuffing” for the sole purpose of ranking high.

While writing, get emotional. The best way to appeal to any audience is to make them feel some sort of emotion, rather than just providing the facts. It’s critical that you accurately present the information, but ask yourself, would I read this if I was outside of my organization? How would I feel reading this? If the answer is that you wouldn’t read it, or you find it dry, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Chances are if you’re not interested, neither is your audience.

As you’re concluding each piece of content, describe the scope of your project, reiterate its importance, and provide instructions on how the reader can donate. Once you’ve roped them in with the story, it’s much easier to spur a donation than asking for the funding outright.

Partner with Media Outlets

Partnering with your local news outlets is a great way to reach your audience, fast. Write press releases that discuss your project, link to your content, and the donation page that you can send to your local newspaper, radio, or TV stations. As you create new content or release new information, make sure to keep your media partners in the loop.

When you submit press releases, media outlets can quickly write articles linking to your cause on their website at no charge to you. Chances are, the outlet will promote that content on their social channels, in their newsletters, or on their homepages, which gives your cause great visibility. In some cases, as stories begin to trend, their sister stations in other states or national outlets might pick your story up.

Even if an outlet decides not to pick up your story, it never hurts to send content along and develop those relationships for the future.

Fundraising or running campaigns through digital channels can be challenging, but not impossible. You don’t need fancy graphics and flashy tools to create a successful campaign; you just need a story. Be human, and the donations will flow.

Look out next week for Part Two: Fundraising for Your Museum through Digital Campaigns (for Museum Web Teams).

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