Membership Officer Lynsey Haworth reflects on the key findings of the recent Scottish Museums Federation member consultation.
In September 2017 the Scottish Museums Federation launched its first ever membership survey as preliminary step to reflect on and renew its founding Constitution. The key outcomes of this research was to discover the following: What do members think the role of the SMF is? What are we doing well? And what can we improve going forward? It also allowed us the opportunity to gather some basic demographic data about current members to see if this supported or challenged the assumptions we have held to date. Over three weeks 41 people responded to our questionnaire – 50% more than we had originally hoped for! They key findings from are outlined below.
What do members think the role of the SMF is?
The answer to this may seem obvious to some, but it was an area that the Committee felt needed to be defined. The format of this question was free text as we felt that it was important not to influence members’ answers. The most common phrases that appeared in response to this were ‘networking’, ‘CPD/development’, and ‘support’. To our relief, these themes were exactly what the Committee felt its role was! This also tied in with the main reasons that people joined the SMF, which is largely for networking opportunities, access to our conference and events programme, and professional development.
What are we doing well?
Our pop-up events programme and conference are probably the activities that we are best known for, so we were thrilled that ‘events’ topped the list of what we are doing well. A number of questions in the survey focused on events, specifically on the range of topics offered and the format they are presented by. Suggestions for future topics we could cover were wide ranging and included controversial issues, collaborative working, intangible cultural heritage, and investment (to name a few!). As for the format of these events, ‘discussions’ and ‘behind the scenes’ were the most popular answers selected, although all of the options that we provided scored more than 50%. As one member wrote in the other section for this question, variety is key.
What can we improve?
Although events are what members think we are doing best, it’s also the main area where people think there is scope for improvement. The majority of respondents felt that improvements could be made by earlier advertising, providing more opportunities for sharing between members, and using institutions beyond Edinburgh and the Central belt to host pop-ups and conferences. How members travel to events was also mentioned on several occasions, with many explaining that they are reliant on public transport connections. 37.5% of respondents are happy to travel for up to an hour to attend an event, and a further 37.5% are happy to travel up to 2 hours. Weekday afternoons were voted the most popular time to attend an event, but for some people this would still mean a full day out of the office due to travel. Additionally, some members work shifts and may not have as much flexibility for taking time out to attend pop-up sessions.
Who are our members?
Beyond job title and organisation name, we hold no demographic information about our members. The survey was a great opportunity to find out more about who you are. Amongst those who responded there was a good mixture of experience amongst the sector, with 50% of people have more than 10 years of experience. We had previously assumed that the majority of members would be in the early stages of their career, but when asked to describe current career level the top scorer was ‘middle management’. We also found that members are involved in a wide range of topics in their current roles, as can be seen in the chart below.
What happens next?
The Committee have now reviewed the full results, and will spend the next couple of months reflecting on how we can translate the gathered data into improvements for our members. In general, feedback was overwhelmingly positive with 87% of our members stating that they had benefitted from being a member of the SMF, but there is clearly room for improvement. Making a start on those improvements is our new year’s resolution!