I have worked in museum development (i.e., fundraising and grants) for over 5 years now, not including the time I have helped with those tasks at Girl Museum. The biggest misconception I encounter is that:

People think America funds its museums. It does not.

Beyond highly competitive grants, the majority of American museums receive very little – if any – state or federal funding. We rely on one-time, recurring, and endowment donations from everyday people to help us operate, care for collections, and present the myriad programs that benefit our communities. I’m not sure what the situation is in other countries, but that’s what happens here in America.

And I am fucking tired of it.

America’s heritage is threatened in so many ways. The COVID-19 pandemic shuttered nearly one-third of American museums. Prejudiced directors and boards threaten to sever ties that build inclusivity and create meaningful communities around our heritage, like what has recently happened at Montpelier (the home of President James Madison). Many museums lack sustainable funding sources, cobbling together memberships, one-time gifts, grants, store sales, event ticket sales, and other non-recurring revenue to survive year-to-year.

Like many in America, museums survive paycheck to paycheck. For small museums (and virtual museums like us), that is made all the harder by the lack of dedicated staff to fundraise, apply for grants, and brainstorm new revenue streams. It’s time that changed, and you can be part of the solution.

Here’s how:

First, support your favorite museums by becoming a member or giving a one-time or recurring donation. Love what Girl Museum does? (If you’re reading this far, I assume you do!) Then join our Patreon or make a one-time gift via Paypal, GiveLively, or check (click here to choose your preferred payment method). Even $5 makes a difference. Trust me.

Second, give some of your time as a volunteer or Board member. Girl Museum is always looking for helping hands – so whether you have a particular skill like graphic design, grant writing, or membership management, or simply want to provide quarterly input by being on the board, get in touch. Want to help your local museum out? Ask them about volunteer opportunities or if they are looking to grow their board. A few hours each month can help in so many ways, especially at small museums.

Third, advocate. Advocate. Advocate. Contact local, state, and national representatives with a letter or phone call about how you think museums should be better supported. Get involved with Museum Advocacy Day, which provides resources to help you advocate for your favorite museums. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper calling for more contributions to the museum. Post about it on social media. Talk about it with friends. The best way to get people interested? Invite them to visit the museum with you! Share what you love with them! Your enthusiasm will encourage them to fall in love with museums.

Even if all you have is five minutes, those five minutes mean all the world to us. Trust me. After years in museum fundraising, I still cry whenever someone asks, “How can I help?” 

We need help. We need you. And we exist for you. So let’s work together to keep our heritage – wherever that heritage may be – preserved, accessible, and meaningful.

-Tiffany Isselhardt
Program Developer

Pin It on Pinterest