Who’s Paying the Bills? Museum Economics in 2019

Motto: Nonprofit is a tax status, not a business model

This is one section of a report from the Center for the Future of Museums. See Museums and Society 2019 for the executive summary and links to the other sections.

The Challenge:Edit

Federal funding for museums has almost entirely dried up, as the effects of the economic collapse of 2009 endure. City and state funding have been reduced as well, as the tax base shrinks and local governments divert spending to health, security, transportation and ensuring the food supply. The value of museum endowments has plummeted, and support from individual donors and foundations is much smaller as well. Museums rely much more heavily on earned income, which affects everything from their choice of exhibitions and the quid pro quo they offer sponsors to the space devoted to commercial activity (stores, cafes, event rentals). This in turn has fueled congressional efforts to raise the bar for obtaining or keeping federal tax-exempt status.

Help us face this challenge! Add your solutions to the following questions, and pose new questions.

Retired in Shady Sid 22:03, 22 October 2008 (UTC)===What new sources of support can museums access to support their work?=== Museums traditionally think that their most important valuable resource is their collections. Their collections are nothing without information. The staff who research, compile, and contextualize the information are as important as the collections. Museum information in 2019 is incredibly valuable. Museum curators should be considered as important as defense analysts as they are as key to the future of the planet. Museum staff can provide insight and data to understand the effects of climate change, the lack of societal context for huge segments of the population, and how the past can provide lessons of survival and resiliance for the future. Museums are the number one trusted information source for the 21st century. Trust is one of the key vital commodities in 2019. It is totally missing from most of the conversations. Museums should develop a "seal of approval" and use this to insure that research, data, and collections are valued. Governments need to see museums in a new light for the critical insight and trusted value they provide. The survival of museums, museum staff, and museum information can be linked directly to the survival of the planet.Retired in Shady Sid 22:03, 22 October 2008 (UTC)Retired in Shady Sid

How can museums maintain their intellectual independence and principals of universal access in the face of pressure to let funders dictate their content, or to provide exclusive access to assets such as collections or data?Edit

Think tanks, foundations, and governments need to insure that museum curators and staff maintain their independance and integrity as museums provide the "cleanest" and most "honest" opinions about the situations facing the world in 2019. Organizations trying to save the world put enormous value on trustworthy information. Honest, fact-based research and curatorial opinion is more valuable than energy resources. If museums become mouth pieces for propagada to assuage fear and hide the facts, then museums should shut their doors, turn the key and staff should find new work.Retired in Shady Sid 22:04, 22 October 2008 (UTC)Retired in Shady Sid

How can museums maintain their tax exempt status in light of a great increase in the commercial activity they engage in to stay afloat?Edit

This should not be a question or consideration in 2019. Museums should receive funding to provide useful relevant information, ideas, and stories critical to the survival of the planet. There are very few unbiased sources and the unbiased, reliable, trustworthy sources of indepentant thought and opinion are extremely valuable. We should be grateful that during the very tough years of the recession in the last decade, the value of museums was recognized for their contribution to discussions and training for kids in the future.

What basic economic and operational assumptions do museums have to revisit in this new world?Edit

Museums need to align themselves closely with schools and communities and provide access to trustworthy resources. Museums need to value their research activities and independent staff and explain their importance to governments, foundations, and think tanks. Museums provide context, insight, understanding, and are places where solutions can be produced that enable people to lead rich, rewarding lives in tune with the environment.Retired in Shady Sid 22:05, 22 October 2008 (UTC)Retired in Shady Sid