Museums require engaged audiences to survive and thrive. Museums must communicate the value of their offerings effectively to engage their audiences. However, many museums are not systematically studying their audiences, or they are limiting their efforts to visitor surveys. This lack of insight as to audience motivations hampers museums’ ability to acquire more visitors, increase enrollment, and raise money.

We hypothesize that cultural organizations can benefit from applying Jobs To Be Done thinking to solve customer (member/donor) related-problems.

Research Objective(s)

The primary objective of this research is to identify the underlying motivations that drive engagement so that museums can develop distinct value propositions. 

The secondary objective of this study is to identify and size museum member/donor segments.

The information learned from this study will museums communicate more effectively to specific audience segments.

Research Questions

  • Define engagement…

    • From a cultural organization perspective.

    • From a member/donor perspective.

  • How do members/donors differentiate between visiting, joining, and donating?

  • What mental models support engagement from a member/donor perspective?

  • How do cultural organizations currently seek to understand the member/donor experience? 

    • What methods do they currently employ?

      • How effective are they?

    • What methods have they tried in the past?

      • Why did they “fire” them?

  • What mental models do cultural organizations currently use when thinking about the donor/member relationship?

  • How do cultural organizations establish their value propositions?

    • How do these approaches compare (in terms of speed, quality, cost, etc.)?

  • What perceptions do leaders at cultural organizations believe is motivating people to visit, join, and donate? 

    • What informs these beliefs? 

  • What motivates members/donors to become members or donors?

  • Do visitor reviews of these organizations reflect the reasons people “hire” these organizations, if at all (stated vs. revealed preferences)?

Approach & Methodology

We will conduct a multi-phase, mixed-method, research project to answer the above.

Phase 1: Literature Review

  • Conduct an analysis of secondary data to identify and/or define the correct segment, i.e. members or donors.

  • Identify research conducted using “JTBD” for museums or similar visitation-based membership nonprofits.

Phase 2: Survey

  • Sampling criteria

  • Screener

  • Create a questionnaire

  • Analysis and Synthesis

Phase 3: Interview(s)

  • Using data from Phase 1, identify segments to conduct interviews

  • Get legal release for constituent interviews

  • Screener

  • Discussion Guide

  • Interviews (recorded)

  • Analysis and Synthesis



07-18-19: Launched survey of org leaders. Survey questions are:

  • At what type of museum or cultural organization do you work?

  • How many people visited your organization last year?

  • What motivates people to become members or join your organization?

  • What motivates people to donate to your organization?

  • What motivates people to visit your organization?

  • In the last two years, has your organization spent time or money on studying its audience or constituents?

    • (If “yes”): In what ways has your organization studied its audience or constituents?

  • What best describes your current or most recent role at work?

  • Would you like me to share the 100% anonymous results of this survey with you?

Soon, we’ll share an anonymized view of survey submissions here.

07-30-19: This week, we’ll be contacting survey respondents to request interviews, and preparing a field guide for interviews.

08-05-19: Interviewing executive directors at cultural institutions who responded to our survey. This will provide a better look at how leaders view audience motivations, what informs their beliefs, and what obstacles they face in understanding audience segments.

08-12-19: Continue interviewing; Begin coding survey responses.

08-19-19: Contacting respondents from larger museums to request interviews and coding survey responses.

09-9-19: Processing survey and interview data; Outlining a potential assessment tool for museums.

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Recent letters on this research project