Finding Museum Funding for Your Storage Needs

By Stuffey | April 24, 2019

Your collection is growing. The archive needs better preservation. You need better organization and access to items. These are only a few of the many reasons you might need to find funding for your museum storage needs. This article higlights options that can help you support long-term goals without blowing the budget in the short-term.

In the United States, the majority of museums are nonprofits relying on donations and memberships. The nonprofit status means a reduced tax burden. But also they “must stitch together sustainable revenue streams from a range of sources, while being as much at the whim of the marketplace as for-profit enterprises.”

According to the American Association of Museums, the four major funding sources are private giving, government support (federal, state and local), revenue (e.g. ticket and gift shop sales) and investment income. Feeling financially stressed is the norm for museum leadership.

No wonder finding funds for museum storage needs can be a struggle. For one thing, many donors are motivated by prestige. High-density storage and mobile art racks, for instance, don’t necessarily scratch that itch (unless you work here at Patterson Pope). Yet there are several ways to pull together the funds for a storage project.

Apply for Grants

When applying for grant funding to support collections storage projects, you want to present a well-written, well-thought out proposal. You will need to demonstrate four things clearly:

  1. Understanding of the grant mission and how your project supports that aim
  2. Justification for the project — why you need this storage
  3. A plan of work — what you will do with the funds, when will the impact be seen, and who will be impacted
  4. Projected results — addressing how this will improve the care, condition and managing of museum collections

Consult first with experts to assess your storage needs and develop a realistic budget and timeline. A Patterson Pope consultant can also provide design drawings to bolster your application.

Appeal to Donors

Storage lacks the glamor of many areas museum donors like to fund. Yet the essential rule of fundraising success still applies. Appeal to the donor’s personal passion. Perhaps a private giver loves your Kabuki mask collection. Instead of pitching that person for funds for any old shelving, you would target the ask around how the new, customized storage solution is going to provide improved access to the mask collection and ensure that these collection items are preserved securely.

Donors like to see their money spent on exhibitions and buying new items for the collection. You’ll want to communicate how more effectively storing the existing items can improve exhibition quality by:

When appealing to givers, it’s often a good idea to break the project budget into smaller parts. You don’t want to scare your donors away with sticker shock on a storage plan. Instead, you can work with your vendor to identify project phases. Then, once the first phase is funded and installed, you can use staff testimonialsand data about space savings as well as pictures of the easier-to-access or better secured collection items to drive the next stage of the project.

Find New Revenue Sources

Museums often run special events to raise awareness and funds. Holding new classes, guided tours of exhibitions, hosting guest speakers or “Night at the Museum” parties can boost community engagement. You might plan a behind-the-scenes tour of the special collections or a conservation work area for small groups and earmark revenues from these focuses events for storage project funding.

The American Association for State and Local History compiled a list of 101 possible ways to generate new revenue. The options include:

  • “Do a special 18th-, 19th-, or 20th-century “date night” event where couples try period-authentic courtship rituals, dances, and writing different types of love letters to their partner.”
  • “Find a local winery to create a special edition wine for sale at your site and share the returns.”
  • “Install coin-operated lockers. You can buy them online in a stack of various sizes. Twelve lockers rented for $.50 each, three times a day, six days a week, over fifty weeks a year is $5,400.”
  • Rent out your facility every Sunday to a church group. “One site does this and generates $35,000 annually.”
  • “Have a full-service conservation center and run it on a pay-for-itself basis.”
    “Start an annual wall calendar series using photographs from the collection.”

It is possible to find funding for museum storage projects. Whether you’re applying for a grant, approaching donors or earmarking event revenues, keep your eye on the prize. Museum storage solutions can save space, preserve collections, improve access and make your conservation areas more functional.

Patterson Pope offers 40+ years experience in customizing collections storage for museums and galleries big and small. We can’t fund your storage project, but we can help provide the details you need about timelines, storage options, materials and space savings to make your case.


About Stuffey

To say that Stuffey was made for this role would be an understatement. A life long hoarder, Stuffey understands how the Laws of Stuff can wreak havoc in the real world of an organization’s space. Now as part of his reformation, he is committed to passing on to you his secrets in our battle against the tyranny of STUFF.

See more posts by Stuffey

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