Museums of Cheshire consists of 15 organisations made up of 22 individual museums ranging from small, volunteer run organisations to medium sized Independent Trusts and Council run museums. Staff and volunteers from these museums attend quarterly meetings and benefit from shared training, networking and other opportunities.
A steering committee consisting of Katherine Lynch (MoC Chair and Heritage Manager, Port Sunlight Museum & Village), Frank Hargrave (Director, Norton Priory Museum & Gardens), Sue Hughes (Director, Macclesfield Museums) and Janice Hayes (Collections, Heritage & Archives Manager, Culture Warrington) oversees the running of the group.
In March 2015, MoC were awarded an Arts Council Museum Resilience grant to create a more resilient and sustainable sub-regional organisation. Already, the development of a MoC brand, shared marketing and benchmarking has helped the organisations better work together to coordinate their activities in supporting the sector. The ACE funded project includes a skills audit, research into the social and welfare output of the museums and the development of a combined narrative to improve their joint marketing and publicity initiatives. Following the research, practical financial outputs are likely to include commissioning and shared procurement, approaches already successfully championed by the Association of Independent Museums.
The financial sustainability of all of the museums within the group has also been prioritised with fundraising as an integral element. With no professional fundraisers employed by any of the museums, there exists a significant skill gap. While many of the museum staff from the larger museums in the group have the skills and experience to successfully access funds from Trusts and Foundations, they often lack the means to engage significant donors, legacies, sponsors and online giving. Much of the reason for this lies in the lack of experience in the recruitment of or effective engagement with trustees with the appropriate skills, backgrounds or contacts. In many of the smaller museums, particularly those that are volunteer led, even the basic skills in fundraising through Trusts and Foundations are lacking.
The group are therefore going to put on a day of training, encompassing both the basics of fundraising through trusts and foundations, including the lottery, together with more advanced techniques such as online fundraising, legacies and HNWI donors, which would strengthen the ability of all of the partner museums to access new funding streams. With the strong pre-existing relationships between the organisations, these skills will be shared and resources pooled following the training.