Museum Business Plan

With donor retention falling by 12% since 2008, focusing on retention means a reliable revenue stream in an organization.The revenue emphasis around the few yet generous donors also means that major gift officers are usually among the highest paid jobs in the organization.

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Museums, especially the large and well-funded ones, can have an impressive bottom line going into many millions of dollars.

Looking at the Met case study, their listed assets are almost $4 billion.

Cafes are marginally profitable, but are primarily a service that’s de rigeur to offer visitors—an expected part of the museum experience.

Educational programs are good sources of earned income, if done well.

However, liquidity of these art institutions—big and small—is more limited.

In the same Met example, cash holdings are only million.

And space rental for events, like weddings, are often more problematic than profitable, as the audience is not there for the art but to use the facility as a scenic backdrop.

The wear and tear on the staff and facilities around events—without the added benefit of cultivating art lovers and repeat visitors—makes this a losing proposition for many museums.

It’s not a recommended practice, but it does happen.) American museums are unlike, say, the Louvre.

Arguably the most famous museum in the world, the Louvre is miraculously funded by the French state and supplemented by other revenue streams from donations to licensing (the newly opened Louvre Abu Dhabi is a notable example). Staying profitable is the only way for a museum to keep its mission alive, given high operating costs and limited liquidity.


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