Crowdfunding the museum : fad or future
Erb, Elise Kathryn
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In recent years, fundraising professionals and scholars have studied the potential use of crowdfunding as part of a well-rounded fundraising plan (Bœuf, Darveau, & Legoux, 2014; Boyle, 2013; Bump, 2014; Spirer, 2014; Tugend, 2014). As more museums experiment with crowdfunding, little in-depth study into this form of fundraising has occurred. Because crowdfunding is a technology-based method of fundraising, it has the potential to engage donors all over the world in meaningful relationships with museums. This thesis attempts to answer the question of whether crowdfunding is a passing fad or part of the future for fundraising in museums. This illustrative case study (Yin, 2009) focused on the applications and implications of the use of crowdfunding in museums. Specifically, it examined the campaign run by the Harry Ransom Center (HRC) at The University of Texas at Austin (UT) in the summer of 2010 to raise $30,000 to conserve five costumes from the film Gone with the Wind. The dresses would be on display in the HRC’s 2014 exhibition The Making of Gone with the Wind. This research sought to determine the implications of crowdfunding for organizational culture, fundraising strategies, audience development, education, and uses of technology. This research used case study research methodology (Gerring, 2007; Lapan, Quartaroli & Riemer, 2007; Merriam, 2009; Thomas, 2011; Yin, 2009) to gather and analyze data including interviews with six staff members directly involved in the campaign, the campaign website, and written comments from donors, and quantitative reports relating to the HRC crowdfunding effort provided additional data sources. The ultimate goal in researching this topic was to contribute to an understanding of the role fundraising could play in reaching contemporary audiences and donors. From the data, nine themes emerged that reveal the study's key findings. Synthesis of the data also yielded recommendations for successful crowdfunding campaigns in museums.