In an ongoing effort to be as transparent as possible, I want to take a minute to explain the Membership promotion we’re doing for today only with Groupon: a one-year Family and Friends membership (normally $85) for $35. Groupon (the word combines “group” and “coupon”) is a website that offers discounts on products and services in various cities by promising businesses a minimum number of customers. By harnessing collective buying power, Groupon is able to match up customers to businesses so both sides get something out of it.
Though many Museums discount membership (whether because of the economy, or to entice people to join through the mail or in-person), I have heretofore been completely against the idea of discounting the price of membership here at the Brooklyn Museum. The biggest reason discounting doesn’t appeal to me is because we work hard to make our membership levels affordable and are constantly reviewing the value of benefits at various levels. Additionally, I think when you offer membership for a lower price you essentially admit that you think the membership is worth less than what you were charging before. Lastly, I think it undermines the Museum’s current base of generous supporters when they pay the full amount and you let others-first time members, for example-pay less.
That being said, I came to see the partnership with Groupon as a good thing both for the Museum and for members because of its potential to reach new audiences. We’re always looking for ways to make Brooklyn Museum membership appeal to all sorts of folks, and Groupon’s commitment to providing good deals to people who like to get out and support their local communities is something that we agree with. More to the point, we have a Rock ‘n Roll photography exhibition coming up for which the Members preview will be a really fun party, and we want to give as many people an opportunity to attend this opening event, which will include a performance by Blondie. This opening, at which hundreds of people will come to the Museum to enjoy art and each other’s company, seems like the right occasion to introduce new members to the Museum. It’s also important to keep in mind that we are not spending money on this promotion: we share the revenue with Groupon, but we don’t spend thousands of dollars on printing, mailing, etc. as we do with our direct mail acquisition campaigns.
Fundamentally, Groupon started “in order to make it easier for people to enjoy the great things in their community.” As someone who works at an institution whose mission is to become as accessible as possible for our all segments of our community, that philosophy makes sense to me. As with 1stfans, this one-day promotion is an experiment and we want to be up-front about that. But as with all projects at the Museum, if we can tie them effectively to our mission and communicate effectively with our constituents, everyone can be satisfied. I’ll do a follow-up post after the Member’s opening on October 29th to let you know how things went.
Will Cary was the Brooklyn Museum's Membership Manager from January 2008 to May 2010. In addition to making sure all Brooklyn Museum Members got the most out of their Membership, he also developed the 1stfans Membership program in order to grow the Museum’s community of supporters. Before joining the Brooklyn Museum in January 2008, Will worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Will graduated from Williams College with a degree in Art History and Economics. Will now works in Membership at the Portland Museum of Art in Portland, Maine.