Progress Award: Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation, Springfield, IL
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation supports the educational and cultural programming of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, which opened in April 2005. The Library and Museum don’t just preserve history – they make history by enabling us to experience Abraham Lincoln “living.”
Having risen quickly to one of the nation’s most attended museums and the most well attended presidential library, the Library and Museum had 1.4 million visitors in just the first one and a half years. However, during the grand opening, membership was not at the forefront – a missed opportunity. Despite so many visitors, there were only about 500 member households in the first year and a half, proving you can’t rely on the “build it and they will come” philosophy to create a strong membership base.
Knowing that membership could and should be much greater, in 2007 the staff called upon Membership Consultants to develop a membership audit and strategic plan. Even though it was nearly two years after the opening, successful strategies were recommended and implemented, namely an assertive on-site sales program to capitalize on the successful visitorship, and a targeted direct mail acquisition program to reach out to most likely prospects locally, regionally and nationally. After all, 2009 was the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth and there was once again a big chance to be in the public spotlight – this time with membership front and center.
Under the direction of Lisa Clemmons-Stott and Phyllis Maynerich, the membership program flourished with a series of direct mail campaigns, on-site sales and training by Membership Consultants, and the creation of an internally-run and now ongoing on-site sales program – complete with a dedicated membership desk and membership sales staff. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation membership grew from 500 member households to 6,000 – what a birthday gift for Mr. Lincoln!