Support between museums is needed now more than ever

The museum and heritage sector has always been collaborative. But, says Carolyn Young, the need for supporting each other to build resilience is now greater than ever.

When Art Fund released its latest round of Covid research from across the museum and heritage sector, one of the most striking findings was how much more important partnership working was to the success of museums than before the pandemic struck. By working together, sharing ideas and findings we can build on our collective creativity and build our audiences.

This is a lesson not only for institutions themselves but for those that support them. We constantly ask ourselves how we can add value by reaching out and working with organisations who have similar aims and share our ethical values to help the creative sector be the best that it can be.

Which is why we are entering into a new partnership with The Audience Agency (TAA), enabling our Art Tickets network to access TAA’s Audience Finder platform directly through their tickets sold. This gives the sector greater and more accessible audience data than ever before.

Developing workarounds to meet sector needs

At Art Fund we are acutely aware of the struggles the museum and heritage sector has had in accessing useful data and in having to navigate ticketing systems designed for live arts. We have either needed to build our own systems or use third party sites. In being forced to create workarounds we have become resilient, using a deep understanding of our visitors to make strategic decisions.

As a sector, we are often reliant on snap surveys. Having seen great ideas fail to come to fruition or fail to have the desired outcome because of the inability to fully target our audiences, we have become adept at finding our way in the dark. Because we have had to.

Art Tickets is growing quickly. We have recruited over 68 organisations since January this year, tripling in overall size. Many members are now selling tickets out of the practical necessity of managing restrictions around Covid. But the benefits of this are much more far-reaching: the disruption has created a vital opportunity and now is the time to grab it.

Every Art Tickets user’s data now feeds into the Audience Finder platform. Organisations funded by Arts Council England can supplement their surveys with this ticketing data. It is not only easy to use but also gives organisations actionable visitor information directly into their hands.

Discovering who your audiences are

Audience Finder is the largest cultural dataset in the world, as its tagline runs: ‘discover who your audiences are, discover who they could be’. Organisations are able to benchmark their visitors against the rest of the cultural sector – free of charge - to see the pockets in their local area where there is high penetration - and where there is not.

Members can also use Audience Spectrum, TAA’s segmentation model which maps every household in the UK. There is no more comprehensive overview than this and it is now available, completely free, at your fingertips.

This is a partnership is of huge benefit to the sector. At a time of uncertain forecasts, reduced resources and public nervousness, Art Fund’s role is to support museums and galleries in reaching more people and building for future generations. Above all, we are a funding organisation that works alongside the sector.

Rising to the challenges

As a funder, we see wonderful ideas submitted to us for funding. Not least, for last year’s Respond and Reimagine grants - designed as a quick response to the urgent need of a sector in crisis - we were inundated with creative applications, full of progressive ideas. It was a joy to see organisations rising to the challenges before them with confidence and verve.

Sadly, we couldn’t fund everyone. Good ideas are often left by the wayside if applicants have been unable to fully communicate their proposal due to a lack of understanding about their community. We want to make the job of funding more difficult by making the job of applying easier.

With more information available, insights into which audiences projects might reach, and how they will reach them, will be easier to access. Likewise, being able to specify why there is a need for a given proposal and how targets are to be set will give clarity to project planning and make it easier to realise ambitions.

Benefits for all

In summary, Art Tickets is a simple system specifically designed for the museum and heritage sector, offering maximum flexibility for all sizes of organisations and their needs. Audience Finder is the same. No one is expecting teams to become data scientists overnight, but incremental steps to discover more about the audiences they to need to reach and how to reach them are vital. We believe this will mark the difference between those organisations who adapt to the changes we are living through, and those who struggle to do so.

Art Fund and The Audience Agency together support the steps being taking in individual journeys towards reaching wider audiences. We offer guidance, knowledge and information to inform your decisions. We hope this new partnership between our organisations helps us to better serve the sector.

Carolyn Young is Director of Marketing and Membership at Art Fund.

This article, sponsored and contributed by Art Fund, is part of a series sharing information and expertise to support museums and galleries to recover from the pandemic and develop audiences for the future.

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