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8. Finances

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Costs vs. Income Mainstream Museums

Costs vs. Income Mainstream Museums

All the topics of the previous chapters depend on the finances, the money. The location, the exhibits, the exhibition design, the marketing of the Museum: what is or is not possible depends on the budget, the money that is available. Even a private Museum in someone's garage that depends on volunteers will need some budget, even if only for heating, lighting and insurance.  An article in the New York Times says it all:  How to Put a Museum Exhibition Together (Hint: Start With Cash).

There are two streams of money in a Museum or any business. Money going out: the costs or expenses. And money coming in: income , revenue or benefits. When the income is higher than the costs, a Museum makes a profit. When the costs are higher than the income, more money is going out than coming in, the Museum makes a loss and is not sustainable. 

Financially, times have been bad for Museums. First there was the Covid-19 pandemic with all its restrictions, now there is the energy crisis. Museums consume a lot of energy - even with no or few visitors. Heating, air-conditioning, lighting: all very expensive. Many Museums are struggling to survive, some have already had to close down. 

"Museums across Europe have had to deal with two years with significant decreases in visitor numbers due to the pandemic, which has led to unprecedented revenue losses. Museums and other cultural organizations usually have fixed budgets related to operating expenses, which include energy costs. In previous years, energy costs have been relatively low and museums are clearly worried about the increase in prices in the current and subsequent years, as there is a forecast of a cost increase of up to 400% on the energy bills of museums this winter."

source: Network of European Museum Organisations, 16 September 2022

We looked at some of the business plans of Museums that are available online, to find out more about the costs and sources of income of Museums.  In the table below, you can see the fixed costs: the costs that are predictable and that will have to be paid every day, month or year. In the second column you can see sources of revenue or income. 

Both lists are not complete, there can be additional costs and possibly additional sources of income. How important each item is will depend on the size of the Museum, the building, the collection, the staff and the Museum's mission. 

Costs, Expenses

Revenue Streams (Sources of Income)

Rent Admission Fees
Staff Membership
Administrative Overhead  Museum Shop
Consultants, temporary personnel  Workshops, Conferences, Symposia
Cleaning and maintenance of the building Special Events 
Internet, telephone Facility Rentals (renting out rooms, services to external parties)
Energy (heating, lighting) Travelling Exhibits
Water Gifts, donations
Insurance (building, exhibits, staff) Sponsors
Taxes Funding, grants
Exhibits (buying, leasing, insuring, restoring, maintenance)  
Exhibition Design, Creative Services  
Media Production (audio-tours, video)  
Website Development, Maintenance  
Clip and Image Licensing  
Equipment rent and maintenance  
Marketing and Advertising, Social Media  
Print Advertising, Photocopies, Catalogues  
Visitor Services and Security  
Volunteers (recruitment, costs, insurance)  


 Further Reading:


Human Capital: Volunteers

Human Capital: Volunteers

The official definition of "human capital" is: the value that people bring to a business or a Museum. It includes the education, technical training, and problem-solving skills of a person.

Here, we use "human capital" to describe the value and skills that volunteers bring to a Museum. The "human capital"  of volunteers is usually not included in a business plan or a budget. Yet many Museums depend on volunteers for specific tasks, and some museums, including most Deaf Museums, could not function at all without volunteers. 

Most Museums invest in volunteers: recruiting, training and retaining them. This is usually called volunteer management:

"Volunteer management is the process that a nonprofit organization uses to recruit, track, engage, and retain volunteers. Simply put, it encompasses all that an organization does to manage its volunteers. By developing a strong volunteer management strategy, a nonprofit's team can build a positive and immersive volunteer experience that will help cultivate lasting, mutually-beneficial supporter relationships."

source:  The Smart Nonprofit’s Guide to Volunteer Management

The British Museum for example has a team of more than 500 volunteers who support the Museum throughout the year, in a variety of roles:

"Volunteers share their knowledge and enthusiasm by delivering daily eye-opener tours, they help the public enjoy the collection in numerous other ways and support behind-the-scenes activities in almost every department. And that's just the start.  Every volunteer offers invaluable support to the Museum, and they get something back from it too."

source: the British Museum

Further Reading:

A Business Plan

A Business Plan

 "A goal without a plan is just a wish." Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

A business plan is a road map showing potential funders, trustees, stakeholders and most of all you, where you are starting from now, where you aim to go, and how and when you are going to get there. It will also show them your plan for sustainability and how you will attract and generate the funds you need to pay for what's necessary. "

source: Successful Business Planning By A Different View

A Museum will need a business plan when it is applying for funding, looking for sponsors, and probably: always. There are many guidelines and templates for business plans, below are some examples. 

A more general text about business plans:  How To Write a Perfect Business Plan in 9 Steps (2022) has useful advice: 

"Keep it short and to the point. No matter who you’re writing for, your business plan should be short and readable—generally no longer than 15 to 20 pages. If you do have additional documents you think may be valuable to your audience and your goals, consider adding them as appendices."

Topics that are often included in a business plan are a financial plan , a SWOT analysis (SWOT: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats), and the 4 Ps of marketing : 

    • Price. How much do your products cost, and why have you made that decision?
    • Product. What are you selling and how do you differentiate it in the market?
    • Promotion. How will you get your products in front of your ideal customer?
    • Place. Where will you sell your products?


See below for more tips and guidelines. 

Further Reading: 

ChatGTP Example: A Business Plan

ChatGTP Example: A Business Plan

An application for Funding, generated by ChatGTP

Question: Can you write an application for funding for an exhibition about deaf history?
Answer (22 December 2022):

Sure! Here is an example of an application for funding for an exhibition about deaf history:

Title: "Voices of the Deaf Community: A Journey Through History"

Introduction: Our museum is dedicated to preserving and promoting the rich history of the deaf community. We believe that it is important to showcase the stories, experiences, and achievements of deaf individuals, as they have often been marginalized and overlooked in mainstream historical narratives.

We are excited to announce our new exhibition, "Voices of the Deaf Community: A Journey Through History," which will highlight the diverse and inspiring histories of deaf individuals and communities in the UK. This exhibition will feature a wide range of exhibits, including artifacts, photographs, and interactive displays that showcase the experiences and contributions of deaf people throughout history.


    • To celebrate the achievements and contributions of deaf individuals and communities in the UK
    • To increase awareness and understanding of deaf history and culture among the general public
    • To provide a platform for deaf individuals to share their stories and experiences

Exhibition Overview: The exhibition will be divided into several sections, each focusing on a different aspect of deaf history. Some of the key themes that we will explore include:

    • The history of deaf education and language, including the evolution of sign language and the role of schools and institutions in deaf education
    • The experiences of deaf people during significant historical events, such as World War II and the Civil Rights movement
    • The contributions of deaf individuals to the arts, sciences, and other fields
    • The ongoing struggles and triumphs of the deaf community in the UK today

We will also be featuring interactive exhibits, such as hands-on sign language demonstrations and audio-visual displays, to make the exhibition accessible and engaging for all visitors.

Budget: We are seeking funding of £50,000 to cover the costs of mounting this exhibition. This includes:

    • Exhibition design and fabrication: £15,000
    • Artifact conservation and preparation: £5,000
    • Travel and accommodation for guest speakers and presenters: £5,000
    • Marketing and publicity: £5,000
    • Printing and promotional materials: £2,000
    • Educational resources and guides: £2,000
    • Audio-visual equipment and technology: £10,000
    • Staff time and resources: £10,000

Conclusion: We are confident that this exhibition will be a valuable and meaningful addition to our museum, and we believe that it will have a significant impact on the wider community. We hope that this exhibition will not only celebrate the achievements of deaf individuals and communities, but also help to promote understanding and acceptance of deaf culture in the UK.

Thank you for considering our application for funding. We look forward to the opportunity to bring this important exhibition to life with your support."



Fundraising can be done in a number of ways. It always takes a lot of time and effort, and there is usually no guarantee of success.

Fundraising can be done by direct mail (print or email), by using social media, by advertising on your website, or by writing an application for funding by some funding organisation.


A donation is a gift of money, goods, or services. 



A sponsor gives money for an event or person. Usually in return for advertising: the sponsor's name is mentioned on a website, in a catalogue, in print materials.

The British Museum about sponsoring:

"We offer unique sponsorship opportunities based around exhibitions, galleries, temporary displays, curatorial positions and education programmes. The Museum works in close partnership with you to maximise the sponsorship, raising and enhancing your brand profile across key target demographics through a creative, targeted and integrated marketing and communications strategy, in addition to a tailored benefits package."

source: British Museum 

Membership, Friends of the Museum

The Museum of London offers Friends Membership with "exclusive benefits including free entry to our paid for exhibition Executions, discounts, priority booking for museum events (not including Mudlarks children's gallery), and more. See: Friends Membership .


Crowdfunding means that you set up a website or you use a crowdfunding platform to ask a large group of people to contribute financially to your project.  Each crowdfunding platform has its own rules and regulations; usually, the platform keeps a percentage of the funds that you raise. 

Kickstarter releases funds only after the campaign has reached its funding goal; Indiegogo (se below) allows the campaigner to receive funding pro-rata, or wait until their target is hit.

For an overview of crowdfunding platforms, see:  Crowdfunding: What It Is, How It Works, Popular Websites

The 6 Best Crowdfunding Platforms of 2022


 Source: Indiegogo

Applying for funding (grants)

A successful application for funding is often a compromise between your original plans and wishes, and what a funding organisation is willing to pay for.
Often, a person or organisation will only fund part of your project; they will require that you pay part of the project yourself (own contribution), or that the project is paid for by several organisations - to minimise the risks.

Usually, it is easier to apply for funds for start-up costs or for one time events. It is much harder to get funding for operational costs - because these have to be paid every year.

Most funding organisations will expect a concrete output and a clear timepath with regular milestones and a clear endpoint. And of course:  a realistic budget.

Below, you will find more information about funding by EU funding programmes. 

In the UK, the National Lottery has recently funded an application by the Deaf Heritage Centre in Manchester, and the Solar Flares: Deaf Heritage project.



Further Reading:

EU Funding

EU Funding

The EU has funded and is funding a number of projects for and sometimes by Deaf sign language users. The funding usually is for transnational projects with partners in a number of countries.

Each EU funding programme has its own rules and regulations. Usually, there are online forms to complete - with very many questions. Writing a proposal may take weeks or month and is not funded. Usually, there are regular calls for proposals with strict deadlines. 

The chances of receiving funding vary per programme, but may not exceed 30%: 70% of all applications are rejected, but the percentage depends on the programme and  how many applications were submitted.  

The Deaf Museums project  and the MADE project (Museum and Art education for Deaf Empowerment) were funded under the Erasmus+ programme: https://erasmus-plus.ec.europa.eu

The SignHub project: "Preserving, researching and fostering the linguistic, historical and cultural heritage of European Deaf signing communities with an integral resource", was a 4-year research project (2016-2020) funded under the Horizon 2020 programme. 

A recent call under the Horizon 2021-2027 programme, included a programme called "New ways of participatory management and sustainable financing of museums and other cultural institutions": 

"Museums and other cultural institutions (such as libraries, galleries, archives, memorial sites, etc.) play a key-role in social inclusion and cohesion. They create the sense of belonging, build shared identities, promote cultural awareness and historical reflection, improve people’s well-being and contribute to sustainable development and growth at local, regional and national level. Nowadays, museums and other cultural institutions are facing several challenges such as scarce funding, new legal obligations with regard to their collections (e.g. related to intellectual property rights), insufficient numbers of visitors or, to the other extreme, massive tourist crowds, which necessitate new and expensive conservation means and security tools. All these challenges are threatening the existence and efficient work of museums and other cultural institutions.


Expected Outcome:

Projects should contribute to at least two of the following expected outcomes:

    • Explore new ways of participatory cultural management and sustainable financing for museums and other cultural institutions, in particular during and after times of crises such as the coronavirus pandemic.
    • Ensure better access to cultural heritage and engagement with local communities, to preserve and strengthen social cohesion through inclusive and participatory procedures.
    • Strengthen the sense of belonging to a common European space while respecting cultural and ethnolinguistic diversity, as well as developing an awareness of cultural pluralism.
    • Promote the role of museums and other cultural institutions in well-being, health, resilience, social inclusion and society’s dealing with trauma and post-crisis recovery.
    • Foster the role of museums and other cultural institutions in sustainable economic growth and regional development."

Source: EU Funding and Tender Opportunities

On the EU website Culture and Creativity you can consult an interactive guide for the cultural and creative sectors with all the funding sources of the European Union available in 2021-2027.

 cultureu fundingguide front cover


 Further Reading:

Applications for Funding

Applications for Funding

An application for funding is a business plan with a twist: the objective is to convince a person or a group of persons that your project is viable, sustainable, and worthy of their funding. 

Some advice to make your application more successful: 

dos and donts


See below for more tips and guidelines. 

Further Reading: 

ChatGTP Example: An Application for Funding

ChatGTP Example: An Application for Funding

A Business Plan, generated by ChatGTP

Question: Can you write a business plan for a museum about deaf history?
ChatGTP answer (22 December 2022)

"Sure! Here is a brief outline of a business plan for a museum about deaf history:

Executive Summary: This section should provide a summary of the main points of the business plan, including the purpose of the museum, the target audience, the location, and the financial projections.

Description of the Museum: This section should provide a detailed description of the museum, including its mission, vision, and values. It should also include information about the collection, exhibits, and educational programming that the museum will offer.

Market Analysis: This section should provide an overview of the deaf community in the UK, including demographic information and the current state of deaf culture and history in the country. It should also include information about the target audience for the museum, as well as any competitors in the market.

Marketing and Sales Strategy: This section should outline the strategies that the museum will use to reach its target audience and generate revenue. This may include marketing through social media, partnerships with other organizations, and traditional advertising methods. It should also include information about pricing for admission, memberships, and other products or services that the museum may offer.

Operations Plan: This section should provide details about the day-to-day operations of the museum, including information about staffing, facilities, and systems. It should also include a budget and financial projections for the first few years of operation.

Conclusion: This section should summarize the key points of the business plan and provide a final recommendation on the feasibility of the museum."


The Finances of Deaf Museums

The Finances of Deaf Museums


 In our survey of Deaf Museums, we asked two questions about the financial position of the Museum. In the table you can see the answers. 

Is your museum a commercial enterprise, do you make a profit? 
Do you receive funding? From whom?

Kuurojen museo

The museum is not a commercial enterprise. The costs of the museum are included in the total budget of the Finnish Labour museum Werstas.

We of course apply for grants for special purposes like exhibitions.

Norsk Døvemuseum

We do not make a profit. The Deaf Museum in Norway is a part of a big collaboration of museums in our region, called Museene i Sør-Trøndelag (MiST).

The museum in MiST receives fundings from the cultural department, so does the Deaf Museum.

Musée d'Histoire et de Culture des Sourds

Our museum is a “Law 1901” type association (non-profit organisation). We don't make a profit. 

We ensure that our finances are balanced.

We receive grants at various levels, donations from individuals and associations.

Deaf Heritage Centre UK

We are an independent charity and receive funding through grants from Government departments, trusts and foundations, the National Lottery.

We always have to apply for funding.

Very little of our funding comes from other income.

Døvehistorisk Selskab

We have 80 members who pay 30 euro/year/member.

The Danish Deaf Association supports us with 3.000-3.500 euro/year.

But we had a project for registration in the years 2017-2021 which was supported with 70.000 euro funding.



The Deaf Museums in Finland and Norway receive structural funding from the national government - but only because they are part of large mainstream Museums. The other Museums depend on donations and grants. 

The Musée d'Histoire et de Culture des Sourds can use a historic building for free. The Døvehistorisk Selskab can use 4 rooms in the School for the Deaf in Copenhagen, for free. The other Museums have to pay rent. 

Sources of income are: 

  • admission fees - although several of the Deaf Museums do not charge for admission;
  • contributions by members or friends of the Museum;
  • renting out rooms;
  • a Museum shop;
  • donations. 

Text asking for donations

"The Deaf Heritage Centre UK  does not charge for access to its Museum, Archives and Library. As the organisation relies mainly on charitable donations , we would deeply appreciate visitors placing a donation in the Donation Box situated within the Museum Library. These donations help us to build up an Acquisitions Fund that is used to purchased new artefacts to preserve and display. (source: BDHS website)"

image 2022 10 26 210219445

Source: https://norsk-dovemuseum.no/venneforening


In our survey we also asked about the people working at the Museum

Do you have any paid employees? If yes: how many? 

Do you depend on volunteers? How many volunteers work at your Museum?

The people who work at your Museum (as professionals or as volunteers) have they had any special training in Museum Skills, other relevant training? 

In the table, you can read the answers. 

Kuurojen museo

We have one full time worker who concentrates on the Museum of the Deaf and deaf history.
The other personnel take part in the work for example by planning the exhibitons, database, collection work etc.
All workers have some academic training and also training in Museum Skills.

Norsk Døvemuseum

We are going through a change when it comes to staff, but yes, we have paid employees.

The Deaf Museum is working together with Sverresborg folkmuseum in Trondheim. Here we have about 30 employees. Three of these are involved with the Deaf Museum.

We do have a volunteer group, The people who are working at our museum have been offered courses in sign language.

Musée d'Histoire et de Culture des Sourds

Paid employees: no.

Volunteers: yes.

It depends on the times but there is always at least one person. In addition, there is always someone present every Tuesday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. to receive the public.

We’re planning training in cataloguing and archiving.

Deaf Heritage Centre UK

No paid staff. About 3 persons on a regular basis; about 5 on an irregular basis.

Yes, they’ve had relevant training.

Døvehistorisk Selskab

We have only 6 volunteers and 5 board members who work for the society.


Only the Deaf Museums that are part of a mainstream Museum (Kuurojen Museo, Norsk Døvemuseum) have paid employees. All other Deaf Museums depend on volunteers.


All Deaf Museums depend on volunteers; some do not have any paid employees (see above).

From the website of the Deaf Heritage Centre UK:

"The BDHS (British Deaf History Society) has depended hugely on the work carried out by volunteers and still does, even with the recent part-time appointments for the curator and archivist. For those who work with the museum, the volunteers have regularly had training sessions. Other volunteers have researched and been responsible for publishing books. Other volunteers help out with archives and other general work.

The BDHS is always grateful for any offer to volunteer with its work. If you are interested, please contact the office address on these web pages by email, phone or post."

Source: BDHS website





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