Although art museums generate most of their revenue through government funding, donations and fundraising are extremely important in generating enough revenue to operate. Fundraising strategies vary depending on the organization because everyone believes fundraising needs to happen in particular ways, making it a normative practice. Some fundraising strategies include:

  • Memberships: Many museums give benefits to individuals who donate money to the organization. This process, also known as membership, allows individuals to donate money and receive special benefits, such as entry to specific programming or early access to museum offers.
    • The development team at an art museum needs to develop personal relationships with members and large donors to gain trust and continue the cycle of donations each year.
  • Board Members: The Board of Directors is a large source of funding. The Board not only is responsible for donating a certain amount of money to the museum each year but is also responsible for keeping relationships with large donors and continuing to ask for donations each year. An involved Board leads to more revenue.
  • Annual Events: Many museums use their special events department as a fundraising tool. This department hosts many events where donations are encouraged or required to attend.
  • Campaign Programs: The marketing department and development department work together to create campaign programs to increase donations. These are often put into place during times where donations have slowed down.
  • Outreach Strategies: This fundraising strategy includes using digital media and print publications to reach new donors. These can be used for general fundraising or fundraising in a particular department.
This is an example of a piece of digital media used at to encourage donations for Telfair Museums’ education department in Savannah, GA.

Share Analysis

To further understand fundraising for art museums I analyzed the average shares of each organization: earned shares, contributed shares, investment shares, and other shares. First, looking at earned share, which is the program service share of the revenue, the average earned shares for art museums is 18%, which is very low. Although, the majority of revenue arts organizations receive in general is from donations and fundraising, it is surprising ticket sales and programming don’t have a larger place in total revenue. However, every organization is different. Next, analyzing contributed shares of revenue, this is the largest with 63%. Art museums rely on contributions, which is shown in the data. Next, looking at investment share, which is the investment income share of revenue coming from dividends, interest payments, etc, it is only an average of 5%, which is very low compared to the other shares. Lastly, other shares have an average percentage of 14%, which are miscellaneous shares of revenue. This is surprisingly higher than investment shares, which shows art museums don’t rely heavily on investment income, but instead focus on earned, contributed, and other income the most.

Fundraising at the Museum of Art and Design in New York City

Typically at the Museum of Art and Design, donors are very generous. During the pandemic, it has been challenging to keep donations high because, during times of crisis, donors either give more generously to museums or donors give where the money is needed the most, such as homeless shelters, food banks, etc. In many cases, art museum funding decreases. At MAD, the Board of Directors has maintained its strong relationships with donors, which has helped maintain their fundraising revenue. The Board themselves also contains a handful of long-term supporters, who were very generous during this time of need.


Ciecko, Brendan. “5 Creative Ways Museums Leveraged Social Media on Giving Tuesday.” Cuseum, Cuseum, 2 Dec. 2016,