Museum income could grow with “Insight”

 A new digital research project called Insight has been launched with the aim of increasing financial performance in Museums and other cultural attractions. To do this the project partners are looking to recruit 200 cultural organisations nationwide to take part in a free trial before 31st October 2014. AIM members are invited to take part.

By collecting data about these organisations Insight will use sophisticated Predictive Analytic techniques, which have transformed industries such as financial services, retail, and highway safety, to provide site-specific performance projections allowing cultural organisations to plan with greater effectiveness than has previously been possible.

Insight is being is being delivered by three project partners; enterprise experts and cultural sector consultants Black Radley, software developers Ryan O’Neill Partnership and researchers from Bath Spa University’s Centre for Creative Computing. The project is supported by the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts – Nesta, Arts & Humanities Research Council and public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

Professor Peter Latchford OBE of Black Radley, the lead project partner, explains “In recent years, cultural organisations have had to rely much more heavily on earned income – a trend that is set to continue. Given the growing pressure on resources in the sector, the question has to be ‘how do we leverage the market information available with a method that is cost-effective, accurate, requires very little staff time and enables us predict better, plan better, and to maximise income?’”

Dr Joe Collins of software developers the Ryan O’Neill partnership believes Insight will go a long way to answering that question, “Insight isn’t about reinventing the wheel, it’s about gathering existing data on the factors that impact on commercial performance and combining them to create a market picture that is clearer than it ever has been before. That means that each participating organisation will receive a personally tailored analysis of the variables that impact their performance. The more participants, the better the analysis.”

Professor Andrew Hugill from Bath Spa University’s Centre for Creative Computing added: “Predictive analysis techniques offer serious possibilities for improving musem performance. This project is an excellent example of working across disciplines, as computer science and heritage studies meet.”

Museums, art galleries, historic sites and houses, and other cultural attractions are encouraged to register their interest in the Insight trial by contacting project manager Peter Collins at

For more information please contact Peter Collins, Enterprise and Culture Executive, on or 07896799748.

Free Visitor Verdict Webinar 8th October – how to use your results

You’re invited to attend the
AIM Visitor Verdict Reporting Uses Webinar
11am-noon Wednesday 8th October 2014
Join the AIM Visitor Verdict team for an online presentation to show you how the wealth of information that is available in the AIM Visitor Verdict reporting pages could help your museum.The session will look at real data Didcot Railway Centre have collected from their visitors to demonstrate how AIM Visitor Verdict can help with:

·     Improving the visitor experience

·     Audience development work

·     Applications for funding

There will be an opportunity to ask questions to the team at the end of the session too.

* Register Here >>For any queries please contact Amy Randle, AIM Visitor Verdict Manager on:
tel: 0207 400 0382 / email:

Research Shows Benefits of Being a Trustee

This article from Getting On Board, together with their great Trustee Infographic, shows the many different benefits that Trustees of all ages identify with their role.

Getting On Board interviews 200 trustees to establish the impact of volunteering:

 •  Bridging the Skills gap: All 18-24 year trustee respondents have learnt vital skills, and the vast majority (92%) of those out of work have built skills and boosted motivation

•  Tangible professional benefits: A quarter (22%) of trustees have had a promotion as a result of their board level volunteering

•  Employer benefits: Three quarters (85%) of bosses view trusteeship as an effective and low-cost way for staff to develop skills, with over half (62%) of firms seeing CSR benefits

•  Boosting happiness: Trusteeship makes people happy (82%), with three quarters (73%) admitting to  a boost in their confidence

 It’s official – being a trustee makes the UK’s professionals happier, more confident – and perhaps even richer.

 Getting On Board, the UK charity that helps promotes new leaders through trusteeship, has released new research that underlines the importance of trusteeship for professionals. Through 200 trustee interviews, it establishes that the benefits of trusteeship are not confined to the individual, with employers benefitting from increased expertise, skills and stronger corporate social responsibility programmes.

 The results reveal that for job seekers, trusteeship is more important than ever. 92% of trustees who are currently out of work said they felt being a trustee was building their professional skills and boosting their motivation. 73% of respondents said that a role on a charity board boosted their confidence.

Read the full article with lots more statistics and benefits here.

How Visitor Verdict helps – income, marketing, fundraising and visitor experience

A Visitor Verdict Results Workshop was held recently to help museums and heritage sites get even more out of their membership of the free, AIM Visitor Verdict benchmarking and visitor research programme.

During the session Steve Mills of BDRC Continental explained about four areas where Visitor Verdict can help museums and the workshop participants then used the data from their own sites to explore further how Visitor Verdict can help them improve their offer to visitors and be more profitable, with Steve and his team on hand to provide expert guidance. To find out more about the workshop click here.

Here is some of what they learnt:

  1. Income Generation

The key Visitor Verdict reports here are the financial benchmarks for ticket pricing, catering and retail spending. It was useful to look at the benchmarks compared to similar types of museums and also your own museum’s value for money scores, compared to benchmarks in looking at whether there was flexibitily to increase prices. Either indicator on its own doesn’t tell you much but together they provide useful insight. If your current prices are lower than similar museums and your value for money scores are higher than similar museums, then there may be flexibility to increase prices.

The retail and catering spends are supported by details about how visitors find the quality, range of products and value for money, which can help pinpoint areas to be addressed. It also identifies the percentage of visitors who don’t visit retail, who browse but don’t buy and who make a purchase.

My looking at the results by types of visitor or by their motivation for visiting, it was possible to see that in some cases the retail offer was appealing to those with a strong interest in the subject of the museum but not to those who came for more general interest reasons, for instance.

  1. Marketing and Communications

There were lots of Visitor Verdict reports which helped museums understand how they could make their marketing and communications messages more effective including demographic information about visitors, understanding the motivations for their visits and therefore thinking about whether marketing messages are appealing to those motivations, the communications channels which have been most effective in triggering a visit, spend on marketing and use of social media and websites. All of these indicators are much more powerful because of the benchmarking element.

Steve emphasised the important difference between motivations for visiting (e.g. child engagement, topic interest, broadening horizons – some of the Visitor Verdict motivational segments) and triggers for a specific visit (the marketing channel which prompted a visit, e.g. leaflet, advertising, word of mouth recommendation).

  1. Improving the visitor experience

Visitor Verdict has 24 measures for visitor experience divided into three sections: service delivery (or customer service), content (linked to your interpretation) and emotional (how visitors feel about your museum and their visit). By looking at the content (interpretation) scores for different visitor  segments, you can see whether you are meeting the needs of all types of visitor and this can indicate where you might be able to adapt your content to meet the requirements of a wider range of people.

For instance visitors whose motivation is ‘topic interest’ (interest in the particular subject of your museum) may want quite detailed content, but this detailed content won’t appeal so much to those who are ‘tick box’ visitors (those visiting because they see your museum as a ‘must-see’ destination). Those whose motivation is ‘child engagment’ will be interested in how child-friendly your content is and may rate their experience very differently from those with ‘topic interest’ because of their different reason for visiting. Visitor Verdict also measures how well your museum or site delivers against different visitors’ primary motive for visiting, which also helps identify areas for improvement, for different types of visitors that you may wish to target.

  1. Funding

By understanding and being able to evidence in more detail how your interpretation could be improved to meet the needs of wider audiences or new types of visitors, you can make a better case to funders like the Heritage Lottery Fund about why investment is needed and the benefits it could bring. It can also underpin your evaluation strategy to show funders how their grants have made a difference. The information in Visitor Verdict gives you the information you need to answer the HLF application questions (and Activity Plan section) about who your visitors are, why they visit and what they gain from visiting. You can then track this over time to see the impact of the improvements made through a grant.

Visitor Verdict can also help you prove who is visiting and who is not visiting, how broad a socio-demographic profile you are reaching and how this compares to other similar museums, which can be useful for advocacy.  It can help you identify areas for large of small investments such as an under-performing shop or café.

The team at BDRC are always happy to answer any questions about getting set up with Visitor Verdict or about what results mean. Contact

Please also email Amy if you would be interested in attending a future Visitor Verdict Workshop, if you’d like to host one in your area or if you would be interested in joining a webinar.

If you haven’t signed up for Visitor Verdict yet, you still can – go to

If you aren’t a member of AIM it costs between £40 and £95 depending on the size of your museum, and Visitor Verdict is then free to use. Joining information can be found on

Tips from the first AIM Visitor Verdict Results Workshop

“I wish I’d collected more email addresses” was the overwhelming response from the 14 representatives of museums and heritage sites who attended the first AIM Visitor Verdict Results workshop, as they discovered the huge range of insights that Visitor Verdict can give into every element of the visitor experience.

Sites with larger numbers of completed surveys were able to look at their results in even more detail, identifying the differences in visitors’ experience depending on their motivation to visit, whether they had children in their party or whether this was their first visit, for instance.

AIM Visitor Verdict is an online visitor research and benchmarking tool, which is free for all AIM members to use. Museums collect email addresses from visitors who are then sent an online survey. The museum can log into the results website and see their data benchmarked against other similar types of museums as well as trends over time.

Visitor Verdict’s particular strengths are:

  • The low burden on the museum in participating with little time required and no cost
  • The benchmarking which makes it clear which elements of your results are significant

The workshop was organised by BDRC Continental and AIM to help sites in the early stages of using Visitor Verdict understand more about how it can help them, as well as to address any questions or problems on the practical elements of collecting email addresses and using the system.

Steve Mills of BDRC shared some of the ways that Visitor Verdict can help museums focusing on four areas:

  1. How to generate more income
  2. Marketing and communications
  3. Improving the visitor experience
  4. Fundraising, investment and advocacy

Click here for more details about how Visitor Verdict helped in these four areas.

The museums then worked in groups to look at how they could use their own data to explore some of these issues. The AIM and BDRC team were on hand to help with tips and guidance.

Some overall things that the museums took away from the workshop were:

  • Keep collecting the email addresses – Visitor Verdict can tell you so much more if you have a good sample size of completed surveys.
  • Use the benchmarking section first to highlight areas of concern compared to similar museums.
  • Use the filters to further analyse problem areas to see if the results change by type of visitor, when they visit or for other reasons.
  • Share what you’re learning with other staff and volunteers so they can see how the email addresses are helping and feel even more motivated to keep collecting them.
  • Try collecting email addresses during the visit or at the end of a visit rather than on arrival when there’s already lots to tell visitors.

The team at BDRC are always happy to answer any questions about getting set up with Visitor Verdict or about what results mean. Contact

Please also email Amy if you would be interested in attending a future Visitor Verdict Workshop, if you’d like to host one in your area or if you would be interested in joining a webinar.

If you haven’t signed up for Visitor Verdict yet, you still can – go to

If you aren’t a member of AIM it costs between £40 and £95 depending on the size of your museum, and Visitor Verdict is then free to use. Joining information can be found on

AIM developing new social and environmental impacts toolkit – can you help with research?

AIM has appointed DC Research to research the expansion of the successful and much-used AIM Economic Impact Toolkit to include social and environmental questions.  This work, supported by Arts Council England (ACE), will review recent thinking and approaches to measuring social and environmental impact in museums. 

A social and environmental impact evaluation/assessment framework will be developed, and piloted with a small number of AIM member museums before producing a report and toolkit that will complement the Economic Impact Toolkit.  

As part of this, DC Research is keen to be made aware of any reports, papers and other material that AIM members have produced giving evidence of how independent museums create social and environmental impacts.  This might include evidence you have prepared for funders and wider advocacy audiences, research you have participated in, case studies, or research or articles you have found helpful and that DC Research should be made aware of. 

Please share anything you think is relevant and helpful with Jonathan Durnin at, tel 0116 259 2390.

AIM wants to know what you think!

AIM’s 2014 Survey is now open. Please take a few moments to tell us what you think about what we do now and what you would like us to do in the future. Over 230 people responded to our 2013 survey – we hope to get an even higher response this year.

The survey is open to non-members as well as to all types of member including suppliers, individuals and people working for other organisations that support museums. It should only take about 5 minutes.


Please share the link with your contacts. Thank you for your help.

AIM Visitor Verdict announces 80 new places and opens to museums across UK

Visitor Verdict, the Association of Independent Museum’s visitor research and benchmarking tool for museums, has been going from strength to strength. AIM and partner BDRC-Continental, have just announced a further 80 museums can join, after all the places offered last year have been filled.

For the first time, these can be taken up by museums in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as England. Independent, local authority and other types of museums are all eligible, if they are members of AIM.

Visitor Verdict is an industry-leading and powerful visitor-research tool. Its strength is the low burden it places on the museums participating in it: only visitor email addresses have to be collected by the museum and then the online system sends out personalised email surveys and collates and analyses visitors’ responses. Museums log into the Visitor Verdict website to see their results.

The other feature of great benefit is the ability to compare the museum’s own results with the anonymised results of other similar groups of museums, by size, subject, location and other variables. This ability to benchmark performance in every area from spends per head to the quality of the visitor experience makes the insights gained much more useful.

Visitor Verdict is funded by Arts Council England until September 2015, but additional places have now been agreed for those outside England. Participation is free until then for all AIM members. Membership of AIM starts from as little as £40 a year and is open to all museums, galleries and heritage attractions, including local authority museums. As well as access to Visitor Verdict, those who join will also get all the other benefits of AIM’s advice and support on income generation, volunteering and many other areas. More information is available on AIM’s website Visitor Verdict has its own website,  or contact AIM’s Executive Director, Tamalie Newbery

Diane Clements, Director at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, explains how she’s using this new insight resource in many different ways. She shares the overall enjoyment score with staff “as it’s a concept that they can take on board and work to improve.” The insights also helped her understand the main motivation of different visitors and their demographic profile. Of particular benefit was the revelation that 40% of visitors were not even looking in the shop, a higher figure than for similar museums. She explains, “Our shop is an important source of funding. This is useful for us to make sure we tell visitors about the shop and food for thought for the Shop Manager.”

Updated AIM Economic Impact Toolkit Launched

Since it was first published in 2010 the AIM Economic Impact Toolkit has helped museums all around the UK demonstrate the value they bring to their local economies. Now it has been updated and re-launched for 2014 with the latest data and with more local information, where available.

With museums needing to make the case for their value in every way they can, the AIM Economic Toolkit has never been more needed. Created by DC Research (and updated by them in 2014 pro bono), it enables museums to assess the economic impact of their museum through tourism, employment and spend on goods and services. It has been used by Local Authority museums as well as by independent ones. In general, the approach taken to the assessment is adopted and adapted from the HM Treasury’s ‘Green Book’ approach, using English Partnership’s Additionality Guidance (3rd edition, 2008), and where relevant, Scottish Enterprise’s Additionality & Economic Impact Assessment Guidance Note (2008).

The report published in 2010, alongside the original toolkit, found that:

  • Across the independent museum sector visitors (estimated to be over 9 million) represented around £364 million of gross visitor impacts.
  • At least £124 million of direct, indirect and induced impacts as a result of spending on goods and services by independent museums (although impact may be as high as £394 million).
  • At least 5,800 full time equivalent direct, indirect and induced jobs supported by the sector, equivalent to a further £122 million (although impact might be as high as 10,500 jobs, equivalent to £219 million.)
  • Taken together, the total impact of the independent museum sector is estimated to be in the order of at least £610 million (although this could be as high as £930 million. 

In many regions museums have grouped together to demonstrate their collective economic impact, often coordinated by Museum Development Officers (MDOs). In the Marches Network, MDOs transferred the regional information into a really simple spreadsheet which required no expertise to complete and was suitable for museums of any size. Since then they have supported individual museums to use the tool in order to make their case and are now updating their spreadsheet with 2014 data.


Bring on the feedback: why you need visitor reviews

Martin Baker suggests that when cultural organisations don’t encourage their visitors to give online reviews, they are missing out on a free form of publicity which carries enormous weight with potential visitors.

In an article published by Arts Professional he discusses why cultural organisations might be reluctant to request reviews from the public, but what they are missing out on when they don’t. Although the article talks about the arts, it is just as applicable to museums.

The article also includes a useful summary of dos and don’ts when collecting visitor opinions.

The AIM benchmarking tool, Visitor Verdict, can help collect some of the information which Baker discusses, though in the case of Visitor Verdict this is not published publicly, but does have the added advantage that your museum’s performance can be compared with other similar organisations’.

Read the full article on Arts Professional’s website here.