FAQ

Browse the FAQ below for answers to commonly asked questions about the Annual Survey of Museum-Goers.

Enrollment, Privacy, & Confidentiality

How do I enroll?

By going to this link. Enrollment takes less than five minutes.

Does my museum have to be in the United States to participate?

No. In 2022 we anticipate having a Canadian version of the survey, with demographic questions adapted as needed. Museums in other countries are welcome to participate, and your respondents will see a statement in the survey about United States terminology.

Do you keep individual data private?

We do not share raw data (which includes email addresses and IP addresses) with anyone. Period. Not even the museum for whom that respondent answered a survey. Wilkening Consulting’s statement on data privacy can be found here.

What will I be asked during enrollment?

We want to know a few things about your museum, such as your email list size, budget size, and what disciplines your museum includes. We’ll use that information to forecast your response rate and to provide you with comparison data cuts so you can see how your audience compares to your peers.

What languages is the survey available in?

At this time, the survey is only available in English. A French Canadian version of the survey will be available at no charge if a minimum of 10 Canadian museums participate. We anticipate broadening the survey with a Spanish version in 2023. If your museum requires a survey in a different language, you will be asked to provide a translation and there will be a $250 programming fee.

Are my museum's results confidential?

Yes. Your reports will remain confidential and only shared with you. The American Alliance of Museums will have no access to your museum’s data. Individual museums are free to share their results with whomever they like.

Fees and Billing

How much does it cost to participate in the Annual Survey of Museum-Goers?

The standard fee is $1,000 for museums that send their surveys out to their contact lists no later than March 8, 2022. After that date, the participation fee increases to $3,000. If you request extra services, you will be asked to agree to an additional fee.

When will be billed and who will bill us?

Invoices will be sent from the American Alliance of Museums at the end of March. If you need to pay at an earlier time, just let us know.

Why does the fee increase from $1,000 to $3,000 in March?

One of our primary goals is to create a large data set of frequent museum-goers. Museums that participate on or before March 8 contribute to that data set. Museums that participate later do not, and thus pay a higher participation fee.

How do we pay for the survey?

The American Alliance of Museums will send an invoice to the email address of the museum staff person coordinating the survey. You can pay by check or credit card.

Lines of Inquiry, Custom Questions, & Sending Your Survey

How do you determine the research themes each year?

We identify research themes from the trends and shifts critically impacting the museum field as well as feedback from previous year participants whose questions and thoughts also identify critical issues.

What are the benchmark questions you ask each year?

We ask a set of six questions around visitation patterns, motivations for visiting, what the museum does well and could improve upon, and how visitors want to engage with museum content. These remain the same from year to year to track individual museum results over time.

What demographic questions do you ask?

We ask age, gender, parental status and age of minor children, educational attainment, field of work, race and ethnicity, and political affiliation.

Why do you ask about political affiliation?

Political values deeply influence how different audiences respond to content. Given the polarized nature of our society, understanding these influences is imperative to museum professionals.

How do I choose my custom questions?

We provide you with a PDF of dozens of sample custom questions. It can be as easy as picking out the two you think are most relevant to your museum. You are also welcome to edit any of these custom questions. Simply send us your edits and we’ll make those changes. There are a few questions that we encourage using as is so that we can develop national comparisons or because we have existing national comparisons from previous years. You’ll know which ones they are and can then decide if you want to edit or use as is.

Can we write our own custom questions?

Absolutely! We want the custom questions to be the best ones for you. If you have a new question, let us know and we’ll write it for your approval.

Who do I send our survey to?

Anyone you have permission to contact! This should absolutely include your email contact list, but also social media and any other ways you contact those who are interested in hearing from you.

It is imperative to send your survey in a standalone email. Survey requests buried in e-newsletters get too few responses to be useful. A standalone email results in a far larger sample size (and we want you to have stable data!).

How will I know if we have a big enough sample?

Most museums average about a 3% response rate (as a percentage of your email list). Thus, if you have an email list of 10,000, we would expect about 300 responses. We do require a minimum of 100 responses to generate a report. You will have access to an online dashboard and can watch your results come in and see if you are getting the response rate you are aiming for. If your responses are coming in slowly, Wilkening Consulting will be in touch to suggest a reminder email.

How inclusive are your response choices on your demographic questions?

We stive to make the questions as inclusive as possible while also keeping answer options to a reasonable length. Each year, we reevaluate what to include (or not) to ensure the survey evolves with language, attitudes, and our communities. 

If we participate over multiple years, do you track changes in our results?

Absolutely! We track those results on the benchmark and demographic questions, providing them on your results spreadsheet and in “bonus” slides on your slide deck report.

What custom questions should we pick?

That’s going to be up to each and every individual museum, based on your own unique needs. When you review the custom questions PDF, some will resonate with you more than others.

Why are we limited to 2 closed-ended or 1 open-ended custom question?

The Annual Survey is already a lengthy survey. If the survey becomes too long, we risk respondents not completing the survey. Since the goal is to maximize completed surveys, we keep a strict limit on the number of questions in the survey. Additionally, open-ended questions take longer for respondents to answer, so you can choose either one open-ended or two closed-ended questions.

How does the survey get sent to our contact lists?

That is up to you. Wilkening Consulting will provide you with your own custom link to the survey, as well as sample text for an email, but you have responsibility for sending it out to your contact lists. Wilkening Consulting will not ask you for your contact list.

What happens if I don't have enough responses to my survey?

If you have fewer than 100 responses, Wilkening Consulting will be in touch to suggest sending a reminder email or reposting to social media. If you are close to 100, we will decide together if it is stable enough for a report. If it is significantly less than 100, you will not receive reports and you will not be billed for participation.

Data cuts & Broader Population Comparisons

What is a data cut and comparison?

We sort data based on museum type and geography so we can compare your results to your peers. For example, if you are a science center, we’ll compare your results to other science centers. Or we may compare you to other museums in your city or state. We require at least 5 museums in a specific discipline or geographic area to run that data cut.

Can you compare my museum to others like mine?

Yes! We run data cuts for museums of similar types and locales as long as there are at least five museums of that type or location. You can find a list of the data cuts that are available based on current enrollees here. This list is updated regularly while enrollment is open.

What museum disciplines do you provide data comparisons for?

At a minimum, we run data cuts for: art museums; history museums; historic sites; natural history museums; children’s museums; science centers; and botanic garden and arboreta. As long as 5 or more museums participate, we’ll also run data cuts for zoos and aquaria as well as finer data cuts for things like college/university art museums or military museums (to list just two examples). In 2021 we ran data cuts on 19 different kinds of museums. As we receive more enrollees, we will update the data cuts section of this website so you can see what data cuts will be available in 2022.

Can you compare our results to others in our city or state?

Yes, as long as there are 5 or more museums in that specific geographic area. In 2021 we ran data cuts for 15 different cities or states. As we receive more enrollees, we will update the data cuts section of this website so you can see what data cuts will be available in 2022.

Can I coordinate with other museums I regularly work or engage with to create a comparison?

Absolutely! As long as there are 5 museums participating, we will be happy to run that data cut.

How can we learn about non-visitors or casual visitors specifically in our city or state?

You can opt in to broader population sampling for your city (if in a large enough metro area) or state. There is a minimum fee of $2,000 for a sample of 250; the sampling fee increases for larger samples. This comparison survey will mirror the national broader population comparison survey, but you can include your custom questions in it.

How do you categorize multi-disciplinary museums?

We ask multi-disciplinary museums to identify both their disciplines and that they are multi-disciplinary and ask follow-up questions for more details. At a minimum, we provide data cuts for each discipline and for multi-disciplinary museums overall, but we’ll provide finer data cuts based on which disciplines if we have 5 or more museums that have a similar profile.

What is a broader population comparison?

A broader population comparison is a survey sample that is drawn from the broader population and that generally matches the demographic profile of the population. Each year, we purchase a national broader population comparison so we can capture attitudes and behaviors of non-visitors and casual visitors to museums.

Do you provide comparisons from those who don't visit museums or those who visit more casually?

Yes! We purchase a national broader population comparison sample so we can do just that.

Can we split the cost associated with a broader population comparison in our city or state?

Yes, to some extent. The cost of the actual sample can be split among multiple museums (and this is also a great way of spreading the cost of purchasing a larger, more robust sample in your geographic area). There is a base fee of approximately $1,200 that each museum would still incur (the management and reporting of this additional data takes significant time) and their share of the sample purchase.

Reporting & Discussion of Results

What does the report spreadsheet look like and include?

The report spreadsheet provides the overall results from all respondents, with your results for comparison purposes. Different tabs also provide you with any relevant peer group data cuts, results for custom questions, and any written-in comments from your respondents. If you have participated in an Annual Survey in the past, you also receive your historical data to compare your benchmark and demographic questions. If you would like to see a sample custom spreadsheet report, you can contact Wilkening Consulting.

What does the custom slide report look like and include?

It provides a methodology overview as well as data charts with your results for each question against the overall results and your most relevant peer group (e.g., a natural history museum would see aggregate natural history results). Commentary on your results is provided by Wilkening Consulting. If you would like to see a sample custom slide report, you can contact Wilkening Consulting.

Will anyone help us make sense of our reports?

Yes! If you are a Tier 3 museum member of AAM, you will receive a private phone call with Wilkening Consulting to discuss your results. If you are not a Tier 3 member, you will be invited to participate in office hours with Wilkening Consulting. All participants will also have access to a small collection of videos that provide context.

What topics will the videos cover?

They will cover how to use your reports as well as a contextual overview of demographic patterns, benchmark questions, and the main lines of inquiry for the year.

What are office hours?

For participants that are not AAM Tier 3 museum members, we invite you to participate in office hours with Wilkening Consulting. These are two-hour sessions with other participants that you can drop in on and ask questions about your results or larger patterns that are in the data.

Can I have a private call with Wilkening Consulting to discuss my results?

If you are an AAM Tier 3 museum member, this is one of your member benefits. If not, you can request a private call for an additional $250 fee.

What is covered during the private call with Wilkening Consulting?

Wilkening Consulting will walk you through your results, question-by-question, and explore what your results mean to you. It will be assumed that you have already viewed the short contextual videos shared with all participants so that we can focus on your specific results and interpretation.

Why does Wilkening Consulting provide videos to talk about the results?

Some of the context we share is relevant to all museums, and this allows us to share it easily with participating museums in a format that is also easy for you to digest and share with leadership, staff, and trustees.

How can we use the videos with our staff?

Since they are short, they are great for training sessions or sharing the larger museum field context, and answering questions they may have about audiences.

When are office hours provided?

Typically, 4 to 6 sessions are offered in June and early July.

Who automatically receives a private call with Wilkening Consulting to discuss their results?

AAM Tier 3 museum members as well as “legacy” participants of the Annual Survey of Museum-Goers (participated in 2017 – 2019).

Who participates in the Annual Survey of Museum-Goers?

What other museums are participating in the 2022 Annual Survey of Museum-Goers?

Once public enrollment has started, we will begin updating the list of current participants on the data cuts section of this website.

Which museums have previously participated in the Annual Survey of Museum-Goers?

You can find a list of previous participants here.

Is there a cap on the number of museums who can participate?

The Annual Survey of Museum-Goers has grown exponentially over the past two years. At this time, we will be placing an initial limit of 200 participating museums for the 2022 survey. Once this limit is reached, we will begin a waitlist. In order of registration, we will contact those on the waitlist if additional capacity allows.

Do you have opportunities for smaller museums who can't afford participation in the survey at this time?

We are hoping to develop a research instrument for small museums to deploy in either the fall of 2022 or 2023. There will be budgetary limits to ensure that only small museums participate (e.g., we may limit participation to museums with annual budgets of less than $200,000, though this limit will be determined later). 

What museums benefit most from participating?

Any museum that can generate a robust sample (100 or more respondents) can benefit! It is particularly useful for all museums to understand broader trends that affect their audiences.

Participant stories

Browse the stories of those who have participated in the Annual Survey of Museum-Goers and learn how they applied the data in practice.

Data cuts and current participants

When five or more museums of the same type or location sign up for the survey, you receive even more benchmarking data. See current data cuts.

Ready to sign up?

Complete the form to sign up or get in touch with Wilkening Consulting for more information.