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Time Trumps Money for Visitors to Cultural Organizations

October 25, 201725 October 2017

Arts attendance and participation

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This brief article, based on data from various American sources, argues that “cultural organizations are not (primarily) asking for money when they aim to secure visitation. Cultural organizations are asking for an investment of time – and that is much more complicated and a bigger ask than many leaders may realize.”

Over 60% of Americans in all age groups agree that “my time is more valuable than my money”. Agreement rates are even higher among likely cultural attendees.

Among those who are likely to attend cultural organizations, “schedule is the primary influencer of visitation”, followed by the organization’s reputation. Cost is one of the least important factors in visitation.

In terms of attendance barriers, the author notes that “the actual, data-informed barriers to visitation for cultural organizations (museums, zoos, aquariums, historic sites, symphonies, theater, etc.) are primarily related to the preciousness of time. The top barrier to visitation is one’s preference for another leisure activity (read: a different investment of time) – and the other major barriers revolve around time as well! They are access challenges, believing that there’s nothing new to do or see, and schedule conflicts (work, school, holiday). Cost is ranked the fourteenth biggest barrier to visitation among people who are interested in visiting but don’t!”

The author, an arts marketing consultant, also posted an article examining how to engage new and diverse audiences in cultural organizations. In this post, the author argues that “organizations must cultivate new visitors from three emerging audience groups”, including millennials, “minority majorities (generally, people of ethnic and racial backgrounds that differ from historic visitors)”, and “affordable access audiences”. To do this, organizations are encouraged to underscore their mission, understand access opportunities and barriers for their organization, create personalized programs, and facilitate shared experiences. As noted in the post, “being places for creating connections – not just to collections, but to other people – is incredibly important”.

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