August 20, 2018
By Ava Maxwell
As cliché as it sounds, keeping our scholarship funds healthy and wealthy will result in chapters filled with wise members! Utilizing the resources, invaluable education and information, and networking provided at chapter conferences, as well as at a national conference, can be the difference between stellar museum retail professionals and those struggling for success. For some, opportunities to attend these conferences can be challenging, but if the chapters can assist financially — and meetings gain a greater and more diverse group of attendees — we all benefit. We learn from each other and all become wiser.
But, how do we keep our scholarship funds healthy and wealthy so we can be wise?
I asked each chapter for some of their favorite, most successful fundraising ideas and tips — and to share any pitfalls, and don’t-ever-do-that-again flops! Here’s what I got:
The North Atlantic Chapter has been doing an online auction for the past two years. The first year they raised $1,000, and last year their earnings increased to $1,500. They used BiddingOwl.com, because it was free to set up and auction fees were minimal, but they found the site was not as user-friendly as they would have liked. Another downside was that the auction was open to the public, and collecting payment was difficult (and, at times, impossible). They realized that a strictly MSA auction may be the best way to go, and they are looking into a new service: 32auctions.com. They are a tiered program, offering many features.
All in all, the results outweighed the problems, and they were pleased with the amount of money they raised! Their advice to any chapter planning an online auction: Establish a fundraising committee to help bear the load. This is a fundraiser that requires a well-organized plan and process, from start to finish: setting up the items online, obtaining donations, working with the vendors to ship to highest bidder, and collecting and managing the finances.
The Mid-Atlantic Chapter has kept their scholarship fund healthy by having a silent auction during their fall chapter meeting. This annual fundraiser has raised approximately $500 to add to their scholarship fund. The chapter has also been fortunate to receive a generous donation from the family of a former chapter member, now deceased. Though they are uncertain whether or not this will be an ongoing gift, the chapter has put this to good use. Honoring or remembering a special person or occasion is always a great way to raise monies for scholarships.
The Midwest Chapter has a task force dedicated to the regional meeting. The task force has created a vendor sponsorship program with defined sponsorship levels that feed the monetary needs of all aspects of the conference. Each level (Bronze – $200, Silver – $400, Gold – $600 and Platinum – $800) is clearly outlined, and the incentives are well thought-out and a win-win for both the chapter and the sponsor. In addition to the sponsorship program, the chapter accepts in-kind gifts as well as raffle or silent auction items. Dollars earned will contribute to a lucky recipient’s registration to next year’s chapter meeting. Details of the sponsorship levels are available. For anyone interested in receiving a copy, please contact me at email@example.com, and I will send a copy to you.
The Western Chapter uses their annual chapter meeting registration fee to maintain a healthy account balance. Their $95 registration fee not only covers the majority of event expenses but also leaves a little extra in their account. In this way, they are also able to support scholarship dollars.
The Florida Chapter has funded their scholarship account through a variety of ways:
One manager uses the “roundup” method at each POS terminal. Rounding up to the next dollar has earned the chapter close to $400 for their scholarship fund! Be sure to check with your finance director before you proceed.
Another museum shop has held a silent auction for museum employees only. Scheduled during the “slow season,” they used merchandise that may have arrived slightly flawed, samples and/or mistaken items (items that were to be donated or discarded.) These were organized individually or in groups and arranged on tables in a meeting room with bid sheets attached, including minimum bid amount and increments. Each museum employee was given a bid number to use. At the end of two weeks, all winners were notified. Cash payments were made, and all monies were deposited into the chapter scholarship account. (Since none of the auction items were ever entered into museum shop inventory, there was no inventory transfer that needed to be handled). Setup and tear down were somewhat time-consuming, but the chapter earned close to $400 for the scholarship fund, and the museum staff loves the event and looks forward to the next auction!
Dona Scarves created a beautiful silk scarf for the Florida Chapter, which included many of the museums and cultural institutions of Florida in the design. The scarf was launched on Museum Store Sunday, and Dona Scarves donated a portion of the sales to the Florida Chapter for its scholarship fund.
Vendor sponsors to the regional chapter meetings have been a valued and welcome source of dollars to the scholarship fund, but remember: vendors have limited resources too. A suggestion (from a vendor): Choose a vendor that many of your chapter members support in their shops, and ask if they will support your chapter’s scholarship fund by choosing one item in their collection, and designating 5 percent of (wholesale) sales worldwide to be donated to your chapter’s scholarship fund.
Keeping our scholarship funds in a prosperous state is challenging, but the challenge can be fun and rewarding. Shared ideas are always welcome, and chapter growth is often an immediate result of a healthy and wealthy scholarship fund. And we are the wiser for it!
Ava Maxwell is the manager of retail operations at The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park, Florida. Throughout her 29 year career (21 years at The Morse Museum and eight years at The Orlando Museum of Art), she has been an active volunteer for both the Florida Chapter and MSA national, serving on various committees, in leadership roles, and as a presenter during chapter conferences and MSA’s national conference. She is currently the Florida Chapter vice president and is chairperson of the National Board Development Committee.