A newsletter on audience research and development for cultural leaders. One reader calls it, "sometimes funny"

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Yesterday, I was on the phone with Ari Zelmanow discussing my research into what motivates people to become museum members or donors, and we started talking about “engagement”. (Ari agreed to let me share the gist of our conversation with you.)

(I also drafted a page on the SuperHelpful website yesterday to provide new subscribers with a quick overview of this research. I haven’t published the page yet — still working on it — but I’ll share it with you here because you’re my favorite. That page is also where I’ll share an anonymized preview of survey results in the days ahead.)

My goal in interviewing museum members and donors is to identify the underlying motivations that drive engagement so that museums can develop distinct value propositions. Those value propositions will help museums communicate more effectively to specific audience segments.

Ari and I spent some time talking about “engagement”.

What does engagement mean?

How do we measure engagement?

How do we know when people are engaged?

The survey I’ve shared asks museum decision-makers what they believe motivates people to visit, join, and donate. Visiting, joining, and donating seem like ways to measure engagement, but they aren’t perfect. For example, someone could visit a museum to use the bathroom or because a family member dragged them there for an afternoon.

Perhaps the amount donated relative to household income is a good measure. Is someone who earns $1M/y and gives $1k to a museum less engaged than someone who earns $50k and gives $500?

Or a combination of visiting, joining, donating may be a better way to measure engagement — a member who visits once a month, for example.

Defining engagement will help me segment and decide who to interview.

But how do museum decision-makers define engagement?

It depends on who you talk to.

Museum marketing folks may look at website visits, social media likes and follows, and similar proxies for engagement. Visitor experience teams are looking at satisfaction surveys and complaints. The development crew is counting donations and members.

Everyone has their hands on a different part of the elephant, but few are studying the elephant’s world.

What does engagement mean to museum constituents? What does it look like for them to feel connected to the museum?

Does that align with how museum decision-makers view engagement?

How do you measure engagement? Let me know in a reply. I’ll be happy to hear from you.

Thanks for reading,


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