What is the Value of a Visitor, Member, and Evangelist to Your Organization?

museum visitors

For museums and cultural attractions, bringing in and engaging visitors is a top priority. Especially in recent years, the “visitor journey” has been a major topic in discussion, inspiring many organizations to start “mapping the visitor journey” to provide a better experience for audiences.

Why do organizations spend so many resources understanding and optimizing the visitor experience? On a fundamental level, visitor-facing organizations exist to serve visitors.

The Value of a Visitor

Visitors are a valuable asset to museums and cultural organizations, and are perhaps far more valuable than gross revenue from ticket sales might indicate. Although admissions constitutes only 7% of annual revenue for art museums, earned income typically accounts for upwards of 40% of a museums’ revenue, which “can encompass everything from merchandise and licensing to gift shops and educational programs.”

Source: AAMD Art Museums By the Number 2018

Source: AAMD Art Museums By the Number 2018

This means that the value of a visitor has the potential to exceed the revenue from their ticket purchase greatly if, for example, a positive journey through the museum prompts them to visit the gift shop and return for a workshop or class.

While it’s easy to see how much a visitor paid for an admission ticket and spent at the gift shop, this doesn’t take into account one of the biggest ways that visitors can bring value to your organization: by telling their friends and family about their positive experience. The importance of this has multiplied in the digital era, as many museums are encouraging social posting and sharing about the museum-going experience.

Perhaps the greatest hidden value of a visitor is their potential to become a member, donor, patron, or even an evangelist for your organization. According to research by Sotheby’s, philanthropic contributions typically count for 60% of museums’ revenue streams. The path to becoming a member or donor often starts with the first visit. As a study by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston has revealed, visitors are the best potential members and donors to an organization. Just by visiting, they have shown that they are already interested in the museum, and converting them on-site requires few additional resources (as compared with costly marketing and capital campaigns).

The Value of a Member

Just what is the value of a member? According to a decade of research by IMPACTS Research & Development on 18 cultural organizations (including museums, zoos, aquariums, and botanical gardens), the average ten-year visitor value was $160, while the average ten-year value of a member was nearly $727. In other words, a member has 4.5x more long-term value than a visitor.

What’s more, members are also much more likely to contribute to your organization beyond the price they pay for membership. In fact, the same study by IMPACTS revealed that members often make additional donations (on top of their membership fee), which is far less typical among general visitors. 

The Value of an Evangelist

So, a member is more valuable than a visitor, and donor still more valuable than a member, Yet, perhaps the most valuable category of constituent is an evangelist for your organization. An evangelist isn’t just a high level member or donor. An evangelist supports your organization by enthusiastically bringing in other visitors, broadening your base of supporters, and converting others into members and donors themselves.

How do you amplify the value of your constituents? 

In the past, it’s been difficult to fully understand the value of evangelists to your organization, know who your evangelists are, and enable your current constituent base to engage in evangelism. Now, all of this is possible. New platforms like Guest Pass Referral by Cuseum give museums the tools they need to encourage their current members to become evangelists for your organization. Guest Pass Referral allows members of cultural organizations to receive and distribute the guest passes to their friends and family quickly, easily, and digitally. When members want to invite a guest, they can do so with a tap on their mobile phone. From there, organizations will be able to track the activities of members and their invited guests.

In the past, physical guest passes may have been lost or forgotten. Now, Guest Pass Referral ensures that members will be able to share guest passes with total ease. If your members want to spread the love about your organization, they will have a convenient avenue to do so. Additionally, organizations will be able to monitor how many guest passes members send out, which distributed guest passes get redeemed by guests, and which invited guests convert into members themselves. In other words, you can now have a window into who among your constituents are your most valuable supporters, so you can reward them accordingly.

For example, imagine Jane is an excited member at your natural history museum. As a perk of her membership, Jane receives two guest passes annually. One weekend, Jane invites a new friend and their spouse along to the museum for a visit, sending them both guest passes via email. So enthused by the museum, Jane’s friends return the following month and become members themselves. Jane is no longer just a member – now she’s an evangelist who has brought in two additional members. With Guest Pass Referral, you will have the tools you need to recognize Jane as an evangelist, and reward her with additional museum guest passes. 

The value of a member doesn’t stop at net dollars spent or donated. It also comprises the revenue from the additional visitors and members any given member brings in through referrals. As cultural organizations work to maintain robust networks of supporters, knowing and rewarding your most important members will become vitally important to creating a sustainable revenue stream that will carry into the future.


Interested in learning how to cultivate more valuable members? Schedule a free consultation with Cuseum today.


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