Carol Bolton Betts, editor for the Illinois Heritage Association, wrote an overview of The Small Museum Toolkit as part of the IHA’s Technical Insert series. The IHA has graciously allowed The Small Museum Toolkit to share this introduction in seven blog posts during July and August. The posts will help you to get to know about the content of the Toolkit from an outside perspective.
Money matters. This is especially true for the small museum, where financial responsibility is essential to survival. Yet the topic of money—how to raise it, how to spend it, and how to account for it—can strike fear in the hearts of any organization’s staff. This book will help to allay those fears.
In chapter 1, Brenda Granger draws from many acknowledged sources to assemble accepted practices, checklists, and information about sound fiscal management planning and implementation. She emphasizes the need for transparency and presents the means to achieve it. Granger describes the tools that small museums will need, including a simple budget, a list of budgetary controls, a Form 990 checklist, and a checklist that will help the small organization assess its financial management practices. Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko is the author of chapter 2, in which she tackles “fearless fundraising.” Belief in an organization’s mission is just the start of a successful fundraising campaign. The author describes the segments of the population from which most support comes and tells how to assess a community’s capacity for philanthropy. She offers guidance for approaching individuals and foundations and recommends methods that can be used by the successful fundraiser, such as annual giving, major gifts, sponsorships, earned income, and several other strategies.
Just how does a small museum approach a granting agency to secure funds? First, writes Benjamin Hruska in chapter 3, it must identify specific agencies and appropriate types of grants. He discusses the standard components of a grant; how the writing can best be managed; and how the document can be tailored to both an organization and the target foundation. Hruska includes examples of successful grant-seeking campaigns undertaken by three small museums.
In chapter 4, Allyn Lord surveys the important legal issues that a museum must face. These can pertain to the handling of funds, once they are raised, but also to organizational structure; tax-exempt status, where appropriate; and governance responsibilities. Lord is not dispensing legal advice, but she explains numerous areas where important legal considerations demand attention, including taxation, human resources, collections acquisition and ownership, copyright, audience and member activities, and risk management.
Adapted from Carol Bolton Betts, “An Introduction to The Small Museum Toolkit,” Illinois Heritage Association, Technical Insert 177 (May-June 2012). As a volunteer, Ms. Betts has done editorial work for the Illinois Heritage Association (illinoisheritage.org) since 1982. She was an editor at the University of Illinois Press for twenty years, working primarily on books about art and architecture, film, women’s history, and subjects related to the history of Illinois. Earlier she served on the staff of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and taught art history at Villanova University and at California State University–Los Angeles.