A membership to your historical society or history museum is a great holiday gift.
Here's how you can market memberships as a Christmas gift or other holiday gift, including participating in #MembershipMonday on the Monday of Christmas week.
Why your historical society or history organization should be promoting gift memberships
Memberships are a great gift that helps your historical society, history museum, or historic site in three ways: (1) You earn additional revenue; (2) you now have the opportunity to communicate with and market to a person who has been introduced to your organization by someone who cares about them; and, (3) if your marketing and member communication is persuasive, you organization will have a new member who is engaged with your organization, coming to your events, and telling their friends and family about the experience and posting to social media.
To generate more revenue and membership sales from gift memberships, there are four things to consider:
- Turning a membership to your history organization into an attractive gift
- Generating interest in giving memberships with a special promotion
- Marketing gift memberships and the #MembershipMonday marketing bundle
- Making it easy for people to buy and give a membership as a gift
Turning a membership into an attractive gift
People will be more likely to consider giving a membership if it feels like a gift to them and to the recipient. This is especially important at the holidays.
There are two scenarios to consider:
- The gift giver is going to be with the gift recipient for Christmas (or whatever other holiday or festive event they're celebrating) and needs to have something physical to give them.
- The gift giver isn't going to be with the them and will want to send them something electronically.
In both cases memberships make a great last-minute gift because we can create things that don't need to be shipped.
Here are a few ideas:
The Cincinnati Museum Center has this attractive "gift certificate" that can be downloaded and printed out from their membership page.
You might add, on the "gift certificate" or on a companion piece, a list of the benefits the gift recipient will receive, a list of your upcoming programs and special events, and background on the organization.
You can create this using your own graphics or use some of the graphics included in the #MembershipMonday gift membership marketing bundle. Download here, or read more below.
- Create a short video that welcomes a new member. This is an idea that's suitable year 'round.
This might be a short message from the executive director or a costumed interpreter. It could be embedded on a special page on your site or simply posted to YouTube if it’s difficult to get things embedded in your organization’s site. This could all be shot using a smartphone or tablet and using available light.
Three tips: Keep it short (60 - 90 seconds); skip any title "card" and open immediately with the "action;" and make it simple, such as very short clips edited together. For a living history site, this might be as simple as shooting a few-second clip of each interpreter, in their building, saying "thank you," "I'm looking forward to meeting you," "come see me in the [building]," "come see us at [our site]," or similar. Focus on authenticity and creating a feeling of genuine interest and appreciation and don't get bogged down with trying to do something fancy.
Generating interest in giving memberships with a special promotion
At this time of the year every retailer has a special offer. Why not create a special offer to help stimulate interest in giving gift memberships? Here are some ideas:
A discount on gift memberships—Old Sturbridge Village is offering a 10% discount off on gift memberships through December 25, 2015. The Filson Historical Society in Kentucky is offering a 10% discount through the end of the year.
The Wisconsin Historical Society is offering 40% off of gift memberships through the end of the year and promoting it at the bottom of their home page. (An offer that big and time-sensitive probably deserves a place "above the fold.")
Two years for the price of one—The Royall House and Slave Quarters in Medford, Massachusetts is going to offer this for gift memberships for #MembershipMonday this year.
A higher level membership for the price of basic membership
A 10% discount in the gift shop when you buy a gift membership—The Maidu Museum and Historic Site in California includes a 10% discount on gift memberships as an ongoing member benefit, treating it like other gift shop purchases, which are also discounted 10% for members.
$5 off on a special book when you buy a gift membership
A special gift—The Baseball Hall of Fame is offering a "personalized mini-bat (22 inches long) with a desktop display stand. . . Buy three or more gift memberships and receive a full-size personalized bat with a wall-mount display."
The Detroit Historical Society gift membership, which starts at $45, includes a ". . . beautiful holiday ornament featuring an image from our collection of Detroit’s legendary Ice Fountain."
A free ticket to a special annual event when you buy a gift membership
A special behind-the-scenes tour with a curator or the executive director
Do you have others we should add? If so, let me know.
Marketing gift memberships and the #MembershipMonday marketing bundle
Memberships are a great gift and are especially well-suited to being a last minute gift.
To raise awareness of memberships as a last minute gift, let's make the Monday of the week of Christmas #MembershipMonday. (There are some years in which this will also work for Hanukkah, such as 2016, and others were it won't, such as this year. Organizations should adapt this idea to fit their membership and target audiences.)
If your organization is going to have a special gift membership offer on the Monday of Christmas week, send it in with #MembershipMonday in the subject line and we’ll promote it on our gifts page and on social media.
The #MembershipMonday gift membership marketing bundle
We created a special #MembershipMonday marketing bundle with professional graphics and it's available as a free download. It includes JPGs, such as the one on the right, that you can use in any of your materials, as well as PDFs you can print out and use as tabletop signs. Some graphics include "#MembershipMonday;" others don't.
Making it easy for people to buy and give a membership as a gift
When memberships are marketed as gifts, especially as last-minute gifts, it is critical that they are easy for the gift giver to buy. Even if you don't normally offer memberships online, you can do something as simple as providing a phone number to call and an e-mail address to send basic details (but not payment information) and then call the person back the next business day if the message came in overnight.
Here are some ways that organizations of different types and sizes handle gift memberships today on their site:
- The Boston Athenæum makes it easy for someone to purchase a gift membership online, by phone, and in-person and includes options for how their welcome packet is handled.
- The Museum of Fine Arts includes the option to give any membership as a gift right on their membership page.
- The Peabody Essex Museum's form for giving a gift membership.
- The Cambridge Historical Society use PayPal for online purchases. Gift recipients " . . . will receive a certificate that announces the gift, who gave it and its benefits, as well as a copy of our latest newsletter, and our book Rediscovering the Hooper-Lee-Nichols House."
If there is a good example that belongs here, let me know.
"Make this holiday historic!"
More information on the overall campaign is on the "Make this holiday historic!" campaign page, including a link to download additional marketing material, as well as market research on attracting new visitors to your site or organization's events at the holidays.