Here are the most shared and referenced articles from Know Your Own Bone in 2019.

What a year! In 2019, talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion continued and escalated. And it’s a good thing, because research suggests that engaging new audiences is more than the right thing to do – it’s a business imperative as well. The sector buzzed about racial and ethnic representation, as well as gender representation. It was even uncovered that species on display at natural history museums are mostly male.

Conversations and public stands about pay for museum staff also made headlines alongside staff members themselves becoming more transparent about their salaries. These conversations may have been a long time coming, and they are important ones to have as cultural entities consider sustainable business models in a more connected world with changing demographics.

Museums are trusted by visitors and non-visitors alike – a superpower in a nation otherwise divided in many ways right now. From helping to protect animals from extinction to supporting the climate strike to hiring full-time art therapists,  2019 saw even more visitor-serving organizations standing up for their missions and advocating change.

….And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

I am grateful we were able to share so much new high-confidence data here on this website this year to help cultural organizations better understand the perceptions, behaviors, and motivations of potential visitors. We shared 49 articles this year. Of those, these are the top ten most visited.

Make yourself a hot cup of cocoa (or mulled wine if that’s more your speed), cozy up to your phone or computer screen, and let’s revisit the articles cultural executives shared and referenced most this year.


10) Why Effective Membership Programs Are More Important Than Ever Before

It’s no secret: We’re in a time of change for the traditional cultural organization business model. We need to reach new audiences, and we live in a more connected, personalized, and data-informed world. Interestingly, being more thoughtful about membership may be the key to more sustainable practices and even stronger supporters today. There are three critical situations facing cultural organizations that make prioritizing membership programs more important than ever before.


9) Millennials DON’T Ruin Everything – Here’s Why They May Be Your Most Important Visitors

At IMPACTS, we collect a lot of information about potential and current visitors to cultural organizations. We track the top fifteen most-shared attributes of people in the United States who report having visited any kind of cultural organization – from an art museum to a science center to a symphony – in the last two years. But here’s an interesting finding: The most-shared characteristics among millennial visitors are different than those of non-millennials. And, yes – it goes beyond a generational affinity for avocado toast.


8) Are Your “Membership Police” Sabotaging Visitor Satisfaction? (DATA)

“Membership police” (affectionately) are staff or volunteers whose job it is to admit current members, turn away non-members, and abide by strict rules of membership admission. “Membership police” could be good cops, ready to make a member’s visit a great experience. More often, however, leaders have unwittingly trained them to be bad cops. Some organizations don’t realize that they’ve deployed a small army of people to embarrass and anger critical constituents. Yes, admission rules are important – but so are the experiences of the people who are already onsite at our door. Here are five data-backed findings to integrate into staff trainings to help evolve membership police from “bad cops” to “good cops.”


7) Social Media Is More Important Than Ever For Cultural Entities – Here’s What You Need To Know

Social media is a powerful engagement tool for cultural organizations. Over the years, we’ve uncovered, shared, and updated information on social media’s impact on everything from marketing to motivating attendance to increasing onsite satisfaction. But what if we had to pick only the top five most interesting and impactful findings for all cultural executives to have in their pocket? Well, here they are.


6) Stepping Out of Silos: Five Things That Are Everyone’s Job Cultural Organizations

Despite cultural institutions often having traditional, hierarchical organizational structures, I’m pleased to report that leaders seem more willing than ever to break down silos and work together. That’s good, because one thing is particularly unassailable in the data: Everything is connected. Nearly every program, every department, and every position impacts others in a meaningful way that is critical for an organization’s success. The next time you see an organizational issue and consider saying, “That’s not my job. That’s for [marketing, membership, operations, education, programs] to tackle,” think again.


5) School Groups Vs. Family Visitors: Which Kids Come Back As Adults? (DATA)

Who grows up to be bigger museum and performing arts organizations attendees and advocates – those who visited with a school, church, or other group, or those who visited with their families? Does the differentiation even matter? As it turns out, it does. It matters a lot. Here’s the data.


4) They’re Just Not That Into You: What Cultural Organizations Need To Know About Non-Visitors (DATA)

Research reveals that 68% of people in the United States do not have interest in visiting any kind of cultural organization. Those who do not have interest in attending fall into two categories: unlikely visitors and non-visitors. Unlikely visitors don’t want to visit cultural organizations, but they will if they have to. Non-visitors, on the other hand, do not have interest in attending and do not generally have obligations or social connections that might otherwise motivate them. Here’s what organizations need to know about these folks.


3) Digesting The Data – Five Cultural Organization Findings Even We Found Difficult To Swallow

Arguably, the most helpful research shines a light on blind spots. But bringing blind spots to light can be staggeringly inconvenient and challenge deeply-held preconceived notions. My colleagues and I work with leaders and board members on a daily basis. We know the industry assumptions well… and we know when we uncover challenging findings. You might think we’d be immune to having feelings when we first see challenging data because we work with it every day and see it frequently. You’d be wrong. Here are five findings that gave even me and my colleagues feelings when we first saw them.


2) Why Expired Members Do Not Renew Their Memberships Cultural Organizations (DATA)

How can we better retain members? The answer may lie in better understanding why people who were recently members to a cultural organization in the US didn’t renew their memberships. While the findings may not be altogether surprising, their implications for how cultural organizations approach membership are critical. Spoiler alert: The membership team is not an island. Member retention and cultivation is an all-hands-on-deck opportunity.


1) Let’s Talk Freely About Free Admission – Does It Really Impact Who Visits? (DATA)

If free admission in and of itself were enough to reach and welcome new audiences, then visitors to free admission museums would have lower household incomes, be of a younger age, and be more racially diverse… But are they? Buckle in, folks. This article features stone cold, high-confidence, unbiased science on how free admission actually affects visitation. If it gives you feelings, then good. We’ll be on a smarter path to creating strategic programs and organizational cultures that truly welcome new audiences.


Thank you for reading, sharing, citing, referencing, watching, and discussing Know Your Own Bone in 2019. We have a lot of very exciting data and analysis in store for you for 2020, and we cannot wait to share it with you!

Thank you, also, for your hard work in the sector. We are grateful for the opportunity to bring high-confidence market research to the sector and make it accessible here for leaders of large and small institutions alike. We look forward to doing this in even more ways in the year ahead.

Happy 2020 to you and your cultural organizations. Here’s to working together to educate, to inspire, and to make the world a more meaningful and connected place!


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