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Museum Store Sunday Case Study: ‘A Small Difference Can Make a Big Impact’

In 2017, Museum Store Sunday started out as a flop for The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures. Our visitor services team was passionate and excited about the opportunity to give out free gifts with purchases, as well as raffle entries with every membership sold. However, the excitement faded throughout the course of the day as none of our visitors seemed to want to participate.

Some even stated, “That’s OK, you can save the gift for someone else.” We were perplexed, and the day’s experience left my team with a negative perspective on the Museum Store Sunday initiative. As a manager, this was a struggle that I was determined to overcome because I knew the importance of Museum Store Sunday for nonprofit retailers like our museum store. Yet, the question was how to package Museum Store Sunday in a way that not only would benefit our museum, but would be relevant to our visitors.

I took some time to observe what other MSA retailers were doing and listen to what our visitors had said drew them to support our store. We saw a very positive response when we invited visitors to donate by rounding up their transactions. Visitors saw this as an easy way to support The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, while eliminating the change in their pocketbook. They liked being able to easily contribute and, as we like to say, “A small difference can make a big impact.” At this same time, I was also hard at work curating our temporary exhibit, Going Places: The Toy Collection of Jerry Smith, which focuses on a Kansas City businessman’s world-class transportation collection. Jerry Smith’s legacy was one of giving. He put his collection of children’s toys from the past to work for children of the present by donating all the proceeds his collection generated to charitable organizations that benefited children in need. This got me thinking about how we could expand upon this concept with our store and help our visitors contribute, as well. I decided that it would be a great opportunity to consider November and December as our “Season of Giving” in conjunction with the holidays. But how would we give back?

That’s when it hit me! I remembered that the big-box giant Toys R Us had closed its doors this year and wondered what the impact of that decision meant to the nonprofits they had supported. So, I did some research and discovered that Toys R Us was the largest corporate partner to Toys for Tots for over 14 years, helping to raise millions of dollars for the purchase of toys. Their 2018 closure meant 550,000 fewer toys for children in need. So, we registered to be a drop site and decided to use Museum Store Sunday as a kickoff event for our “Season of Giving” store promotions. We gained some exposure by being listed as a drop site on the Toys for Tots website; we even had a few new visitors who found us by this method. We advertised that we would be collecting donations from Museum Store Sunday in November through the Dec. 14 final toy collection date. All new, unwrapped toys were welcome, but any transactions made at our museum that included a toy for donation would receive an additional 5 percent off their purchase. This made donating very easy for visitors and gave them a perk for supporting not one, but two nonprofit organizations.

Our 2018 Museum Store Sunday Toys for Tots drive proved to be a great success. Visitors, volunteers and employees loved seeing the box of toys next to the 12-foot Christmas tree in our lobby. It allowed our museum to extend the Museum Store Sunday mission past a one-day event, which was doubly beneficial as we were forced to close on Museum Store Sunday due to a blizzard. Overall, the experience renewed excitement for Museum Store Sunday among my staff. Transactions that included an item for donation represented 15 percent of net sales for that 15-day period. And most rewarding was knowing that we collected over 250 toys for children in need. We plan to hold our “Season of Giving” Toys for Tots drive again in 2019 and look forward to expanding on the program.

Meg Hauser is the visitor services manager at The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, located in Kansas City, Missouri. She has been a member of MSA since 2013 and has served on the Southwest Central Chapter Board from 2015-2018 and on the Chapter Policy and Procedure Task Force. She is a Certified Interpretive Guide with the National Association for Interpretation as well as a visitor influencer with the Kansas City Conventions and Visitors Bureau, Visit KC. Meg holds a BFA in new media and certificate in community arts from the Kansas City Art Institute and is in the process of obtaining her MFA in art history from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She combines her passion for the arts, cultural attractions and tourism with 16 years of retail background. In her leisure time, she can be found exploring local attractions with her Chihuahua, Porter (Instagram: @Porter_Haus_Pup).