Giving Thanks or Charging for Donations?

Many of the tips we distribute through our workshops around North Carolina and on this blog suggest supplies that cost money.   We are limited in only being able to offer guidance for cultural heritage institutions in their perpetual quests to find funding sources.  Most of the cultural heritage practitioners we reach have tremendous ideas and itty bitty institutional budgets.  Taking the time to apply for grants and other forms of fundraising can absorb a great deal of precious time, especially with downsized staffs and economies.  We all need to remember, however, that seeking financial support from within the communities we serve is an essential outreach activity.   People are much more willing to donate to projects and places they recognize as fulfilling a significant purpose.  The exposure and feedback that local fundraising activities generate will help your organization further its mission.

Heritage Preservation, the organization sponsoring the national Connecting to Collections initiative in partnership with IMLS, has created an online publication with advice on fundraising for collections care.  This great resource will help you prepare for fundraising efforts, especially by providing pointers for approaching individual donors.  One of Heritage Preservation’s recommendations, however, is not yet standard in our NC museum community and has both pros and cons (see slide #9).  HP recommends creating fact sheets for the costs associated with the perpetual care for individual artifacts of varying types.  For instance, a quilt accession cost fact sheet would include the costs of a large textile box and padding materials such as acid-free tissue or stockinette and polyester batting; a silver accession cost fact sheet would include yardage of Pacific silvercloth or corrosion intercept.  These fact sheets could also include the costs of a portion of shelving, estimates of staff time required for processing, etc.  HP suggests distributing the appropriate fact sheet(s) to all potential artifact donors and then either urging or requiring them to include the estimated funds with the donation.


  • Your institution raises money for collections care.
  • Your institution educates board members and individuals about the costs associated with each accession.


  • Your institution deters some people from donating artifacts.
  • The potential donors most likely to accept the charge-to-donate procedure would be from the wealthiest sector, one usually better represented already in cultural heritage collections.
  • Your institution may miss opportunities to collect important aspects of your community’s cultural heritage.

Even if your institution decides against adopting the policy of charging for donations, gathering the fact sheet information may be useful in order to help achieve the goals listed in the “Pros” section or to complement an “adopt an artifact” fundraising program.  It’s worth reviewing Heritage Preservation’s resource and having an internal debate over what ideas might benefit your organization.  Why not pick a few and try them out?  What events and/or approaches work best for your insitutional fundraising?


About collectionsconversations

This blog will contain posts from the C2C project staff on a variety of topics related to collections care and disaster preparedness. Enjoy the posts and let us know if you would like additional information or have a topic you would like for us to address.

Posted on November 22, 2011, in collections care, collections management, Connecting to Collections, museum governance, storage and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. That link takes me to a PDF, not a slideshow. I’d love to see one of the artifact fact sheets for possible inclusion when a donor deeds us an artifact (and to show our board members). Thanks for any assistance in finding the slideshow.

    • Thanks, Allison, for the correction. I had mistakenly identified the format as a fancy PPT and have now changed the linking term to “online publication.” On the fact sheets: I think the recommendation is for individual institutions to create their own. I’ve poked around a bit and suggest the Burke Museum at the University of Washington as an interesting example with both archaeology and document fees. If anyone knows of other examples for various artifact types, please get in touch!

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