I hear your passion and frustration. In theory I totally agree with you. The sad reality, however, is that a huge percentage of potential grantmaking organizations demand demographic information. Until that stops, those who prepare grant applications are caught in the middle. One not very accurate solution I have used at times is to report the Census data for the region the museum serves because we do not as an organization track that information on a regular basis. My rationale is that we serve all the people in the region in one way or another.
Robyn Gibboney, PhD, GPC
Director of Grants
Cincinnati Museum Center
In response to the original question, I share that at the Harn Museum of Art we have a voluntary opportunity for all visitors to check-in at the front desk by providing their zip code on a tablet computer. It is set-up so as not to appear required or even expected. It is intentionally optional, so that it does not become a barrier to access. For those who are so inclined, they can choose to provide additional demographic information in the brief check-in survey. As is explained in the survey, this data supports the museum in securing funds that make programs and exhibitions possible. We do not gather email addresses or names in this survey.
This is not a substitute for advisory groups, community collaborations & partnerships, and participating in neighborhood activities and conversations outside of and beyond the museum. This information is crucial in raising funds to develop exhibitions and programs and to lower barriers to access, so as to better serve our audiences and could-be audiences.
American Alliance of Museums2451 Crystal Drive, Suite 1005Arlington, VA 22202