For museums like yours, support from your community is essential for your organization to thrive. Your organization exists to bring a range of individuals together by creating shared, memorable educational experiences. So, your goal should be to not only get visitors in the door but also keep them coming back to engage with everything your organization has to offer.

To retain supporters in this way, it’s important to cultivate lasting relationships with as many visitors as possible. In this guide, we’ll walk through five tips for doing just that, including how to:

  1. Segment Your Supporters
  2. Create Engaging Marketing Materials
  3. Plan Engaging Events and Programs
  4. Thank Your Visitors Individually
  5. Leverage Specialized Museum Software

Visitors to your museum want to feel connected to and valued by your organization. Showing that you’ve invested in them by applying these tips to your strategy will encourage them to stay involved. Let’s get started!

1. Segment Your Supporters

Understanding your audience is the first step in effectively building relationships with them. However, the more visitors your museum gets, the more challenging it is to get to know each of them individually.

To solve this problem, Doubleknot recommends segmenting your audience, or dividing them into groups based on shared characteristics. The exact segments you develop will depend on your museum’s priorities, but here are some key groups you’ll likely include:

  • First-time visitors. When communicating with first-time visitors, try to find out how they learned about your museum, what motivated them to visit, and what would make them want to come back so you can adjust your outreach strategy accordingly.
  • Members. If someone purchases a museum membership, they’re likely dedicated to your organization. However, you should make sure they get as much value out of their membership as possible by keeping them in the loop about upcoming events and sharing new educational content so they renew year after year.
  • Major donors. For these high-impact donors, cultivating relationships one-on-one is even more critical to ensure you can keep securing the major gifts your museum needs to fund its most important initiatives.

After you develop some segments, make notes in your supporter database about which visitors belong to which group. Then, leverage your segments to create targeted communications that specific audiences will be receptive to.

2. Create Engaging Marketing Materials

As you create supporter segments, note each visitor’s preferred communication method. Incorporating these preferences into your marketing strategy will help you understand the audience for each communication channel and tailor your messages accordingly.

Here are some popular marketing methods to include in your museum’s strategy:

  • Email marketing. Email is one of the easiest ways to reach many visitors at once. Create multiple contact lists based on your supporter segments to ensure the right messages reach the right audiences.
  • Social media. Make sure your museum is active on multiple popular social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and TikTok, to reach as many potential visitors as possible. Social media also has the advantage of two-way communication, so encourage followers to comment on your posts and reply promptly to their messages.
  • Your organization’s website. Your website is the central hub of information about your museum, so make sure it’s user-friendly and accessible. Encourage visitors to get involved by highlighting your event calendar, donation page, and membership information in your navigation menu.

On each of these platforms, consistently incorporate your museum’s logo, color scheme, and other branding elements. Branding makes your communications—and your organization—more recognizable and memorable for your visitors.

3. Plan Engaging Events and Programs

Special events and educational programs allow visitors to experience your museum’s offerings in a new way. Plus, they allow your staff to interact with supporters directly and help them feel more connected to your organization.

Some ideas for activities you could plan include:

  • Classes and workshops to allow visitors to dive deeper into your organization’s exhibits.
  • Age-specific offerings such as children’s summer camps, weekday morning tours for senior citizens, and after-hours social events geared toward young adults.
  • Member appreciation events, which increase the value of your membership program and can therefore boost renewals.
  • Fundraisers like galas or auctions so your organization can bring in revenue while connecting with visitors.

Hosting a successful event or educational programming requires an investment of resources and effort up front. However, when planned effectively, these activities can help you attract new supporters and retain existing ones.

4. Thank Your Visitors Individually

An essential part of showing visitors that your museum values them is to express gratitude. Promptly follow up with each first-time visitor, donor, and event attendee by sending a thank-you message specific to their involvement. This is also a great opportunity to remind them of your organization’s mission and the upcoming activities made possible by their support.

According to eCardWidget, supporters who feel like they’re a valuable part of your museum community are much more likely to return. To demonstrate that you value individual visitors, include the recipient’s preferred name in the greeting of each thank-you message and reference the specific ways they’ve engaged with your museum as you show your appreciation.

5. Leverage Specialized Museum Software

To take your visitor relationship cultivation efforts to the next level, your museum needs to invest in the right tools. Consider leveraging museum management software that includes the following features:

  • A supporter database to help you segment your visitors.
  • Communications tools that provide email templates and segmented contact lists.
  • A streamlined ticketing system that allows for timed entry and flexible pricing.
  • A secure payment processor to safely collect donations, event fees, and merchandise payments.
  • Membership management functions such as the ability to create multiple membership tiers and issue automatic renewal reminders.

Make sure that the solution you choose is specifically made to serve the needs of admissions-based nonprofits (i.e. museums, zoos, aquariums, nature centers, and similar organizations). Additionally, take into account your museum’s individual goals and budget as you weigh your options.

Building relationships with your museum’s visitors takes time and effort. But with a solid strategy and the right resources on your side, you’ll be able to cultivate a strong community that will benefit both your organization and its supporters.