The decisionscience team are currently running a six-month series of experiments with Birmingham Museums and art galleries to identify the most persuasive proposition, channel and format to secure support from visitors. This blog is written in September 2022 and still in experiment three.
The work will build on three other projects run by the team: the world’s largest arts fundraising experiment (see the blog elsewhere on the site) and experiments we have run in Australia and Estonia. We’ve also conducted a thorough literature search.
There are five phases of the experiment, ensuring we can test which approaches are most effective in:
- Engaging larger number of people
- Increasing total income- though larger gifts
The museum and art gallery is well-regarded and has around 15-20K visitors a week, providing a reasonable data set of potential supporters.
We were able to compare traffic and contributions in two main ways:
- Cash gifts in conventional cash-based donation boxes
- Cardless gifts in a special contactless box
You might like to guess which experimental condition performed best from the outlines below. The full set of results will be available in November. Let us know if you’d like to keep in touch. Below is a list of the current experiments.
Experiment One: Keep it Free
In this condition we explored donations using the proposition Give What You Feel, explaining the gallery is free and visitors can help keep it that way. This is a popular approach across the cultural sector. We were interested to explore if the emotional approach worked and if the lack of an anchor was important. The keep it free message was on collateral — posters, donation boxes, banners — spread around the museum.
Experiment Two: Make them Welcome
In this condition we explored the impact of a proposition based around local young people, many from non-traditional museum audiences, feeling the museum wasn’t for them. Visitors were asked to confirm their concern to promote inclusion, appealing to their ego and values, and the donation could express their agency. We anchored the gift £5 with a #fiverforthefuture meme.
Experiment Three: Love Your Heritage
Here we focused on the precious artwork heritage the museum has to look after. The potential for loss was important here as an incentive. The proposition asked visitors to show their donation love for Prosperine, a famous piece by Burne-Jones who was himself a local artist. We also used priming, with floor stickers leading visitors to the donation box. We also experimented with reciprocity: visitors could get a free badge.
Experiment Four: Support the Leaders
This experiment, still to be tested at the time of writing, has a different approach, looking at the impact of the new museum leadership — two inspirational and high-profile joint CEOs — promising a new approach to audience and experience. The proposition shared the vision of the joint museum leaders to reinvent the museum and the work, culture and communities it celebrated. The gift level remained anchored at £5.
Experiment Five: Test of Tests
This experiment is yet to be designed, once we’ve done a full analysis of the impacts of the four previous options. We’ll almost certainly retain the £5 anchored amount. A number of other propositions are being considered. And the decisionscience team would be happy to hear about other experiments that we could learn from-of even ideas that you think might be worth exploring. Send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org
PS — We also had a rolling reciprocity appeal based around poster in the toilets — not clear the total impact here.