August 14, 2017 / News & Blog

Answering Questions about the ACM Trends Reports

In June 2017, ACM partnered with New Knowledge Organization to release the first six ACM Trends Reports. This first volume, which will consist of 12 reports total, draws from a decade of ACM member data, including survey responses from 2004-2012. This is the first time ACM has been able to look at a decade’s worth of membership data in order to identify trends to better understand our field, and we are very excited to share the results with you.

On July 25, I joined New Knowledge’s John Fraser, PhD, AIA and Nicole LaMarca in hosting a webinar to introduce the reports and answer questions. (Download the recording here.) This provided us an opportunity to ask attendees about the issues they’d like to see explored in future ACM Trends Reports. The webinar followed up on a Brown Bag discussion about the reports held at ACM’s annual conference, InterActivity 2017.

More than 60 people joined the webinar to learn more and share their thoughts. Here are some of the top subjects that came up:

Q) How can I use the reports?

A) These reports are designed to be shared. With most reports just four pages long, they can be read as independent standalone pieces or as a complete series.

Reports can be shared with key stakeholders, such as funders, board members, new staff, families, and community partners. The series can also be used for planning. For instance, they can be used to identify key metrics, refine business models, conduct evaluation, and supplement professional development.

At the InterActivity 2017 Brown Bag, attendees were most excited about sharing the reports with funders, while the webinar attendees preferred planning.

Q) What are some future topics for ACM Trends Reports? 

A) Based on our discussion during the Brown Bag lunch, some of the top topics are:

Demographics: Who’s coming to the museum? What’s the frequency of member visits and what are the ages of children? What are the ages of visitors broken out by free choice attendance vs. service and school programs?

Staffing: What are the latest trends in hiring, such as how our field is working to increase diversity? What are our dominant staffing business models?

Finances: What are our museums’ economic impact on their communities? How are we dealing with issues of gentrification and community turnaround? What are the pros and cons of different locations? What do we find when we do a budget breakdown by size, and how do budgets change as institutions grow?

Partnerships, collaborations, and expansions: What are the dominant social service organizations that children’s museums work with in every community? How costly is it to renovate or fund an emerging space? How do libraries create museums or learning spaces? How many children’s museums have preschools, head start programs, or charter schools?

From responses to the webinar, we gained several new leads on other topics to cover. Here’s a word cloud of the topics that came up the most in the chat box that attendees participated in:

Q) How do you plan to incorporate data from the 2016 ACM Membership Survey?

A) Data from ACM’s 2016 Membership Survey will be made available this fall. Incorporating the 2016 data will allow for updates to the museum size categories in forthcoming ACM Trends Reports. The size categories are currently drawing from ACM’s 2010 membership data, because this is the richest sample out of the membership survey responses between 2004-2012. For instance, Total Operating Expenses is one criterion that defines museum sizes in the reports, and we will use the 2016 data to update the expense figures in this criterion.

We will also be incorporating the 2016 data in our future trends analysis, to determine what’s happening in museums by size; for instance, how different sizes influence staffing distribution or budget.

 Q) How will data be analyzed in future reports?

A) There are many methods we can use to talk about trends. We want to use the method that makes the most sense to answer the questions you feel are important.

Exploring complex questions, such as staffing and retention, may require qualitative case studies or facilitated discussions. ACM and New Knowledge aren’t tied to quantitative analysis of numbers for every report. For example, we’re open to facilitating conversations that can turn into a case-study style Trends Report.

We want to hear from you! Are there any topics that you care about that you think should be covered in future ACM Trends Reports?

Jen Rehkamp is Director, Field Services at the Associations of Children’s Museums (ACM). Follow ACM on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.