One Mom’s Tips for Arts & Cultural Organizations | npENGAGE

One Mom’s Tips for Arts & Cultural Organizations

By on Sep 24, 2019


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As I think about arts & cultural institutions, I realize that my family is an ideal target for these organizations. My husband and I have two kids, a 9-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl. What does our consumption of arts & cultural organizations look like? How do we decide what we’re going to do on the weekend? What’s important to us? It’s my hope that this blog post will give you some insight into how we think and ideas on how you can appeal to and engage us.

Is it easy?

I’m going to be honest: it’s hard working full time and having two kids. We’re tired all the time, and sometimes it’s all we can do to get our weekend chores done (grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning the house, yard work) and keep the kids entertained. The easier you can make it for me, the more likely I am to take my family to visit a zoo, museum, or aquarium, or attend a performance.

  1. Make it easy for me to stay informed. I don’t always have time to do research into what’s going on and what’s coming up. Post on social, send me an email, or leverage your patrons to share. There are many times I find out about things from postings from other moms. When I see something of interest, I will also forward to other friends to see if they want to join.
  2. Make it easy for me to purchase tickets. For performing arts, maybe something as simple as adding a reminder to my calendar on the day and time tickets go on sale. For museums, science centers, aquariums and zoos, offer online purchase options so we can skip the line. I can only take my family on the weekends, and I admit I dread the crowds.
  3. Make it easy when I get there. I’m showing up with my family in tow. Most likely, my kids have fought all the way there in the car. I appreciate staff who are friendly and can engage my kids.

Will it be fun for the whole family?

We really value spending time as a family, but we have a boy and a girl of different ages; we are all individuals with different interests. Think about how you can differentiate what your organization offers across the whole family. For example, the movie industry is making family-friendly movies that are also entertaining for adults, like Shrek.

  1. Highlight the things your organization offers for different age groups and consider different age groups when developing programming.
  2. Create experiences where parents and kids can interact together. This can be as simple as an activity on a sheet of paper that we fill out together at an exhibit or a booklet with questions that need to be filled out with what you learn from the different exhibits.
  3. If you’re looking to attract families, make it as kid friendly as possible. Make the rules simple and short. Nothing stresses parents out as much as constantly telling kids not to touch anything or having to be quiet all the time. We value places where we can just let our kids be kids but also know that there are certain things you can’t touch, and you can’t stick your hand in an animal’s cage.

 Are you offering something unique or new?

My husband and I try hard to expose our kids to a variety of things. In today’s world of short attention spans, I admit that unique and new experiences are the ones that grab our attention. Here are some ways that arts & cultural organizations can address the desire for something different.

  1. Highlight your existing exhibits and explain why they’re “cool”. There’s a good chance that we missed a few of the exhibits when we were there last. It might also make us realize that we didn’t learn all we could from the exhibit.
  2. Offer something to complement the exhibit. For example, if you have an exhibit on planes, can you have a volunteer special guest one day to talk to the kids about being a pilot? Can you get your staff or volunteer to arrange for a “make a plane” activity?
  3. Think about new things you can bring in or highlight. Get a good understanding of your visitors and what they’re looking for and bring in new exhibits that will excite them. You can even think about the concept of “pop-ups” to keep things fresh.

I hope these insights and ideas are helpful. It’s important to look for ways to get a better understanding of your ideal patrons – what motivates them, what excites them, what’s important to them. By having this understanding, you’ll be able to not only engage them in a more meaningful way, but also create the customer experience that will keep them coming back.


Helen was formerly a principal solutions marketer for Blackbaud Arts & Cultural Solutions. She has an MBA in marketing and 20+ years experience working in high tech and software, and has a passion for the arts. Her husband proposed to her in front of the Art Institute of Chicago and together with their two children frequent zoos, aquariums, museums and the performing arts.

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