How to identify your museum’s economic impact on your community

Eric Moraczewski, NMBL Strategies, USA, Dion Brown, ,

Abstract

Eric Moraczewski and Dion Brown - NMBL Strategies' CEO and Managing Director of Nonprofit Services respectively, look forward to sharing about the economic influence museums and green spaces make upon communities. Moraczewski and Brown are dedicated to NMBL Strategies' mission to empower museums, nonprofits, and public-private enterprises through trusted consulting partnerships. NMBL's consultants have real world experience and significant tenure within their fields and offer the most strategic return on investment to a broad range of clients. This presentation is designed to engage audiences on a topic that often is a missed opportunity for museums and green space projects. Best practices will be shared on how to better quantify their economic effect on their communities. Now more than ever, these types of projects need to better explain the incredible impact they can generate both locally and nationally. In addition, the presentation will highlight some of NMBL Strategies' consultants' work with the B.B. King Museum, Gateway Arch National Park and National Blues Museum. Experiences will be shared on how these types of projects can create momentum by re-energizing communities. In addition, they can be the impetus for construction of everything from apartments to hotels. They help create collaborative efforts with government, local community leadership, and private enterprise. Lastly, they are a great opportunity to garner positive media coverage locally and nationally. It will be a time where the audience is invited to think of opportunities of how they and the organizations they represent can positively affect their communities during this pivotal and significant time in our history. The speakers welcome plenty of Q&A to make the session dynamic and collaborative.

Keywords: museum, economic impact, museum impact, museum value

Eric Moraczewski and Dion Brown, NMBL Strategies’ CEO and Managing Director of Nonprofit Services respectively, look forward to sharing about the economic influence museums and green spaces can make upon communities and how that’s being impacted by COVID-19 now and in the future.  Their significant tenure consulting for and working as Executive Director/CEO for a myriad of museums gives them unique insights into understanding the beneficial economic influence museums possess.

This presentation is designed to engage audiences on a topic that often is a missed opportunity for museums and green space projects.  Best practices will be shared on how to better quantify their economic effect on their communities.  Now more than ever, these types of projects need to better explain the incredible impact they can generate locally, nationally and internationally.  In addition, the presentation will highlight some of NMBL Strategies’ consultants’ work with the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center, Gateway Arch National Park, the National Blues Museum, and more.  Experiences will be shared on how these types of projects can create momentum by reenergizing communities.  In addition, they can be the impetus for construction of everything from apartments to hotels.  They help create collaborative efforts with government, local community leadership and private enterprise.  Lastly, they are a great opportunity to garner positive media coverage.

It will be a time where the audience is invited to think of opportunities of how they and the organizations they represent can positively affect their communities during this pivotal and significant time in our history.  The speakers welcome plenty of Q&A to make the session dynamic and collaborative.  The audience will gain insights into the process of understanding their influence, as well as how to utilize it by diving into the following subject areas.

 

Why Identify Your Value?

 

Over the years, nonprofits have been continuously called to strengthen their case for funding, because donors are expecting more and more information to support their donation.  Identifying your value in the community, the impact you make and most importantly, quantifying your impact puts your organization at a distinct advantage from a development perspective, but also when looking at corporate partnerships, earned income strategies, and public funding.  Museums offer a unique opportunity to identify their impact as they create pillars for districts to build upon with their communities.  Identifying and understanding that value can have immense lasting impact that can sustain a museum for generations.

 

What Does The Community Tell You?

 

Several measures can be taken to better engage the community, many of which can be quickly identified and easily understood, once you recognize the value the community assigns to your museum.  Often construction is a good indicator of what types of storytelling can be shared.  Since construction highlights what is being built around your museum, it can give you a window into the minds of the developers and in turn private interests that are identifying the opportunities that exist within your geographic landscape.  If developers are building hotels and restaurants around the space, there might be a belief that your museum will be the impetus to attract tourists and therefore a profit to be made from tourism in the area.  If developers are instead building houses, apartments, condos, or office space around the museum, there could be a belief that your cultural attraction is one that anchors a local community.  In addition, it is important to listen to what is being said about your museum.  For example, if the primary storyteller is the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the community likely believes that tourists are your primary audience.  If instead the primary storyteller is the Chamber of Commerce or a more regionally focused group, the local community may feel more like your targeted audience.  Consistent dialogue with these various groups on how to tell the museum’s story will allow for a stronger and better understanding locally, nationally and even internationally.

 

The International Spy Museum helps offer a “real world” example.  Prior to the arrival of the International Spy Museum at 8th and F St NW in Washington, DC, the area was blighted.  By combining four previously dilapidated buildings into one unique space, one of the more popular for profit museum spaces was created and it had an immediate positive impact on the surrounding area.  For example, new restaurants came in droves to be associated with the energy of the new space.

 

How To Capture Value From Different Groups

Once you understand where your value is created, it’s important to understand how to fully capture and realize it.   If your value is more local, opportunities within membership programs, local partnerships and local sales/marketing plans are all likely beneficial.  These opportunities offer a chance to build a rapport with a clientele that has the interest and occasion to regularly return.  As visitors become regional, national or even international, the likelihood of repeat visitation decreases, but the value to the community around the museum and green space can in fact increase.  Hotel partnerships, tourism packages and city/state funding from tourism are all essential to explore.

For example, it comes as no surprise to learn that the apartments and condos around New York’s Central Park are some of the most expensive in the world.  What may come as a surprise to some is that over the years the majority of funding, including their $300+ million endowment, for the Central Park Conservancy has come from the people who own and live in those apartments and condos.  Cultural Institutions, especially museums and park spaces, play an incredible role on the value of a community.  Central Park Conservancy has done an incredible job in capturing the value through their own outreach to the groups who benefit most.

 

Unique Partnerships to Create Value

Partnerships can occur across a variety of mediums and museums need to understand how to creatively partner with different types of organizations from government groups to other nonprofits to for profit businesses.  It’s critical to understand the needs and wants of each group to create a successful partnership.  For a partnership with a hotel, they will seek more guests/room nights.  For a partnership with a grocery store, more customers through the door is desirable.  For a partnership with another nonprofit, brand recognition, or visitor growth is paramount.  For government entities, they likely want tourism dollars or the ability to show their impact to their community.  The overarching theme is to understand the partnership and the necessary value to consider it a success.  By aligning tenets, a museum can fully reap the benefits of an effective partnership.

In 2018 in St. Louis, MO, The Gateway Arch Park Foundation (private foundation responsible for providing $250 million of the $380 million project) facilitated the reopening of the St. Louis Arch grounds and state-of- the-art museum, a vision unifying the Arch with the city it represents.   As the project approached completion, the downtown area saw more development that it had in decades and downtown become the fast growing area in population of any MSA in the region.  The project helped usher in 50 free public events a year and a rise in visitation in total attendance by 30%.  It was a time where partnerships within the city abounded.  As such, while Dion Brown was leading the National Blues Museum and Eric Moraczewski was at the helm of the Gateway Arch Park Foundation, they partnered to bring Blues at the Arch to St. Louis.  This event which brought in visitors from across the country, as well as locally, not only spotlighted both organizations, but was also the catalyst for sponsorship dollars, sales wins and incredible public relations opportunities.

Deliver Results

As noted above, Eric Moraczewski was the Executive Director of the Gateway Arch Park Foundation during the renovation of the Gateway Arch.  During this project two economic studies were done.  The more common approach which looked at the economic impact a project could make on the community.  Most commonly, these approaches are utilized for government funding and in some cases to encourage donors to support a project.  That economic impact study came away with several key findings of what the project would produce:

  • Over 500 construction jobs during project
  • 1 Million – estimated additional visitors to the Gateway Arch
  • ½ day expected increase in out-of-town visitor trip length
  • 4000+ permanent jobs added to the St. Louis Region
  • Economic impact expected to be equal to an additional Cardinal baseball season ($300 million annually)

Typically, these studies are relatively loose in findings and value beyond the sales pitch to raise funding.  The reason being is that the economic firms that do these typically start with the desired results and back into how to get there, meaning that they are predetermined outcomes.  As a result of this practice, at the Gateway Arch, knowing that future funding would be required it was important to be able to address the actual outcomes of the project and the impact it had on the community.  To do this work Oxford Economics was engaged to study the impacts of the work done.  Certain pieces of the initial study were easy to identify the impacts, such as the more than 1,000 workers that were engaged in the project (far exceeding the 500 initially forecast).  However, it was important to go beyond just the jobs onsite and look at the impacts of the project on the community.  Below you will find the results of the study on jobs, income and GDP.

Breakdown of jobs, income and GDP created by the project, showing 4,000 jobs in downtown, 13,380 in the city and 19,000 in the region. Annual income created was $214 million in downtown, $796 million in the city and $965 million in the region. Annual GDP created was $292 million in downtown, $1.1 billion in the city and $1.4 billion in the region.

The heatmap here shows where the majority of new development was coming from in the St. Louis region with the large oval shape along the Mississippi River surrounding the Gateway Arch.

Heat map shows four major areas of development around downtown (near the Arch) in midtown and two small areas in Old North St. Louis.

In an effort to understand what these developments were Oxford Economics also took a look at the specific developments within 1 mile of the Arch (the downtown hot spot in the heatmap).

Real estate development in downtown St. Louis, within 1 mile of the Arch, shows a mixture of building going on (apartments, hotels, mixed use, office, public use and retail). In total these developments were valued at $1,835,400,000.

By identifying these key growth pieces the Gateway Arch Park Foundation was able to accomplish several goals:

  • Honestly answer questions about the promises made early in the project.
  • Align interests of future opportunities and fundraising
  • Develop a future interests study to align to the growth

Summary

Long term viability is not a given for museums.  Now more than ever, it’s critical for museums to understand and share their best practices on how their engagement within a community can translate into positive economic impact.  It goes well beyond the financial impact study bullet points that often accompany construction projects.  Economic impact can and should be at the forefront of a museum’s daily thinking to ensure sustainability; however, there often are many steps to consider.  NMBL Strategies looks forward to offering a blueprint to its audience while also highlighting real world examples to help it come alive.  This session is designed to position museums to better move forward, improve operations and recognize their impact on their communities now and in the future.


Cite as:
Moraczewski, Eric and Brown, Dion. "How to identify your museum’s economic impact on your community." MW21: MW 2021. Published January 16, 2021. Consulted .
https://mw21.museweb.net/paper/how-to-identify-your-museums-economic-impact-on-your-community/