Membership is a very important aspect of many organizations like the Memorial Art Gallery (MAG), The Strong (TS), and the Seneca Park Zoo (SPZ). Membership gives an organization a vital source of income and museums can also use those annual members as a built-in long-term donor pool if conversion of members into donors happens. Conversion means taking a member and having them donate an additional philanthropic gift on top of paying to be a museum member. Within an organization’s membership program, two aspects are inherent: acquisition of new members to the organization as well as retention of its current members. While many organizations are trying to streamline cost and staffing, certain other aspects may need to be reprioritized. This thesis considers the budget allocated to membership at three Rochester museums and collecting institutions, the structure and focus of Rochester-based membership departments as part of the organization, as well as the location in which the membership department is housed within the institution. A key question of this study is whether membership activities are the primary focus of a dedicated membership coordinator or are a secondary job for another department within the museum setting? Using data from 2012, 2013, and 2014 the researcher reviews membership changes to illustrate current practices of new member acquisition and the retention of current members. The effectiveness of these methods will also being examined. After analyzing and interpreting the data, the researcher has generated a cost vs. dollars raised comparison for the last three years that will be used to suggest how these, and other similar organizations, might better focus resources to increase effectiveness in new member acquisition and retention of members.

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Museum Studies (BS)


Juilee Decker

Advisor/Committee Member

Peter Lewis Gabak


RIT – Main Campus