In a time of dwindling foundational support, museums struggling to find alternate revenue streams often see crowdsourcing as the road to an easy paycheck. How’s that been working out for institutions? Looking at the Hirshhorn’s current campaign, not too well.
The museum launched their first-ever crowdsourcing campaign in April 2012 for Ai Weiwei: According to What?, their major fall exhibition. They want to raise $35,000. That’s nothing in crowdsourcing dollars, but no museum has seen those type of numbers from a campaign yet. The Hirshhorn is not about to change that trend, either. Despite the exhibition’s high profile, the museum has received a paltry $500 in donations over the span of five months.
The Contemporary Art Museum Houston (CAMH), another museum to use crowdsourcing over the last few months, has also failed to live up to its online fundraising goals. When the museum set up a last-minute campaign for moving The Andy Monument to Houston, they set their sights on raising $32,000, a few thousand shy of the Hirshhorn’s goal. The CAMH, even while boasting personal involvement from Bill Arning, the museum’s executive director, has so far reached just over $4,000 in its online campaign.
When museums have operating budgets that stretch into the million dollar range or more—like the Hirshhorn’s annual budget which tops off in the tens of millions—crowdsourcing campaigns seem like blips in the museum fundraising universe. But the Hirshhorn still has some time to develop a more interesting spin on their first crowdsourcing campaign.
Hillary Freestone, a development specialist at the Hirshhorn, told us that although the museum plans on “ramping up some tweets” within the next few weeks, the campaign has been an “experiment” at best. She claims limited staff power as the main issue for the dull figures, but the campaign will continue throughout the run of Ai’s exhibition, until February 2013.