FYI Blog

Big Ideas From AMMC

AMMC 16 Chicago image

At this year’s American Museum Membership Conference, we had the opportunity to participate in a fun and incredibly informative general session: Big Ideas for Museum and Membership Fundraising.

The ideas presented in this rapid-fire panel discussion ranged from game-changing innovations for fundraising programs, to testing strategies, to partnerships, etc. Here are some of the big ideas Avalon staffers shared that have had a significant impact on our clients’ success:


  • Launch a Membership Month to engage current and prospective members. It’s a proven winner time and time again.
  • Join a co-op and use co-op overlays on large lists (commercial, buyers, or nonprofits/museums). This is an effective way to make an unproductive list productive.
  • If your ask string is in ascending order, switch the first and second ask. We recently tested this with a client and found a 20% increase in average gift — with no impact on response.
  • Add a “Reply by [date]” or “Respond within 10 days” teaser to acquisition and additional gift carriers or reply envelopes. Urgency always helps lift response.
  • Use a plain white carrier to improve response and lower costs for acquisition and additional gift mailings.

Additional Gifts:

  • Add $1,000+ members/donors to your direct mail and email fundraising efforts. The majority came from the direct marketing program and will continue to be responsive to direct marketing efforts.
  • Use matching gifts! Those of us in the business may tire of them, but donors never do! They lift response rates every time.

New Channels:

  • Use crowd-funding for designated asks. One of our performing arts clients just ran a very successful crowd-funding campaign to raise money to buy 1,000 schoolchildren tickets to a performance.
  • Our analysis shows that one sustainer is about three times more valuable than a regular donor. So focus on sustainer conversion via email, phone, and direct mail


  • Email inboxes fill quickly, so for a big lift in revenue, tweak your subject line and resend your e-renewals one week after the first send.
  • Use the word “Renewal” on your renewal carriers. One client’s renewal response increased by 58% when the term was added to their carrier.

This session was a great reminder of all the big (and small) ideas that help drive museum and other nonprofit fundraising programs. And we’re excited to try some of the other ideas we gleaned from this always-engaging conference.